October 28, 2020

Retooling U.S. Security Sector Assistance

By Stephen Tankel and Tommy Ross

One of America’s most important foreign policy tools is not fit for purpose. U.S. security sector assistance — the means by which the United States strengthens alliances and partners — is stuck in the past. Crucially, it is out of sync with U.S. priorities when it comes to where resources are needed most and the types of capabilities required by America’s allied and partners.

One of America’s most important foreign policy tools is not fit for purpose.

Despite widespread agreement on the need to prioritize strategic competition with Russia and China, the United States still directs a disproportionate amount of assistance toward the Middle East. An emphasis on counter-terrorism since 9/11 has also contributed to an emphasis on building the wrong capabilities. The United States is not equipping allies and partners with the capabilities they need to deal with competitors who are adopting increasingly sophisticated strategies in the areas of cyber security, strategic communications, and illicit commercial activity. Moreover, the mechanisms needed to integrate security sector competition with other instruments of national power, including diplomacy, military operations, strategic communications, and other foreign assistance, are underdeveloped at best. These shortcomings hinder U.S. allies and partners, in turn leaving them vulnerable to Chinese and Russian influence.

Read the full article in War on the Rocks.

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