Military education and training is a mouthful, but it’s a fitting description of a wide range of programs that the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) administers. Almost every country that participates in security cooperation (SC) programs with the Department of Defense (DoD) receives some sort of education or training as a part of Foreign Military Sales (FMS), grant programs, coalition operations, or Building Partner Capacity (BPC). These programs, funded by the Departments of Defense and State or international partners, provide approximately 80,000 international military and civilian personnel with military education or training yearly. One component of DSCA’s military education and training mission is the International Military Education and Training Program (IMET) , a formal grant aid program established in 1979.
The training and education opportunities eligible for IMET funding cover a broad array of topics, ranging from the proper operation and servicing of defense articles, combating terrorism, multilateral operations, and narcotics control to the proper role of a military in a democracy.
IMET is a Department of State (DoS) program, funded by State, jointly managed by DSCA, and executed through the military departments. Essentially, it’s a scholarship program for foreign personnel, promoting regional stability and defense capabilities. It funds military education and training courses within the United States for international military students (IMS) and related civilian personnel of foreign countries. It also provides limited education and training opportunities in foreign locales. The training and education opportunities eligible for IMET funding cover a broad array of topics, ranging from the proper operation and servicing of defense articles, combating terrorism, multilateral operations, and narcotics control to the proper role of a military in a democracy.
In 2013, approximately 4,000 students from 130-plus countries attended professional military education (PME) and technical courses and specialized instruction in the United States through IMET. Courses are provided primarily at military schoolhouses in the United States, exposing the students to American practices, standards, professionalism and culture. Foreign IMET students are educated alongside their U.S. military/civilian counterparts. Some 2,000 courses are available at about 150 U.S. military schools and installations.
“Under the IMET program, students come to the U.S. for all sorts of DoD courses,” said Kay Judkins, DSCA’s International Education and Training Policy Programs Manager. “The courses range from junior officer or NCO [non-commissioned officer] development courses to War College or National Defense College professional military education courses.”
All IMET stakeholders – Geographic Combatant Commands (GCC), military departments and Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) staffs, the State Department, U.S. Ambassadors, and their Security Cooperation Organizations (SCO) – take a forward-looking view of the students who receive the IMET funding.
The education that international students receive is exactly the same as their American military colleagues, Judkins stressed. “They sit in the same classrooms with U.S. students.”
The IMET experience isn’t confined to the classroom, however. Students are exposed to American life and institutions away from the educational setting, literally broadening their perspectives.
“We also have a field studies program for the IMS [international military student],” Judkins explained. “The officers or offices which oversee the students at a particular training base or post plan activities outside the classroom to show international students democracy in action.”
Students may take a field trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the U.S. Congress and other governmental institutions to gain perspectives regarding civilian control of the military. Locally, they may make field trips or participate in activities which illustrate other democratic principles for human rights or the freedom of the press, sometimes visiting area newspapers or television stations. The field studies program is a mandatory part of IMET, allowing students to become familiar with American culture and to witness how the military functions under civilian control and interacts with society.
Before any such exposure can be orchestrated, students must be nominated or selected for IMET and receive U.S. approval. In the broadest sense, the State Department and DSCA give thought to how the U.S. can engage the current and future military leaders of nations it partners with, or may partner with in the future.