Security Assistance: More Isn’t Always Better


After 14 years of war, it has become clear that large-footprint deployments of U.S. military forces to unstable and failing states are at least unappealing if not unsustainable. The Obama administration has championed augmenting the capacity of U.S. partners to respond to shared threats from non-state militants as both the best substitute for massive U.S. deployments and a necessary complement to unilateral direct action. The next administration, regardless of its political persuasion, is likely to continue to deploy a range of programs under the rubric of security assistance and cooperation to advance central U.S. national security goals, including countering the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

As we argue in new report by the Center for a New American Security, the United States is not always getting such a great return on its investment when it comes to security assistance and cooperation. There are strategic and structural reasons for this. The bottom line is that more is not necessarily better. That goes for the number of authorities Congress has created and the level of assistance and cooperation provided to U.S. partners.

To improve the effectiveness of security assistance and cooperation, we identify eight specific challenges for policymakers to overcome and make 10 concrete recommendations for how to do so. You can read the whole thing here. Tell us what you think in the comments section!


Dr. Dafna H. Rand is the former Deputy Director of Studies and the inaugural Leon E. Panetta Fellow at CNAS. She formerly served on the National Security Council staff and as a Middle East expert on the Department of State’s Policy Planning Staff.

Stephen Tankel is an Assistant Professor in the School of International Service at American University, an adjunct fellow in the Asia-Pacific Security program at CNAS, and a senior editor at War on the Rocks. He previously served as a Senior Adviser for Asian & Pacific Security Affairs at the Department of Defense.

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