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The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) Today

An overview of security cooperation programs

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) synchronizes global security cooperation (SC) programs, funding, and efforts for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), Joint Staff, Department of State (DOS), Geographic Combatant Commands (GCCs), the military departments and U.S. industry. Within the Department of Defense (DoD), it is responsible for effective policy, processes, training and financial management necessary to execute SC programs.

These SC programs involve approximately 161 partner nations, 775 Security Cooperation Officers (SCOs) in 135 U.S. embassies, 391 Humanitarian Assistance projects in 75 countries, 13,000 active Foreign Military Sales (FMS) cases worth $403 billion, and training for 7,344 international students from 141 countries. The goal of these efforts is to strengthen partnerships that further the national security interests of the United States by leading, resourcing, and educating the DoD SC community to shape, refine, and execute innovative security solutions for partner nations.

The director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), Vice Adm. Joe Rixey, addresses the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command workforce at a town hall during his visit to Redstone Arsenal, Ala., March 12, 2014. U.S. Army photo by Kim C. Gillespie

The director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), Vice Adm. Joe Rixey, addresses the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command workforce at a town hall during his visit to Redstone Arsenal, Ala., March 12, 2014. U.S. Army photo by Kim C. Gillespie

The 1997 Defense Reform Initiative (DRI) officially introduced the term “security cooperation” into the lexicon of DoD. As part of this initiative, the Defense Security Assistance Agency (DSAA) was selected to manage many DoD-funded international programs. DSAA was renamed as DSCA in 1998, reflecting a more sophisticated relationship with its foreign partners as well as an increased scope of responsibilities beyond the traditional focus on security assistance (SA), which are programs executed primarily on behalf of the State Department. Those programs include numerous authorities, such as FMS, Foreign Military Financing (FMF), International Military Education and Training (IMET), and Excess Defense Articles (EDA). Over time, the transformed DSCA grew in response to an expanded security cooperation mission, taking on numerous DoD-funded programs – some of which were part of DRI. DSCA also assumed the responsibility for administering the USD(P) security cooperation programs of Humanitarian Mine Action, Humanitarian Assistance, and the Warsaw Initiative Fund.

After the 2001 attacks on the United States, the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) turned to the full set of SC tools to support the U.S. response. DSCA’s role in SA and SC efforts increased significantly during this period, particularly as new programs to train and equip foreign partners to take care of their own defense or partner with the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other places, were created and assigned to the agency.

DSCA directs, administers, and provides guidance to DoD components and representatives to U.S. missions for the execution of SC programs for which it has responsibility.

The Afghanistan Security Forces Fund, Coalition Readiness Support Program, Iraq Security Forces Fund, Pakistan Counterinsurgency Fund, and Global Train and Equip have been among legal authorities designed to address emerging threats. Some or all of these programs were brought to DSCA for execution and program management due to its unique infrastructure for managing the transfer of defense articles and services to foreign partners. These DoD-funded and authorized security cooperation programs benefited from FMS processes. In 2003, DSCA also accrued administrative management responsibilities for the DoD Combating Terrorism Fellowship Program (CTFP), and in 2005 executive agency and administrative responsibility for the five Regional Centers for Security Studies shifted to DSCA.

DSCA directs, administers, and provides guidance to DoD components and representatives to U.S. missions for the execution of SC programs for which it has responsibility. As part of that, DSCA also:

  • represents DoD interests in foreign SA;
  • identifies requirements, criteria, and procedures for the selection and training of SA personnel engaged in DoD SC programs;
  • maintains direct communications on SC with DoD components;
  • coordinates with other DoD departments to support the development of technology security and foreign disclosure and sales policies and procedures for defense information, technology, and systems;
  • establishes appropriate agreements and procedures with the Defense Intelligence Agency, GCCs, and Defense attachés to provide SC programs guidance and oversight;
  • approves, in coordination with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), SCO joint manpower programs establishing new SCOs or changing manpower authorizations or organizational structure; and
  • acts as the executive agent for DoD Regional Centers for Security Studies.

DSCA’s programs, covered in detail elsewhere in this publication, include:

  • Foreign Military Sales (FMS);
  • Foreign Military Financing (FMF);
  • Humanitarian Assistance (HA);
  • International Military Education and Training (IMET);
  • Excess Defense Articles (EDA);
  • Building Partner Capacity (BPC); and
  • Defense Institution Building Programs.

DSCA’s principal SC functions include:

  • administering and supervising SA planning and programs;
  • coordinating the formulation and execution of SA programs with other U.S. government agencies;
  • conducting international logistics and sales negotiations with foreign countries;
  • serving as the DoD focal point for liaison with U.S. industry with regard to SA activities;
  • managing the credit-financing program;
  • developing and promulgating SA procedures and guidance, such as the Security Assistance Management Manual (SAMM);
  • developing and operating the data processing systems and maintaining the macro database for the SA program;
  • making determinations with respect to the allocation of FMS administrative funds;
  • administering the implementation of any assigned security force assistance (SFA) activities.

Additional DSCA partners and components include:

Defense Institute of Security Assistance Management (DISAM)DISAM is organized as a directorate within DSCA, but located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The U.S. Air Force provides logistics and administrative support to DISAM with reimbursement from DSCA.

DISAM’s mission is to provide professional education, research, and support to advance U.S. foreign policy through security assistance and cooperation in support of DSCA’s own SC and partner capacity-building goals. Those include providing research and consultation services, conducting a public information program, and developing and maintaining selected IT programs for the SC community and international partners.

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J.R. Wilson has been a full-time freelance writer, focusing primarily on aerospace, defense and high...