Security Cooperation: How It All Fits

By White, Taylor P. | Joint Force Quarterly, January 2014 | Go to article overview

Security Cooperation: How It All Fits


White, Taylor P., Joint Force Quarterly


Department of Defense (DOD) security cooperation activities support or are combined with other assistance programs and often are a part of nation assistance. This often occurs in a manner that may appear confusing or convoluted to the joint warfighter. This article portrays how the programs and activities converge. Although the various terms and activities in show in the accompanying figure appear to have simple names and meanings, they in fact have strict definitions based on funding and authorities. While some of the activities directly support one another, others have distinct boundaries between their definitions and functions. The joint community is beginning to address the framework of security cooperation in a new joint doctrine publication, Joint Publication (JP) 3-XX, Security Cooperation. It is important to embark with clear definitions and understanding of the complex relationship among these terms to facilitate understanding by the joint force.

Security cooperation is referred to in both joint professional military education programs and joint staffs as a tool to be employed by combatant commands. However, in other settings, it is a set of programs managed by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. Extensive review of joint doctrine and policy reveals that the definition of security cooperation appears to encompass these areas and more. After expanding our understanding of security cooperation, other terms such as security force assistance, foreign internal defense, and security assistance provide additional specificity for the tasks being conducted, yet some of these actions fall outside security cooperation. Even though security cooperation spans the range of military operations and is inclusive of large-scale operations conducted in support of foreign nations, it is not all-encompassing of security related support from U.S. agencies other than DOD.

Nation assistance is support rendered by foreign forces within another nation's territory based on mutual agreements. (1) While this term is used to describe the comprehensive approach to assisting other nations, the definition associated with nation assistance has two limitations: it does not encompass support to regional organizations, and it is only assistance by foreign forces. A better, broader term is foreign assistance, which is assistance to foreign nations ranging from the sale of military equipment to donations of food and medical supplies to aid survivors of natural and manmade disasters. (2) When examining the current definitions for for eign assistance and nation assistance, we find significant overlap:

Foreign assistance to foreign nations [ranges] from the sale of military equipment to donations of food and medical supplies to aid survivors of natural and man-made disasters. U.S. foreign assistance takes three forms: development assistance, humanitarian assistance, and security assistance. (3)

This term is likely to resonate with the State Department, which has an Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance and a designated foreign assistance budget.

Nation assistance--assistance rendered to a nation by foreign forces within that nation's territory based on agreements mutually concluded between nations. (4) The term nation assistance is not often used in policy or strategy. For example, the current National Security Strategy mentions foreign assistance three times but does not use the term nation assistance. The first opportunity to create some clarity is to replace the term nation assistance with foreign assistance in the upcoming revisions of JP 3-0, Joint Operations, and JP 3-22, Foreign Internal Defense.

If foreign assistance were to replace nation assistance in joint doctrine, the definition would include that portion of security cooperation that falls outside the realm of nation assistance in figure 1. Foreign assistance then encompasses all of security cooperation and reduces some of the ambiguity. …

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