Prioritizing Security Sector Reform

A New U.S. Approach
March 2016
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Prioritizing Security Sector Reform: A New U.S. Approach argues that security sector reform (SSR) should be at the core of a new U.S. policy to strengthen the security sector capacity of countries where U.S. interests are at stake. As the United States withdraws from a more interventionist policy, it cannot wholly ignore the growing disorder in fragile environments around the globe. In place of large, boots-on-the-ground interventions relying on expensive train and equip programs with only fleeting impact, the United States needs a smarter tool that can address both the effectiveness and accountability of host nation security forces and institutions. Properly designed and implemented, SSR can be that tool.

Today’s fragile environments feature a host of postconflict and postauthoritarian states and transitioning and new democracies that have at least one critical thing in common: Their security sectors are dysfunctional. Why these states cannot fulfill their most basic function—the protection of the population and their government—varies widely, but the underlying reason is the same. The security sector does not function because security sector institutions and forces are absent, ineffective, predatory, or illegitimate.

Washington needs a new approach for engaging in fragile environments and a policy for prioritizing where it engages and for what purpose. Improving these governments’ ability to deliver security appropriately, effectively, and in accordance with the rule of law could well shift the battle in their favor, with lasting implications for the fragile state, the broader region, and for the United States. The focus of this book is how the United States should design and implement a security sector reform policy.

In the earlier chapters of the volume, the principles underlying security sector reform are examined. Three case studies—Libya, Tunisia, and Mexico—highlight the types of environments in which the United States will likely need an SSR approach and the capabilities required for each. The volume then analyzes the UK and Canadian security sector reform policy experiences, drawing lessons and recommendations for the United States. Next, existing U.S. policy and capabilities for security sector reform are explored. Finally, the volume maps out a new U.S. approach and policy for security sector reform—including a proposed security sector reform Presidential Policy Directive.

"Querine Hanlon and Richard Schultz’s new book Prioritizing Security Sector Reform not only deftly reaffirms the critical importance of security sector reform to stabilize fragile and conflict-affected states, but also outlines a cogent and comprehensive policy framework to reinvent U.S. security sector assistance. This book is a welcome addition to the existing literature on SSR and should become required reading for U.S. government officials engaged in any facet of overseas security assistance."

—Dr. Mark Sedra, Executive Director, Centre for Security Governance

"Prioritizing Security Sector Reform drives home why security sector reform is a complex and central policy problem. It is crucial to both combating violent extremism and to enlarging just governance. This volume offers a variety of insights from British and Canadian techniques and the most significant contemporary cases of Libya, Tunisia, and Mexico, as well as offering a crisp, unified vision for U.S. policy approaches and tools. Its recommendations will be useful to policymakers and thought-provoking to academic students and analysts."
—Mark P. Lagon, PhD, President, Freedom House

"Given today’s global volatilities, America’s interest in helping our allies and partners build their security force capacity will likely get stronger in the years ahead. Recent history shows how challenging it can be to generate foreign military and police forces that are operationally proficient, sustainable, professional and well-governed, and hence viewed as guardians of peace and security by their fellow citizens. Querine Hanlon and Richard Schultz have developed a book that provides much-needed conversation on security sector reform."

— James A. Schear, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Partnership Strategy at DOD

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