Building Partnerships Abroad By Improving Collaboration At Home

Andrew J. Shapiro
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University
Princeton, NJ
December 5, 2012

As prepared

Thank you David for that kind introduction. It is a great honor to be here at the Woodrow Wilson School – and as a SIPA grad I greatly appreciate the warm welcome.

The Woodrow Wilson School was founded with a focus on preparing the next generation for careers in public service. And for more than 80 years, this institution has seen its students go on to leadership roles within the United States government – and I am sure many of you here today will do the same. Crucial to the school’s mission was also a focus on preparing students – as Woodrow Wilson himself noted – “for the new movement in international affairs.” The Woodrow Wilson School has not just sought to teach its students about how things were, or how things are in international affairs. It has sought to prepare its students for how things will be. I could therefore not think of a more appropriate place to talk about the increasing need for the United States to forge new international partnerships and strengthen long-standing ones. Building and strengthening our international alliances and partnerships will be a major priority for the United States in the decades ahead.

Today I want to talk about one aspect in particular of our partnership building efforts – and that is security cooperation. As the Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs, I oversee the bureau at the State Department that is charged with handling global security issues. In this role we are also the State Department’s principal link with the Department of Defense. And instrumental to U.S. efforts to cooperate with partners in the security sector is effective coordination between the State Department and the Department of Defense.

So today I want to talk to you about four areas – First, the importance of building security partnerships. Second, the ways in which we are able to partner. Third, our efforts to improve State-Defense coordination. And lastly, our efforts to improve our ability to partner with countries.

So let me now turn to why building partnerships is a critical task for the United States.


Working with allies and partners to address common security challenges has no doubt been a critical part of U.S. policy for decades. But as the United States transitions from a decade of war, it is clear that the task of maintaining global stability and addressing global challenges must be a shared responsibility. Increasing interconnectedness associated with global economic advances has brought prosperity to more countries and regions – but it has also meant that the security of the United States can be affected by events in more places, more countries, and more regions. Take the example of Somalia, which as a failed state has given rise to a new wave of piracy threatening one of the world’s most important trade routes, impacting the region, U.S. mariners, the global economy, and therefore our security.

At the same time, while inter-state conflict has declined, state-based threats also remain. Global outliers, such as countries like Iran and North Korea, continue to threaten neighbors, stoke regional tension, and endanger U.S. security, requiring the United States and its allies to remain vigilant. In a world so interconnected, with global supply chains, highly developed global financial systems, and unprecedented global travel and connectivity, the potential impact of these threats has become magnified.

Secretary Panetta recently explained that “in the past, the United States often assumed the primary role of defending others. We built permanent bases. We deployed large forces across the globe to fixed positions. We often assumed that others were not willing or capable of defending themselves.” This meant the United States spread out wherever it thought it needed to. Today’s interconnected world, however, is simply too large a playing field—the United States cannot be everywhere.

The growing multitude of security demands means that it is in the interests of the United States to encourage others to shoulder more of the costs and responsibilities of global security. This makes U.S. security cooperation an increasingly critical component of U.S. engagement. When the United States – through our security cooperation efforts – enhances the military capabilities of our allies and partners, we also strengthen their ability to handle their own security. This potentially reduces the burden that falls on our shoulders. All countries benefit from a global environment that is stable and prosperous, and many could do more to take an active role in supporting it. Yet, as former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates argued, the United States itself could do more to expand the capabilities of its partners. At a time when the U.S. government is looking for cost-effective ways to achieve its strategic objectives at home and abroad, security cooperation with allies and partners is an increasingly important national security priority.

However, expanding our security partnerships is a two-way street. Countries must also want to partner with the United States. Some Cassandra’s have pointed to the rise of new powers, the economic downturn, and the challenges faced during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to argue that the central position of the United States in global affairs is slipping. But this overlooks a crucial trend: countries around the world increasingly want to partner with the United States, particularly in the security sector. More and more countries seek to establish more robust security ties, to engage and interact with U.S. forces, and to acquire U.S. defense systems.


So now let me turn to some of the ways we at the State Department cooperate with countries in the security sector.

The State Department’s security cooperation efforts include a broad array of tools, including direct grant assistance, the sale or transfer of military items and equipment, training peacekeepers, and supporting de-mining efforts. I will talk about each of these.

One of the most direct ways the United States can partner with countries is through the sale or transfer of U.S. defense equipment. The United States can sell or transfer weapon systems and military items through its Foreign Military Sales program, which are government-to-government sales, as well as through Direct Commercial Sales, which involve foreign entities purchasing directly from U.S. companies. The United States also helps build the capacity of partners through the Foreign Military Financing program. This provides security assistance funding to countries to buy U.S. defense items.

Many wonder what the State Department’s role – as the lead diplomatic agency – is in the area or arms transfers or security assistance. The reason is fairly clear: the transfer or export of items to countries for military use has clear foreign policy implications and is fundamentally a foreign policy function. It is therefore the Secretary of State who has the authority to oversee and authorize all arms sales and transfers of items on the United States Munitions List. And it is the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, which I oversee, that implements this authority to ensure any transfer is fully in line with U.S. foreign policy.

When the U.S. transfers a weapon system, especially through our Foreign Military Sales program, we are not just providing a country with military hardware. We are both reinforcing diplomatic relations and establishing a long-term security partnership. Defense trade can provide a foundation for increasing collaboration and inter-operability between forces. The use of similar military platforms helps streamline operations and reduce the potential for problems when coordinating between highly advanced and complicated defense systems. For example, Japan’s recent decision to purchase the F-35 to replace its aging F-4 fighters will help ensure compatibility with U.S. forces.

Additionally, the complex and technical nature of advanced defense systems frequently requires collaboration and interaction between countries over the life of that system. One way to conceptualize the transfer of an advanced defense system, such as a fighter aircraft, is to think about the sale of a new smart-phone. When you buy a smart-phone, you are not simply buying a piece of hardware; you are buying a system that includes the operating system, the system’s software for email, photos, and music, as well as access to many other available applications. Therefore, when you buy a smart phone, you are in fact entering into a relationship with a particular smart-phone company over the life of your phone. So when a country buys a fighter jet or other advanced defense system from a U.S. company, it is not just getting the hardware; it is buying a larger system, one that will need to be updated and repaired throughout its lifespan, which in the case of a fighter jet can be as long as 40 years. This means that in purchasing the hardware, the buyer is actually committing to a broader, long-term relationship with the United States. The defense trade can therefore help solidify diplomatic ties between countries and the United States. As a result, these decisions are often intensely political and can serve to steer the diplomatic strategic course of a country for decades.

This is why all sales and arms transfers are reviewed and rigorously assessed by the State Department through the Conventional Arms Transfer Policy. We carefully examine issues like human rights, regional security and nonproliferation concerns to determine whether a sale is in the best foreign policy and national security interests of the United States.

Every item transferred must also meet with U.S. legal obligations, foreign policy goals, and values. If an export license or transfer is approved, foreign recipients are bound by end-use restrictions and conditions. This grants U.S. government officials access to monitor how a country will use that defense article throughout its lifetime. The United States also investigates potential violations and takes appropriate action depending on the nature and scope of the infraction. In the past four years, the State Department has reached settlements with nine different companies amounting to more than $177 million. This includes the largest settlement in U.S. history.

Importantly, the transfer of items above a certain value also requires the approval of Congress, which helps ensure there is generally broad support for all significant arms transfers. This arms transfer process sometimes causes consternation among our international partners, who gripe about onerous rules and procedures. However, these safeguards are critical to U.S. foreign policy and are aggressively enforced.

Despite the high bar for approving arms transfers and the aggressive monitoring that we do, more and more countries want to partner with the United States. Year after year, the State Department’s Directorate for Defense Trade Controls, which is the regulator of commercial export of defense items, is breaking records in the number of licenses it processes. This year it expects to receive and review more than 85,000 licenses – the most ever.

The growth in Foreign Military Sales has also been extraordinary. For four consecutive years, U.S. Foreign Military Sales have exceeded $30 billion. This is a significant increase over the last decade, when Foreign Military Sales averaged just $12 billion. This past year FMS sales grew at an enormous rate – more than doubling the totals in FY 2011. This calendar year there have been 58 congressionally notified FMS cases with a value of $62 billion notified so far.

This growth shows that the diplomatic efforts by this Administration to strengthen America’s image abroad, build new partnerships and bolster long-standing ones, is working. If countries view the United States unfavorably, they would be less willing to cooperate on security matters. When a country is willing to cooperate with us in the security sector – perhaps the most sensitive area for any country – it serves to strengthen our broader diplomatic relationships.

The increase in Foreign Military Sales not only demonstrates the continued centrality of the United States, but it also represents a significant strategic opportunity. For example, this spring, I was in New Delhi for the first Political–Military talks in six years. These talks were an opportunity to strengthen our security relationship with India. One of the major goals during these talks was to advance the defense trade and better familiarize the Indian government with U.S. systems and processes. Engagement with India is making a difference, as cumulative defense sales have grown from almost nothing to more than $8 billion since 2008, and we are expecting to add to that total.

Another critical way we can partner with countries is through military training. One key tool administered by the State Department is the International Military Education Training program known as IMET. It helps train the military forces of partner countries by bringing foreign military personnel to the United States to see the practices of our military first-hand. The training that is provided can be a critical tool for professionalizing partner militaries and teaching about core U.S. values, like respect for human rights and civilian control of the military. IMET also helps build military-to-military connections among countries by building personal relationships – a connection which can prove valuable down the road. In 2012 alone, IMET allowed more than 300 foreign military personnel to attend U.S. war colleges.

To help professionalize the militaries of our partners and improve their ability to contribute to global security, the United States has also become a leader in training and supporting international peacekeepers. This has helped build the capacity of troop and police contributing nations to United Nations and other multilateral peacekeeping missions. The principal mechanism used here is a security assistance program administered by the State Department called the Global Peace Operations Initiative, or GPOI. This program has contributed to the training of nearly 220,000 peacekeepers since 2005 and has facilitated the deployment of more than 170,000 peacekeepers from 38 countries to 23 operations around the world. This effort also has an ancillary benefit: many of the skills involved in peacekeeper training—population protection, human rights training, logistics support, and medical and engineering training—all have a broader application. Thus, when the United States trains Bangladeshi peacekeepers, it also teaches valuable skills that can help professionalize and modernize Bangladesh’s military.

We also help countries recover from conflict and manage their weapons stockpiles. For many countries around the world, landmines and unexploded ordnance inhibit development, disrupt markets and production, and generally obstruct reconstruction efforts. Since the inception of the U.S. Conventional Weapons Destruction programs in 1993, the United States has delivered more than $2 billion in assistance to help more than 90 countries overcome these threats. This is often a critical piece of our diplomatic engagement with countries in the security sector and addressing the threats posed by landmines has long been a priority for the United States. For the fourth consecutive year, the United States has sent observers to the annual Ottawa Convention Meeting, which is convening in Geneva this week. While we have not yet decided to accede to the Convention, this consideration is ongoing, and we expect to be able to announce a decision soon.

With these security cooperation tools we have sought to build and strengthen our partnerships. Security cooperation has therefore been an essential part of the “rebalance” to Asia, where U.S. economic, diplomatic, cultural, and military ties continue to strengthen daily. Strengthening the web of security relationships and building new partnerships with emerging powers, including China, is crucial to sustaining the regional stability that has facilitated rapid economic growth in the Asia–Pacific region. Our expanded outreach to Asia was reflected in my official travel. I travelled to the East Asia-Pacific region much more than I ever anticipated. In fact, I travelled to Asia on 12 different trips, just one fewer than to the Middle East. I also visited more than ten different countries in East Asia and the Pacific. And after my five trips to Israel, I travelled to Australia more than any other country. These trips have helped expand our diplomatic engagement with the region on security issues.


This takes me to my third area – State-DoD collaboration. Crucial to improving our ability to partner with countries abroad is improving collaboration between diplomacy and defense. The challenge of coordinating diplomacy and defense is not unique to the U.S. In fact, when I lead joint Political-Military Dialogues with foreign partners, I often see other countries struggling with this first hand. I’ll often hear from someone on the other side about how useful these talks were in forcing their Foreign and Defense ministries to communicate with each other. So the problem of coordinating between agencies is a common challenge.

Yet in many ways the coordination challenges are more complex for the United States. We not only conduct a truly global foreign policy, but we also have a truly global military posture. Additionally, the increasingly complex and cross-cutting challenges we face today, require a more multifaceted and integrated approach. Upon coming to office, Secretary Clinton recognized that improving the State-Defense relationship would be fundamental to advancing this integrated approach. Her view was also shared by Secretary Gates. Both understood that improving relations started at the top. And the strong relationship that was established between Secretaries has continued under Secretary Panetta.

As a result, under this administration, I believe there has been a sea-change in State-Defense cooperation. In previous Administrations – both Republican and Democratic – relations between the two departments were often characterized by suspicion and distrust. Today, under the leadership of Secretary Clinton, relations between State and DoD are the best they have ever been. The cooperation between the State Department and the Pentagon is truly unprecedented and I think this will be remembered as one of Secretary Clinton’s lasting legacies.

This is important because the partnership with the Department of Defense spans the entirety of regional and functional diplomacy at the State Department. Interaction occurs daily and crosses a broad spectrum of issues. This coordination is critical to our ability to effectively engage and partner with countries in the security sector.

For example, our Departments have greatly increased cooperation in planning. New and existing initiatives have helped expand collaboration and provide State – as well as other agencies – a chance to review and provide input to DoD plans. This is particular important when it comes to U.S. global defense posture. After current operations, defense posture is the most politically sensitive issue for U.S. foreign policy. Any adjustment in posture can send a signal – intended or not – to our allies, partners, and potential adversaries alike.

We also work with DoD on military exercises. These are often the single greatest demonstration of our commitment to the security of our allies and partners and can be very diplomatically sensitive. The State Department therefore reviews each and every significant military exercise to ensure they advance U.S. foreign policy. For example, at any one time, U.S. Pacific Command has some 40,000 service members sailing around the Pacific and Indian Oceans aboard U.S. Navy ships. It is vitally important that the employment of these forces – whether pertaining to the exercises in which they participate, the ports of call they visit, or the security cooperation engagements they facilitate – be closely planned and coordinated with State on a consistent basis.

The State Department also negotiates all security agreements. This includes Status of Forces Agreements, Defense Cooperation Agreements, access and transit agreements, and cost-sharing agreements. In the last four years we have negotiated and signed 18 of these agreements and we are currently negotiating 16 additional agreements. These help ensure freedom of movement of U.S. forces and are a key part of U.S. global defense posture. We have made significant progress in developing the Northern Distribution Network, which has proved critical to support U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

We are also working closely with DoD and other interagency partners to address transnational global security challenges – which require a whole-of government approach. For instance, we are working closely with DoD on combating piracy off the coast of Somalia. While piracy on the high seas is not new, its modern day form is a prime example of a security challenge that cannot simply be solved through military means. When this Administration came to office piracy was spiraling out of control. In response, we drew on all components of national power. We ramped up our naval response, helped build an international coalition with more than 70 nations, pushed industry to do more to protect itself at sea, and we pursued pirate networks by targeting financiers. This means Justice, FBI, Treasury, State, USAID, Defense, and the private sector are all involved. This is smart power in action. And these efforts are paying off. Successful pirate attacks are down dramatically. 2011 had 50 percent fewer successful attacks than in 2010. And, according to figures from the U.S. Navy, we are on track to experience a roughly 75 percent decline in overall pirate attacks this year compared with 2011.

Importantly, we have also taken steps to institutionalize this increased collaboration.

One of the principal ways we are improving collaboration is through personnel exchanges. This past January, State and DoD signed a new Memorandum of Understanding, which effectively doubles the number of personnel exchanged between our Departments. This was no easy task. The coordination process took two years of continuous back and forth. Once the agreement was finally signed, a General at the Pentagon who was working with me and my team noted that something this bureaucratically difficult and complicated to complete was going to last a long time. And that of course was the point.

Under the new arrangement, approximately 100 DoD personnel are detailed to State, while approximately 95 State Department Foreign Policy Advisors known as POLADs are assigned to DoD. POLADs are Foreign Service Officers that are assigned to serve with military commands to advise and act as a link between military commands and the State Department, making sure that the U.S. government speaks with one voice. In the last four years, the number of Foreign Policy Advisors positions has approximately doubled. Now POLADs are posted to every Service headquarters, to every Unified Combatant Command, and to the majority of the component and subordinate commands. This is testament to their increasing utility to our military leaders.

The State Department will also benefit greatly from the expanded number of military officers that will serve in Foggy Bottom. Additionally, through the State-Defense Integration Initiative, the State Department has dramatically expanded the number of events, seminars, conferences, and briefings it holds for military personnel.

This brings me to the final area – our efforts to improve our ability to partner. Despite all the day-to-day work we are doing – we are also seeking to improve and reform the way we operate in order to expand our ability to partner with countries.

A prime example of this is export control reform. We are working closely with DoD, as well as the Departments of Commerce and Homeland Security, to update and modernize our export control system to better protect our sensitive technologies, as well as to improve our ability to partner. Every President since Kennedy has tried to reform our export control system and this Administration is actually getting it done.

As President Obama transitions to his second term, our export control reform efforts will continue apace. The goals of our export control reform efforts are ultimately about making sure our system protects the things it needs to protect. This will allow the U.S. government to focus its limited resources on safeguarding and monitoring the most sensitive items. And will enable the United States to more effectively cooperate with allies and partners in the defense trade.

This Administration has also finalized and is now implementing Defense Trade Cooperation Treaties with the United Kingdom and Australia. These treaties will improve collaboration in the defense sector and will decrease barriers to the defense trade, speeding delivery of equipment to our troops in the field.

Another tool we are working to improve is security assistance. Over the last decade the sometimes urgent need to provide security assistance to our partners led to the creation of new authorities and funds often under DoD control. Concerns arose that State authority was eroding, and a confusing array of authorities and programs was being created. In response, we have worked with DoD to improve coordination. A clear example of this is the creation of the Global Security Contingency Fund or GSCF. This fund serves as a new business model, emphasizing collaboration and the interrelated nature of defense, diplomacy, and development.

What makes GSCF unprecedented is its requirement to pool resources. Last year, Congress authorized GSCF’s formation, enabling State and DoD to transfer up to $250 million annually into the fund. Given the resource disparity between the agencies, the authority stipulates that DoD can contribute not more than 80 percent to an activity and State not less than 20 percent.

Another innovative aspect of GSCF is its joint structure. The GSCF’s Core Staff will be housed at the Department of State. The director of the fund is from the State Department and the Deputy is from DoD. The fund also requires that both the Secretaries of State and Defense approve the countries eligible for funding through GSCF and the individual implementation.

GSCF is also innovative in its ability to respond to unanticipated events. GSCF is designed to provide security sector assistance to partner countries in response to emergent challenges and opportunities. Currently, many existing security assistance programs are planned and budgeted years in advance and are not always able to respond to emerging events or to help countries address unexpected needs. This new fund provides us with the authority to respond to such situations. When a crisis erupts or an opportunity presents itself, we will no longer be starting from scratch, arguing in the interagency over who has what authority and who has what capability. We will simply be able to get started.

Importantly, the Global Security Contingency Fund will preserve the Secretary of State’s leadership and authority over security assistance, while at the same time leveraging the resources, expertise and planning capability of the Defense Department.


To close – with our world only becoming more interconnected, building and strengthening our security partnerships will be essential over the coming decade. And as such, working together across the Potomac River will only become more important. While we will never have perfect coordination, the tangible progress we have made under Secretaries Clinton, Gates, and Panetta, is durable and will have a lasting impact.

The United States has a strategic opportunity to build new partnerships and strengthen existing ones. Security cooperation programs—from direct military grants to arms transfers—will be critical tools to seize these opportunities, advancing U.S. global leadership and stability. Investments in these areas can pay long-term dividends. Through the programs and initiatives I’ve outlined, the United States can transform cautious partners into long-term allies and make existing allies more capable. When the United States provides an ally with vessels to patrol and monitor its coastal waters, when it trains peacekeepers to deploy to places like Somalia, and when it sells advanced defense systems to its partners, the United States is not just helping its partners handle their own security. It is also empowering them to contribute to global security. As such, our security cooperation potentially reduces the burden that would fall on our shoulders.

Thank you very much. And I look forward to your questions.