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Clean, Lean and Able: A Strategy for Defense Sector Development

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Occasional paper

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While there are many reasons why the heady expectations of a decade ago have not been realized, the one this paper confronts is the ineffective, wasteful, unaccountable, and often kleptocratic character of the defense institutions, including military services, of many developing countries. These institutions sit at the nexus of security and development, and they are capable of hurting both. The pages that follow diagnose what is wrong with the defense sectors of all too many developing countries and prescribe a holistic remedy. Too often, underdeveloped defense sectors -- incapable, bloated, corrupt, opaque -- endanger neighboring states, contaminate domestic politics and markets, engage in transnational crime, and even fail in their assigned mission to provide adequate national security. Countries with militaries that detract from security, squander scarce resources, and cannot be trusted by their own leaders or citizens are countries with three strikes against them. Such consequences cannot be ignored with the globalization of economics, interests, and threats, damage to development and to security in the South can harm the West. This, then, is the challenge of defense development -- otherwise known as defense sector reform or, more broadly, security-sector reform -- for countries that are, or ought to be, going through political and economic transition. Even where patient Western help has been available, such as throughout the formerly communist East for a decade now, defense institutions often remain resistant to change. The analysis that follows may seem uncharitable toward the well-intentioned policies and programs that have been aimed at overhauling dysfunctional military establishments. But there is no escaping the reality that, with some exceptions, past ideas and efforts have yielded insufficient improvement in the functioning and governance of defense establishments in transition countries, East or South.

Subject Categories:

  • Economics and Cost Analysis
  • Government and Political Science
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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