Advancing Security Cooperation through Executive Education

Maj. Michael Carvelli, U.S. Army

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Comprehensive Crisis Management Course 17-1

The Asia-Pacific region contains more than half the world’s population, two of the three largest economies, and several of the world’s largest militaries.1 As such, it is becoming the world’s political and economic center of gravity. The United States’ priority is to strengthen cooperation among partners in the Asia-Pacific, leveraging their significant and growing capabilities to build a network of like-minded states that sustains and strengthens a rules-based order and addresses regional and global challenges.2 The mission of the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (DKI APCSS) is to build capacities, networks, and shared understanding by educating, engaging, connecting, and empowering security professionals in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. It is incumbent upon leaders in all branches of the military to properly capitalize on security cooperation educational opportunities so that U.S. forces can continue to improve their ability to work in concert with allied and partner nations.

Security cooperation (SC) comprises all activities undertaken by the Department of Defense (DOD) to encourage and enable international partners to work with the United States to achieve strategic objectives.3 SC encompasses all DOD interactions with foreign defense and security establishments. This includes all DOD-administered security assistance (SA) programs that build defense and security relationships, promote specific U.S. security interests, 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.4

Within the realm of SC, there are several tools available to the DOD to leverage relationships, equipment, and institutions. Leveraging shared experiences and education through the International Military Education and Training program is one way in which the DOD exercises soft power, or the “ability to achieve one’s goals without force.”5 Joseph Nye states, “When we learn how to better combine hard and soft power, then we will be what I call a smart power.”6 The ability to vary the mix of hard and soft power enables the DOD to respond to individual events, needs, and necessities globally, as required. Academic forums, including senior service colleges, centers of excellence, and regional centers, provide flexible and adaptable venues to adjust SC strategies in response to domestic and foreign training requirements.


Within the DOD, there are five Centers for Regional Security Study, or regional centers (RCs), that utilize unique academic forums to build partner capacity by focusing on security leaders across the globe.7 The RCs accomplish their mission through resident and in-region programs, including conferences, seminars, courses, bilateral workshops, alumni outreach events, and research publications. DKI APCSS is one of the five RCs, along with the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies (GCMC), the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies (WJPC), the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS), and the Near East-South Asia Center for Strategic Studies (NESA). Each RC is aligned with a DOD geographic combatant command (GCC) as follows:

  • GCMC—European Command
  • DKI APCSS—Pacific Command
  • WJPC—Northern and Southern Commands
  • ACSS—Africa Command
  • NESA—Central Command

It is significant to note that RC alignment is not restrictive regarding each GCC’s area of responsibility. By design, RCs help to bridge the seams between the six GCCs.

Guidance for the conduct of SC is issued through several offices within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. This guidance ensures all activities are aligned to achieve maximum effects across regional and transnational issues. The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy provides policy oversight and annual guidance to RCs, and the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs provides regionally focused guidance for Asia-Pacific as a component of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. Additionally, global and functional guidance is received from the Assistant Secretary for Defense offices for International Security Affairs; Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict; and Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency is the executive agent providing programming, budgeting, and financial management of the resources to support the operation of the centers.8

Fellows attending Comprehensive Crisis Management Course 16-1

DKI APCSS offers six courses throughout the year as part of its effort to educate executive-level operators. The Asia-Pacific Orientation and Transnational Security courses last five days each, and the Senior Asia-Pacific Orientation course lasts three days. Comprehensive Crisis Management, Comprehensive Responses to Terrorism, and Advanced Security each last five to six weeks. Policy guidance drives strategic recruiting and seat allocations on an annual basis in collaboration with stakeholders to include embassies, SC organizations, U.S. Pacific Command, and service components. Long courses and the Transnational Security course focus on international partners but include a small percentage of U.S. fellows. Both orientation courses focus on U.S. participants from the whole of government to include the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and myriad other agencies but include a small percentage of international fellows. Curricula include regional perspectives, treaty alliance partners and security challenges, key regional players and security challenges, transnational trafficking, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, terrorism, and others.

The training division of U.S. Pacific Command and each service component—U.S. Army Pacific, Pacific Fleet, Pacific Air Forces, and Marine Corps Forces Pacific—set the guidelines for internal distribution of each course. It is in the best interest of each commander to specially select each attendee to meet the specific needs of his or her organization. A recommended near-term consideration for selection to a course is participation in an operational deployment, training center rotation, expeditionary team movement, or other theater training exercise. Army organizations directly benefit from individual participation in several ways: understanding of partner security positions on cultural, political, social, and economic views; new relationships that may be leveraged during turbulent times; and early exposure to regional and global issues. Generating understanding and nurturing nascent relationships provide springboards from which organizations can train and deploy to foreign locations already aware of current situations and able to contact security professionals in the region.

The U.S. Navy’s Asia Pacific Hands program is similar to the better-known Afghanistan-Pakistan Hands program that has been in operation for several years.9 Both programs provide an opportunity for a participant to gain a language skill and graduate schooling to provide formal understanding of regional cultures. Although not a substitute for foreign area officers, Asia Pacific Hands works toward building U.S. Pacific Command area expertise, understanding, and confidence in select officers enroute to Pacific-focused operational-level billets.10 This program was in response to Gen. Martin Dempsey’s Memorandum for Chiefs of the Military Services and Commanders of the Combatant Commands, in which he directed the “Joint Staff to begin exploration of a Hands-like program focused on the Asia-Pacific region.”11 As of the date of this publication, the Navy is the only service that has produced a formal program in response to this directive. Should the other services pursue a similar program, this would be a long-term consideration for the selection of service members to attend one or more of the DKI APCSS course offerings. This would surely provide organizations with personnel who are capable, if placed in the appropriate billet, of advancing SC in training opportunities and operational deployments.

Dempsey, while chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, noted, “Our military has traditionally relied on education in times of uncertainty to develop an understanding of the future security environment, lead adaptation and ensure readiness to face future, unknown challenges.”12 Now, as in many periods in the past, the future security situation is unknown across the globe. Harnessing the power of an educational experience where attendees receive an in-depth analysis of countries, subregions, and key trends within the Indo-Asia-Pacific will enhance the capability and capacity of each organization. This, combined with relationships to security practitioners across the region, will positively contribute to the DOD SC strategy.


  1. “Headquarters, United States Pacific Command,” United States Pacific Command website, accessed 15 May 2017,
  2. Office of the Press Secretary, “FACT SHEET: Advancing the Rebalance to Asia and the Pacific,” The White House website, 16 November 2015, accessed 10 May 2017,
  3. Joint Publication 3-22, Foreign Internal Defense (Washington, DC: Joint Chiefs of Staff, 12 July 2010), x. The publication provides the official definition of security cooperation: “Security cooperation is DOD [Department of Defense] interactions with foreign defense establishments to build defense relationships that promote specific U.S. security interests, develop allied and friendly military capabilities for self-defense and multinational operations, and provide US forces with peacetime and contingency access to a host nation.”
  4. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) Manual 5105.38-M, Security Assistance Management (Washington, DC: DSCA, 30 April 2012), accessed 10 May 2017,
  5. The Free Dictionary, s.v. “soft power,” accessed 10 May 2017,
  6. Joseph S. Nye, Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics (New York: PublicAffairs, 2004).
  7. “DoD Regional Centers (RC),” Defense Security Cooperation Agency website, accessed 10 May 2017,
  8. Ibid.
  9. For more information on the Asia Pacific Hands program, see Navy Language, Regional Expertise, and Culture Office, Asia Pacific Hands, Winter/Spring 2015, accessed 10 May 2017, For more information on the Afghanistan-Pakistan Hands program, visit
  10. Ibid.
  11. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Memorandum to the Chiefs of the Military Services and Commanders of the Combatant Commands, "Pakistan-Afghanistan Coordination Cell and Afghanistan-Pakistan Hands Program,” 22 May 2012, accessed 10 May 2017,
  12. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “Joint Education White Paper” (Washington, DC: Joint Chiefs of Staff, 16 July 2012), accessed 10 May 2017,

Maj. Michael Carvelli, U.S. Army, is a student in the School of Advanced Military Studies, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He previously served as the strategist at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. He holds a BS from the Rochester Institute of Technology, an MS from the University of Arkansas, and an MA from the U.S. Naval War College. His previous assignments include U.S. Army Pacific, the 6th Engineer Battalion (Combat) (Airborne), and the 75th Ranger Regiment.

July-August 2017