The Role of the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs in U.S. Security Sector Assistance

Security sector assistance is an integral component of U.S. national security strategy and a crucial foreign policy tool that enables foreign partners to advance U.S. national security goals, enhances regional security and interoperability with U.S. forces, and strengthens the professionalism of the armed forces and law enforcement agencies of allied and partner nations. The Department of State (the Department) supervises and directs the U.S. government’s security assistance programs, in consultation and coordination with the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Justice (DoJ), and other interagency partners.

The Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM) Office of Security Assistance oversees several security sector assistance programs funded under Title 22 U.S. Code and other assistance authorities, such as Foreign Military Financing, International Military Education and Training, and Peacekeeping Operations. The Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA) implements several Nonproliferation, Anti-terrorism, Demining, and Related programs. The Department also coordinates joint planning and development with DoD on many of its security sector assistance programs that operate under Title 10 U.S. Code authorities.

All assistance provided under these accounts is subject to the Leahy laws, which prohibit assistance to units, and in some cases individuals, that are credibly implicated in a gross violation of human rights, unless the host government takes effective steps to hold violators accountable.

Foreign Military Financing (FMF)

The FMF program provides annual funding to assist over 50 eligible foreign partner nations in purchasing U.S.-manufactured weapons, defense articles, services, and military training in support of their legitimate defense needs.

The Administration’s FY 2018 budget request, which contemplates transitioning some assistance from grants to loans, may further encourage recipients to invest in their own security and better leverage U.S. taxpayer dollars.

The Department has foreign policy oversight on FMF assistance. DoD’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency serves as our implementing partner.

In addition to enhancing U.S. national security, FMF assistance supports over 1.7 million people working in the U.S. defense industrial base by providing the U.S. defense industry with additional orders for goods and services. As a result, it benefits U.S. taxpayers by lowering DoD’s per unit costs on the same items.

International Military Education and Training (IMET)

The IMET program funds the attendance of foreign military and select civilian personnel at U.S. military professional education and training courses offered by DoD institutions of higher learning and professional schools across the United States.

IMET training serves as a cultural exchange program by introducing students to key elements of U.S. democracy, including civilian control of the military, separation of powers, and legislative oversight, in addition to exposing students to U.S. values like free speech, freedom of the press, and a commitment to human rights and international law.

IMET specifically targets the current and future leadership of partner militaries by training mid- to senior-level officers and non-commissioned officers who often go on to fill senior leadership positions in their militaries and governments. For example, seven of the last nine Chiefs of the Indian Navy were graduates of U.S. professional military education schools via the IMET program, as is the current Commander of the Colombian Army.

Peacekeeping Operations (PKO)

The PKO account supports a variety of programs that promote national security objectives in Africa and globally.

PKO-funded programs: 1) bolster the capacity of partner nations around the world to participate in peacekeeping operations; 2) support African partners in conducting counterterrorism operations against threats such as Al Shabaab, Boko Haram, and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb; 3) support stabilization in countries grappling with violent conflict (e.g. Somalia and South Sudan); 4) enhance African maritime security with a focus on the Gulf of Guinea; and 5) support security sector reform in Africa to professionalize military and broader security sector forces, helping to ensure they operate in accordance with international human rights standards and respect civilian control of the military.

The PKO account also supports the ongoing peacekeeping mission of the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai between Egypt and Israel.

Nonproliferation, Anti-terrorism, Demining, and Related Programs (NADR)

PM/WRA manages Conventional Weapons Destruction (CWD) programs, part of the NADR account. CWD programs assist countries around the world with rendering-safe vulnerable stockpiles of small arms and light weapons (including man-portable air defense systems, or MANPADS) and remediating landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW).

Stockpiles of excess small arms, light weapons, and conventional ammunition pose a range of security-related threats. Where poorly-secured stockpiles include MANPADS, the consequences of theft or loss could have wide-ranging, catastrophic outcomes. CWD programs assist partner governments in destroying their excess, unstable, and at-risk munitions (including MANPADS), improving physical security at munitions storage facilities, and bringing stockpile management practices into line with international standards.

Landmines and ERW can linger for decades in post-conflict environments. In areas reeling from recent fighting, stabilization assistance efforts are effectively blocked until ERW, improvised explosive devices, and mines can be cleared from key sites. CWD programs help overcome these obstacles through a range of activities, including landmine and ERW clearance and risk education for vulnerable populations.

The Department’s Role in DoD Security Assistance Programs

DoD also has the authority and resources to train and equip foreign security forces in a wide range of areas. By law, Department approval is required on many DoD security sector assistance activities to ensure that the Department and DoD are collaborating appropriately and that DoD programs advance a unified foreign policy strategy.

Secretaries Tillerson and Mattis have committed to a new joint Department-DoD planning process to maximize the effective use of security sector assistance resources appropriated to both departments in support of the national security objectives above.

Source: U.S Department of State