JPME Today



Book Reviews

Joint Doctrine

Joint Force Quarterly 80 (1st Quarter, January 2016)

News | Jan. 1, 2016

Enhancing Security Cooperation Effectiveness: A Model for Capability Package Planning

By Thomas W. Ross

Thomas W. Ross is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Security Cooperation in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy.

Developing key capabilities of partner nation militaries is an important pillar of U.S. national defense strategy. In critical missions, such as military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, building armed forces from the bottom up occupies a central role in overall campaign strategies. Elsewhere, the United States is seeking to develop the capabilities of select partner militaries to help them conduct or support distinct missions, such as counterterrorism or counterproliferation, to diminish risks to U.S. security. Enabling collective action through partner capacity-building plays as a leitmotif throughout President Barack Obama’s 2015 National Security Strategy, which asserts that “in addition to acting decisively to defeat direct threats, we will focus on building the capacity of others to prevent the causes and consequences of conflict to include countering extreme and dangerous ideologies.”1 The strategy expresses U.S. commitment to strengthening the capabilities of partners to fight terrorism, support peacekeeping missions, deter aggression, prevent conflict, and respond to regional crises.

U.S. Navy Sailors perform casualty evacuation training in preparation for Exercise Eager Lion 15 in Jordan, May 3, 2015 (U.S. Marine Corps/Austin A. Lewis)

U.S. Navy Sailors perform casualty evacuation training in preparation for Exercise Eager Lion 15 in Jordan, May 3, 2015 (U.S. Marine Corps/Austin A. Lewis)

Despite the primacy of partner nation capacity-building in U.S. strategy, the fact is that investments to develop partner military capabilities have achieved mixed results. The security cooperation community is rife with anecdotes about U.S.-provided helicopters rusting away in hangars after only a few years of use or of armored Humvees sitting on blocks in perpetual disrepair.2 Too often, U.S. military capacity-building efforts have failed to deliver sustainable, effective partner capabilities that truly ease operational burdens on U.S. forces. In a time of fiscal austerity, the Department of Defense must examine how it can do better with the limited resources available.

While many variables have undermined success in capability-building efforts, at the core of the issue is how misconceptions of what a capability entails lead to gaps in implementation. Simply put, we have too often directly equated a capability with a weapons system and a minimal operator training course. As one analyst writes, “Raising armies is more sophisticated than this, and involves engaging civil society, growing leaders, building institutions and instilling professionalism. Training and equipping alone only gives you better dressed soldiers who shoot straighter.”3 Capability is not simply a weapon or piece of equipment; it is a complex system of mutually reinforcing inputs that combine to enable a military to achieve a necessary function in support of a specific mission.

To effectively develop partner nation military capabilities, security cooperation activities must be planned in accordance with a capability definition that encompasses all necessary inputs and supports clearly defined objectives to develop these inputs. Only through planning comprehensive capability packages—instead of imbalanced assistance that prioritizes hardware—can the United States maximize success in building partner military capabilities to offset risks to U.S. national security. This article sets forth a Capability Package Planning Model (CPPM) intended to guide assessment of capability requirements and programmatic risks; to identify key inputs comprising a military capability; and to develop comprehensive capability packages that address capability requirements across all necessary dimensions and ensure that U.S. security cooperation investments are more closely linked to priority objectives derived from national and defense strategic guidance.

The CPPM is intended for practitioners of security cooperation planning, primarily those within the U.S. military but also for practitioners within the security components of other Federal agencies and other security exporters who wrestle with similar challenges as U.S. military planners. In practice, these planners’ craft is carried out in a fast-paced context where time pressures, cultural contexts, security environments, leadership demands, and other factors often frustrate intentions to apply theoretical models without adjustments and improvisations. This model is intended not to dictate a step-by-step checklist for planners but rather to shape thinking about how to plan security cooperation activities in the practical context. It is not meant solely for practitioners, however; policymakers also need a clearer understanding of what capability-building should entail to guide their decisions about associated resources, authorities, and strategies.

Defining Capability

To set the stage for a CPPM, we must first define what we mean when we discuss a military capability.

In a military context, capability entails the ability to perform a function in order to achieve a military operational objective. The Joint Staff defines capability as “the ability to achieve a specified wartime objective.” Furthermore, “it includes four major components: force structure, modernization, readiness, and sustainability.”4 The Australian Ministry of Defence defines capability as “the capacity or ability to achieve an operational effect . . . described in terms of the nature of the effect and of how, when, where, and for how long it is produced.”5 An effective military capability cannot be equated with a single weapons system; rather, it is “provided by one or more systems, and is made up of the combined effects of multiple inputs.”6 A subordinate definitional question, then, is: What exactly are the key inputs to capability generation?

While it may not always be reflected in the context of foreign capability-building, U.S. and key allied defense establishments have developed sophisticated understandings of the inputs essential to their own capability-generation efforts. The Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) is used by the U.S. military to provide guidance for “identification of capability requirements and capability gaps, development of requirements documents . . . [and] post-validation development and implementation of materiel and non-materiel capability solutions.”7 It sets forth several key inputs to capability generation represented by the acronym DOTMLPF-P: doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, facilities, and policy.8 The DOTMLPF-P approach urges military planners to examine those eight categories as they develop solutions to a military capability requirement. These elements, under the JCIDS guidance, should be considered in the context of available resources and “must work in concert to ensure consistent decision making while delivering timely and cost effective capability solutions to the Warfighters.”9

U.S. Army 173rd Airborne Brigade Soldiers conduct airborne operations during Exercise Allied Spirit II at U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, August 13, 2015 (U.S. Army/Caleb Barrieau)

U.S. Army 173rd Airborne Brigade Soldiers conduct airborne operations during Exercise Allied Spirit II at U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, August 13, 2015 (U.S. Army/Caleb Barrieau)

Several similar approaches exist elsewhere. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has adopted the model in whole cloth, but adds an I to the acronym (DOTMLPF-I) to address interoperability. The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence Architecture Framework directs its capability development process to address training, equipment, personnel, information, concepts and doctrine, organization, infrastructure, and logistics inputs.10 Interoperability is described as “an overarching theme.” The Australian Defence Capability Development Handbook identifies similar inputs to its capability development model: personnel, organization, collective training, major systems, supplies, facilities, support, and command and management. Various academic studies, such as those by Canadian defense scholar Christopher Ankersen and by a team of scholars at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Technology Management, have developed similar frameworks.11

These models vary in the inputs they identify, but they share critical characteristics. First, they emphasize that a capability is a complex and interlocking system of inputs rather than a weapons system or personnel unit. Second, they demonstrate that capabilities require inputs from several different levels of a military: at the tactical level, where defense systems and their operators are organized and employed; at the operational level, where these systems are linked with supporting functions such as logistics and intelligence; and at the strategic level, where policies, strategies, and doctrine guide and sustain. Finally, these models recognize that capability generation is a long-term undertaking requiring attention to sustainment across the various inputs. Each of these characteristics is essential for effective capability package planning to build partner nation military capabilities.

For the purposes of this article, then, we can draw from these models a more refined definition of military capability: an ability to achieve a specific military operational objective that is supported, enabled, and sustained by all relevant defense systems at the institutional, strategic, operational, and tactical levels.

With the benefit of this definition, let us now develop the CPPM itself. As noted, the model offers a conceptual framework for developing partner military capabilities as guided, clear, transparent, achievable objectives spanning the full spectrum of necessary capability inputs.

Step One: Focusing Capability Development Efforts

The CPPM is built upon the assertion that focusing on the right capability to build is half the battle. Step one of the model offers a framework for assessing where to invest limited capacity-building resources and how to understand, map, and seek to mitigate risks to capability-generation efforts. The model requires detailed assessment of the partner nation’s security environment and operational conditions that should be taken into account in planning, including assessments of:

  • the provider nation’s strategic objectives to be addressed
  • the extent to which a partner nation’s defense strategy is aligned with the provider’s own strategy
  • the extent to which a partner nation is committed to building a particular military capability
  • the extent to which a partner nation has the capacity to absorb proposed assistance
  • the risks associated with a potential capability-building investment.

While these factors are not the only relevant factors determining success, they represent the core analytical questions that should determine whether and how investments in capability generation are undertaken (see figure 1).

Afghan air force aircrew and NATO Air Training Command–Afghanistan air advisors stand together after first-ever all-Afghan C-130 flight, Kabul, Afghanistan, June 16, 2014 (U.S. Air Force/Vernon Young, Jr.)

Strategic Objective. Capability-building programs will have the greatest strategic value to the extent they focus on building partner nation capabilities that directly support the provider’s strategic national security interests. Linking capability-building focal areas to provider strategic objectives should begin with an assessment of the partner’s security environment: What shared interests or threats are at stake, and which of these are of highest priority to the provider nation? What missions would the partner ideally be capable of conducting in support of, in tandem with, or in lieu of action by the provider? What are the critical capability gaps hindering the partner from playing a more robust role in addressing priority shared interests? How might regional actors react to new partner capabilities? Ultimately, this assessment should enable planners to hone in on capability needs that have a clear, direct, and prioritized link to national and military strategic objectives.

Partner-Nation Strategic Alignment. Equally important is an assessment of whether partner nations have developed coherent national and military strategies, as well as the extent to which such strategies identify objectives that are compatible with provider nation strategic objectives. Does the partner maintain a compatible perspective on shared interests and threats? Does the partner’s national security or defense strategy take account of such shared interests and threats and prioritize development of capabilities to address them? Is the partner prepared to work with the provider to develop military capabilities? Central to this assessment will be an examination of how the partner understands its military capabilities and gaps and how it seeks to address shared interests or threats through appropriate military capabilities. Partners may be strategically misaligned with providers when strategic guidance is absent or incomplete, when there are widely divergent assessments of core threats, or when partners seek fundamentally incompatible solutions to threats that are mutually identified and prioritized.

Strategic misalignment does not necessarily argue for foreclosing further security cooperation with a partner nation; rather, it should lead to greater focus on intervention at the institutional level instead of a focus on generating operational capabilities. Targeted assistance in development of strategic guidance, as well as mutual exchanges of strategic perspectives, can mitigate strategic misalignment and lay the groundwork for deeper, more productive cooperation in the future.

Partner Nation Support and Will. Success will also depend on whether the partner supports a notional capability-generation effort and whether that partner possesses the political will to invest (in terms of both funding and effort) in developing and sustaining the capability. Capability-building efforts may be doomed to failure by partners who are not sufficiently invested in their completion because such partners are less likely to pursue policy and budget decisions necessary to sustain and effectively employ new capabilities. Persistent diplomatic engagement throughout the life cycle of a capability-generation effort is necessary to assess and maintain partner commitment to the effort’s successful completion.

Partner Nation Absorptive Capacity. New military capabilities are almost never developed without a cost. Such costs include the long-term assignment of personnel to support a new capability; fuel, spare parts, and maintenance; development of supporting capabilities such as refueling or reconnaissance; and so on. Assessing a partner’s capacity and commitment to absorb such costs should shape the scope of every capability-generation effort.

In many cases, however, it is unrealistic to expect a partner nation to bear all associated long-term costs, and high-priority operational demands may make it equally unrealistic to avoid capability-building activities because of a lack of absorptive capacity. Again, an assessment of partner absorptive capacity should not pose a binary choice of whether to proceed. Rather, such an assessment should identify risks to an effort and support the development of measures to mitigate such risks. Such measures could include long-term commitments of security assistance to support sustainment, investment in the development of institutional planning and budgeting capacities, arrangements for the supply of parts and maintenance services, or targeted training of technicians, logisticians, and other supporting personnel.

Dutch soldiers take part in Combined Resolve, which trains participants in joint, multinational, and integrated environments alongside U.S. and NATO allies (U.S. Army/John Cress, Jr.)

Dutch soldiers take part in Combined Resolve, which trains participants in joint, multinational, and integrated environments alongside U.S. and NATO allies (U.S. Army/John Cress, Jr.)

Risk Analysis. Finally, planners should take into account systemic risks within a partner nation that could threaten the long-term viability of capability-generation efforts. Risk assessments should not only examine security dimensions but also include analysis of political and economic instability risks, corruption risks, risks associated with significant changes in political direction of partner nation governments, and similar factors. Such assessments should identify the types of risk and map out individuals and organizations likely to impact such risks, for better or worse.

Preliminary assessments of these five elements lay the foundation for smart planning decisions by helping to identify the capability gaps that are most conducive to assistance or cooperation by providers and by illuminating functional areas that serve strategic objectives, that are aligned with partner strategic guidance, and that can be supported and absorbed by partner governments and militaries. These assessments should predict where capability-generation efforts are most vulnerable to failure, facilitate examination of capability trade-offs, and enable planning of risk mitigation measures. They should also help planners map where diplomatic intervention is needed, which individuals within a partner military or government will be vital stakeholders, and where providers might face resistance. In some cases, these assessments may help planners avoid investments that are unlikely to bear fruit, thus helping providers limit losses and demonstrate to partner governments a better track record of success.

Step Two: Defining Capability Inputs

Step two of the CPPM moves from identifying which capability should be built to assessing what comprises that capability. It suggests a framework for defining capability requirements so as to ensure that all essential inputs are identified and addressed.

This article defines military capability as an ability to achieve a specific military operational objective that is supported, enabled, and sustained by all relevant defense systems at the institutional, strategic, operational, and tactical levels. While drawing upon the discussion of the DOTMLPF-P model and related approaches, step two of the CPPM framework seeks to operationalize this definition through a simpler approach to facilitate ease of use and applicability to a wide range of partner military structures. It suggests that a military capability consists of proficiency in five primary areas: defense systems; personnel; enablers; strategy, doctrine, and plans; and institutional support and oversight (see figure 2). Each of these elements is mutually reinforcing and interdependent. Significant shortfalls in one area can decisively undermine efforts to build capacity in others. The five elements are discussed in more detail below.

Afghan air force aircrew and NATO Air Training Command–Afghanistan air advisors stand together after first-ever all-Afghan C-130 flight, Kabul, Afghanistan, June 16, 2014 (U.S. Air Force/Vernon Young, Jr.)

Defense Systems. The defense system component of a capability requires that a partner nation obtain materiel that is appropriately matched to the particular capability sought; thus, successfully planning a capability-generation effort requires that capability requirements are defined with sufficient rigor and detail to allow materiel solutions to be appropriately matched to needs.12 A defense system may include a weapons system, vehicles such as aircraft or boats, munitions, communications equipment, and other defense articles, as well as the spare and replacement parts and support equipment necessary to maintain it.

Personnel. The personnel component requires that the partner nation ensure appropriate military personnel are assigned, organized, and trained to support the capability—not only to operate relevant equipment but also to provide critical enabling and support functions. Trained personnel are not simply proficient in operating a defense system, but also can do so in accordance with doctrine, policy, procedures, strategy, and commanders’ guidance. For a capability to be fully developed, a partner military should maintain a training and education system that provides for a steady pipeline of personnel adequately trained to support the capability. The partner must also organize its military forces appropriately to achieve and maintain a capability. In a well-organized force, subordinate components coordinate action with other subordinate components and enable the broader component to accomplish its mission.

Enablers. Every defense system is supported by an array of functions that enable the effective, sustainable, repeatable employment of the system. One of the most critical enabling functions—one that, when neglected, is among the most common points of failure in partner nation capacity-building efforts—is logistics. Logistics should be understood to encompass several different functions that empower a military to deploy and support its forces, including “deployment and distribution, supply, maintenance, logistic services, operational contract support, engineering, and health services.”13 Infrastructure and basing are also relevant considerations.

Among several other enabling functions, two should be particularly highlighted: C4ISR and interoperability. C4ISR—command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance—enables military leaders to exercise authority to direct resources and personnel to achieve specific missions. Interoperability is the enabling function behind coalition operations; it is the ability of different military services (both within and among nations) to operate together to achieve a common goal. As a 2001 RAND study demonstrates, interoperability includes “the ability of forces from different nations to work effectively together given the nature of the forces and the combined military organizational structure”; “the effectiveness of the combined military organizational structure”; and “the degree of similarity of technical capabilities of the forces from different nations.”14 Interoperability is thus not simply a matter of effectively interfacing technologies; it includes organizational and institutional elements as well.

Strategy, Doctrine, and Plans. Effective military capabilities are employed in alignment with national military strategies, according to military doctrine, in support of specific military plans. Military or defense strategies guide the use of the military instrument to achieve specified objectives, ideally with clearly defined relationships between desired ends and available ways and means. Doctrine provides a common conceptual foundation for how military forces should execute military strategies. As defined by the JCIDS, doctrine consists of “fundamental principles that guide the employment of . . . military forces in coordinated action toward a common objective.”15 It is authoritative guidance to be followed except when commanders determine exceptional circumstances require an alternative approach. Strategy and doctrine inform military plans, which provide formalized constructs for executing specific military actions.

Institutional Support and Oversight. An effective military capability requires robust institutional support and oversight—that is, the institutional-level formal and informal processes and personnel responsible for implementing such processes, who operate to plan, direct, sustain, and oversee institution-wide policies, programs, and activities in support of effective and sustainable military action. Defense institutions oversee numerous functions that ensure a particular capability can endure. Among the most critical is oversight: the active and persistent exercise of mechanisms to examine whether military programs and activities are meeting stated objectives, timelines, policy and legal guidance, and quality standards. Furthermore, defense institutions are responsible for providing clear policy guidance; ensuring a long-term strategy for resourcing capabilities through budget planning and acquisition processes; ensuring long-term force development and human resource management strategies; and managing relationships, agreements, and activities with allies and partners. Finally, defense ministries often play essential, if not leading, roles in managing civil-military relations and in managing intragovernmental or interagency processes.

Institutional support and oversight are the most often neglected of the core capability components listed. Few of the capability development models discussed previously, for example, adequately highlight the criticality of institutional mechanisms for overseeing implementation of capability-generation activities. Despite the scant attention that this core capability receives, no military capability will endure without robust institutional oversight and support.

These five categories provide a framework for conceptualizing essential inputs in developing a partner military capability. They capture the concepts of capability development models used by the U.S. military and others, but are simplified for greater applicability and adaptability. An understanding of these inputs should guide and enable assessments of partners’ capability gaps and requirements, concepts for addressing the most pressing gaps across the spectrum of inputs, identification of significant risks to an activity’s success, and development of truly comprehensive capability packages that address multiple inputs in a mutually reinforcing fashion through the combination of appropriate security cooperation tools.

Step Three: Capability Development Activities

Step one of the CPPM attempts to help planners assess which capability should be built, and step two examines what comprises that capability. Step three suggests a framework for planning how to build the selected capability. It asserts that effective capability-generation efforts require a sustained and integrated set of security cooperation activities across spectrums of duration, scope, and difficulty. Just as a capability cannot be equated to a weapons system, a capability cannot be built through a single activity or program. What is needed is a range of engagements, including both short-term and long-term programs; activities targeting single individuals, small units, and broader audiences; and efforts requiring more and less intensive activities.

This framework groups security cooperation activities into five main categories: contacts and engagements, exercises, education, train-and-equip activities, and institutional capacity-building activities. These categories move roughly along a spectrum from short term to long term, from the individual level to the collective level, and progressively toward a higher degree of complexity (see figure 3).

Afghan air force aircrew and NATO Air Training Command–Afghanistan air advisors stand together after first-ever all-Afghan C-130 flight, Kabul, Afghanistan, June 16, 2014 (U.S. Air Force/Vernon Young, Jr.)

Contacts and Engagements. Most militaries engage in a range of short-term, small-scale activities designed primarily to build military-to-military relationships, familiarize partners with new information such as tactics or doctrine, and develop common standards and operating procedures. Such activities can be categorized as contacts and engagements and may include military staff talks, subject matter expert exchanges, personnel exchanges, conferences and seminars, and similar activities.

While contacts and engagements are primarily of benefit in building relationships, they can also be important elements of broader strategies to build partner military capabilities and should be planned as such. For example, subject matter expert exchanges can assist in shaping partner nation thinking about the development of doctrine for new weapons systems or in highlighting the need for enabling support such as logistics systems. Seminars can be used to convene planners from two or more partner nations to develop approaches to interoperability. Military staff talks can reinforce partner political commitment to the development of new capabilities. In short, contacts and engagements should be integrated throughout the capability development life cycle to supplement, reinforce, and maintain commitment to more enduring or intensive programming.

Exercises. Many militaries conduct preparatory exercises to train their personnel to exercise essential military activities, prepare for likely scenarios, and assess vulnerabilities in planning and execution. Combined exercises—those involving two or more partner nation militaries—are often used both to seek such training benefits and to help train partner military personnel, expose them to new tactics, and assess their effectiveness. As such, combined exercises can play an important role in supporting the development of military capabilities in a partner country.

To the extent possible, combined exercises should be designed specifically to put into practice partner nation military capabilities in development. Doing so allows such exercises to provide practical training in realistic scenarios to military personnel associated with a developing capability and to expose them to different models of how to exercise a particular capability. Furthermore, such exercises allow planners to assess progress in developing capabilities, identify areas where progress is lagging, and adjust programming accordingly.

Education. The education category is intended to capture the range of training and education activities that target individual students or participants for tailored or structured learning, often in a classroom environment. The most common type of activity in this category is the inclusion of partner nation military or defense civilian personnel in academic or continuing military education schoolhouse courses. In the United States, programs such as International Military Education and Training and the Counter Terrorism Fellowship Program bring hundreds of foreign military students into classrooms, ranging from military Service academies to civilian university graduate schools, every year. Other educational activities are more tailored to improving technical skills; for example, the U.S. Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School teaches skills necessary for the effective operation and maintenance of small maritime vessels. Finally, education and training programs reach outside the schoolhouse through mobile training teams and similar field-based training.

Educational programs have proved effective as tools both to build military-to-military relationships and to impart essential skills to select partner nation military personnel. However, rarely are educational programs sufficiently integrated into broader capability-generation efforts. Such programs offer opportunities to educate well-positioned current and future military leaders in skills and tradecraft directly associated with a developing military capability, and thus to build a cadre of professionals across levels of rank and experience to manage and sustain the new capability.

Train-and-Equip Activities. Often classified as “security assistance” within the United States, these activities consist of programs designed to convey materiel to partner nations and to provide training relating to such materiel, though training often narrowly targets operators of the new equipment. These programs, which include sales, grants, and loans of military equipment, have been the bread and butter of capability-building efforts.16 However, too often they have focused exclusively on delivery of a weapons system without integration of supporting functions and capabilities.

Train-and-equip programs are most effective when they develop packages that invest both in weapons systems and in necessary supporting equipment, such as logistics assets and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems. Such packages will ideally include training for system operators, military planners, logisticians, personnel with critical C4ISR roles, and others in enabling functions. Maintenance of new equipment—a function often contracted out—is a core function that should be developed as part of any significant new capability.

Institutional Capacity-Building Activities. Developing effective institutional systems for budget and personnel management, strategy and doctrine development, strategic planning, acquisition, logistics, military intelligence, and other vital functions requires long-term and carefully tailored engagement. Institutional capacity-building is the most often neglected element of capability generation, yet it is the element most vital to ensuring enduring capability. From the “ghost soldiers” on Afghan and Yemeni budget books to the lack of logistics systems driving the 2011 collapse of Mali’s army, U.S. capability development efforts have been plagued by institutional neglect. Institutional capacity-building activities should target defense ministries and, in some cases, other security ministries; service-level headquarters units; and other strategic-level military units, such as joint staffs or functional commands.

An effective capability-generation effort will plan and integrate activities across each of these five categories, matching them across each of the five capability components identified in CPPM step two. For example, building capacity in the personnel component may involve institutional capacity-building activities to help a partner nation develop a viable professional military education plan; educational programs to build knowledge and skills among a key leadership cadre associated with a new capability; subject matter exchanges to examine approaches to force structuring and manning in relation to the capability; and focused, field-based training of a core group of personnel, both operators and enablers, in support of the new capability. Such cross-cutting approaches should be applied to each capability component. However, with resources often limited, planners will commonly need to make choices about where to prioritize activities; such choices should be informed by the capability gaps and programmatic risks identified through assessments undertaken in step one.

Step Four: Overarching Considerations

The final layer of the CPPM highlights three overarching considerations that should be addressed throughout each of the other three steps. The first overarching consideration is assessment, which entails evaluating capabilities, capability gaps, and capability-building efforts throughout a program’s lifecycle. A second consideration is sequencing: the order and pace of programming planned as part of a capability-generating effort. Finally, security cooperation planners should consider how to address sustainability: the potential for elements of the capability to endure throughout a capability-generation effort.

Assessment. Assessments should guide security cooperation activities throughout the lifespan of a capability-generation effort. Well-conceived initial assessments help planners identify capability gaps and potential program risks to provide a baseline to measure the results of future investments and performance. Intermittent evaluations of program effectiveness steer course corrections to reorient programs that are failing to deliver desired results. Evaluations at the end of individual activities or broader capability development efforts produce vital feedback about what works and what does not, providing lessons to future planners and empowering policymakers to address flaws in existing authorities, policies, and resource allocations. Finally, assessments and evaluations are vital tools for pursuing accountability—that is, ensuring that partner legal, policy, and financial commitments are achieved—an essential element of effective security cooperation.

Sequencing. A well-conceived implementation plan for developing a partner military capability will sequence activities according to order, duration, and intervening time to maximize success of the overall effort. Initial assessments will help identify what capability gaps are most urgent, and persistent engagements will offer opportunities to refine those conclusions. In sequencing security cooperation activities, planners should consider the following questions: Are there prerequisites to capability-building work in a particular area? Will addressing certain areas early in a capability-generation effort significantly mitigate risk to the broader effort in the long run? Do the planned sequence and pace of activities comport with partner nation absorptive capacity? What activities are needed during the course of the long-term capability-generation effort to maintain partner support for the effort, and when should they occur? The order and pace of activities should reflect such analysis.

Sustainment. Except in limited cases, capability development efforts should aim to create capabilities that are enduring and sustained by partner nation militaries themselves. This goal requires addressing sustainment concerns throughout the lifespan of a capability development effort and across the capability spectrum. It demands, for example, that defense systems provided to a partner be accompanied by budgetary estimates of the costs of sustainment and support over the life of the system and that a viable plan for meeting such costs is established. This goal demands we examine how to build indigenous capacities for certain critical functions, such as logistics, where possible rather than only providing contract support. It requires that we work with a partner to ensure that the capability is adequately accounted for in national strategic and doctrinal guidance. When planners fail to develop long-term plans that plot out capability-generation efforts over the course of sustained engagements and multiple activities, sustainment of the capability nearly always suffers.


The Capability Package Planning Model offers a conceptual framework for how planners and policymakers should conceive of the critical analytical and programmatic inputs to building partner nation military capabilities (see figure 4). The model is not intended to dictate a step-by-step planning checklist, but to emphasize an approach to capability-building that is rooted in best practices for force development and careful analysis and mitigation of programmatic risks. There are three broad implications of this conceptual framework.

Afghan air force aircrew and NATO Air Training Command–Afghanistan air advisors stand together after first-ever all-Afghan C-130 flight, Kabul, Afghanistan, June 16, 2014 (U.S. Air Force/Vernon Young, Jr.)

First, capability development must be planned as a long-term and multifaceted undertaking; it is unlikely that any single program or line of activity, no matter how robust, will successfully build an enduring military capability.

Second, the planning phase demands far more emphasis than it currently receives. Because many security cooperation planners are already overtaxed, the only way planning will receive the attention and resources it demands is for security cooperation planners to be robustly supported by policy and programmatic experts at combatant commands, within the Services, and in the Pentagon. Without robust reachback, long-term security cooperation planning will be overwhelmed by limited bandwidth and pressing deadlines.

Finally, building partner nation military capabilities is an interagency task, not a Defense Department mission alone. Military capability development requires sustained diplomatic engagement to ensure sustained partner nation commitment. Furthermore, it requires sufficient capacities to exist across the partner government and interventions by other provider nation agencies to support development of those capacities where necessary. For that reason, even the most targeted military capability-building efforts require whole-of-government support.

Capability package planning is not a silver bullet for ensuring positive capability development outcomes. Too many variables impact success for any silver bullet to exist. What it does offer is a pathway to success. Too often, security cooperation programs are disconnected, nonstrategic, and one-dimensional; therefore, it should come as no surprise that critics have asked whether capacity-building programs might be inherently incapable of delivering positive results. The CPPM offers an approach to connecting the dots across the complex spectrum of capability generation. Only by connecting these essential inputs and activities can we hope to build enduring capabilities that enable our partners to collaborate more effectively in confronting the increasingly complex challenges to U.S. national and global security. JFQ


1 National Security Strategy (Washington, DC: The White House, February 2015), 7.

2 Department of Defense Directive 5132.03, “DoD Policy and Responsibilities Relating to Security Cooperation” (October 24, 2008), defines security cooperation as “Activities undertaken by the Department of Defense to encourage and enable international partners to work with the United States to achieve strategic objectives. It includes all DoD interactions with foreign defense and security establishments, including all DoD-administered security assistance programs, that: build defense and security relationships that promote specific U.S. security interests, including all international armaments cooperation activities and security assistance activities; develop allied and friendly military capabilities for self-defense and multinational operations; and provide U.S. forces with peacetime and contingency access to host nations.” Available at <www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/corres/pdf/513203p.pdf>.

However, for purposes of this article, security cooperation should be understood to include activities undertaken by all relevant agencies of a government with relevant security agencies and actors of international partners to encourage and enable those international partners to work with the United States to achieve strategic objectives, with a primary connotation of activities within the defense sector of an international partner designed to build defense and security relationships and capabilities.

3 Sean McFate, “Raising an Army: Ten Rules,” War on the Rocks, July 14, 2014, available at <http://warontherocks.com/2014/07/raising-an-army-ten-rules/#_>.

4 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Guide 3401D, CJCS Guide to the Chairman’s Readiness System (Washington, DC: The Joint Staff, November 25, 2013), available at <www.dtic.mil/cjcs_directives/cdata/unlimit/g3401.pdf>.

5 Defence Capability Development Handbook 2012 (Canberra: Australian Government Department of Defence, December 2012).

6 Ibid.

7 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction (CJCSI) 3170.01H, “Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System,” January 10, 2012, available at <www.dtic.mil/cjcs_directives/cdata/unlimit/3170_01.pdf>.

8 Critics of the JCIDS framework, of which DOTMLPF-P analysis is a core element, have questioned its effectiveness as a tool for developing U.S. military capabilities that are affordable, timely, and appropriately tailored, noting that the system lacks agility and often generates significant program delays and cost overruns. This article does not intend to make assertions regarding the effectiveness of the overall JCIDS framework; rather, it highlights the DOTMLPF-P analytical lens as useful, conceptually, in understanding and specifying elements of capability development.

9 CJCSI 3170.01H.

10 United Kingdom Ministry of Defence, “Defence Lines of Development Analysis with MODAF,” February 2, 2009.

11 Christopher Ankersen, “Capabilities and Capacities,” in Transforming National Defence Administration, ed. Douglas L. Bland (Kingston, Ontario: Queens University, 2005); Clive Kerr, Robert Phaal, and David Probert, “A Framework for Strategic Military Capabilities in Defense Transformation,” paper presented at the 11th Annual International Command and Control Research and Technology Symposium, London, England, September 2006, available at <www.dodccrp.org/events/11th_ICCRTS/html/papers/061.pdf>.

12 Materiel refers to military equipment and supplies; it encompasses weapons systems, supporting military assets, parts, ammunition, and other material supplies used directly in support of military activities.

13 Joint Publication 4-10, Joint Logistics (Washington, DC: The Joint Staff, October 16, 2013), available at <www.dtic.mil/doctrine/new_pubs/jp4_0.pdf>.

14 Myron Hura et al., Interoperability: A Continuing Challenge in Coalition Air Operations, MR1235 (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2001), 7.

15 CJCSI 3170.01H.

16 In the United States, train-and-equip programs include, among others, Foreign Military Sales and Foreign Military Financing, Global Security Contingency Fund, and the newly codified Defense Department Authority to Build the Capacity of Foreign Security Forces (Section 1205 of Public Law 113-291, the “Carl Levin and Howard P. ‘Buck’ McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015”).