In an April 14, 2020 op-ed for Just Security, U.S. Security Aid Is a Faith-Based Policy, POMED Deputy Director for Policy Andrew Miller—in conjunction with Daniel Mahanty of the Center for Civilians in Conflict—writes that the United States government does little to evaluate the efficacy of its security assistance for foreign governments.

Below is a key excerpt from the op-ed.

U.S. security aid has become a veritable Swiss Army Knife: It can build up foreign forces to fight terrorist groups, bolster a military’s capacity to withstand a Russian invasion, foster interoperability, promote adherence to the Law of Armed Conflict and respect for human rights, and foster pro-American attitudes. It is no exaggeration to say that security sector assistance has become part of the default U.S. response to any and all foreign policy challenges and opportunities.

But, in spite of the prominence of security aid in U.S. foreign policy, until very recently there has been little to no effort on the part of the executive branch or Congress to evaluate the total efficacy of these programs. For example, U.S. officials have not confirmed — or seemingly even tried to confirm — that U.S. military aid to Egypt has increased its ability to neutralize terrorists, or that U.S. training of Saudi soldiers has resulted in increased respect for human rights by the Saudi military, or that U.S. train-and-equip programs have enabled the Georgian military to effectively deter Russia. Simply put, in the absence of rigorous program evaluation, U.S. security sector assistance is a faith-based policy.

In fact, the evidence (albeit anecdotal) indicates that U.S. support to foreign security sectors has fallen well short of its mark. Despite the U.S. spending tens of billions of dollars on the Egyptian military over the last several decades, that force has struggled to subdue a relatively small Islamic State contingent in the Sinai, staged a coup against an elected president, and presided over raids against U.S.-based democracy organizations in Cairo. In Iraq, U.S. train-and-equip programs, which over 17 years have aimed to build independent Iraqi capacity to provide security, have produced decidedly mixed results. U.S.-trained Iraqi forces not only disintegrated in the face of the ISIS onslaught in 2014, but even as they have regrouped in the aftermath, they remain dependent on the United States for effective air support, logistics, and ISR. And there are increasing indications they may have committed gross violations of human rights against protestors seeking more responsive, accountable governance.

The U.S. government’s traditional disinterest in understanding the efficacy or side effects of security aid is all the more surprising given the vast amounts of money that has been spent on these programs and the rapid growth of the budget.

Read the full article here.

Photo Credit: Egyptian Armed Forces/Ministry of Defense