Graduate students develop tool that helps military assess security force assistance

A Yale team presents a new predictive analysis tool to military representatives at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Over two days, a team including five Yale students demonstrated a predictive analysis tool developed as part of Professor Clare Lockhart’s class, “Practical Challenges in Reform, Transition and Reconstruction Contexts” at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. (Photo courtesy of The Joint Staff via Twitter)

As part of a class taught by Clare Lockhart, a senior fellow at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, five Yale graduate students developed a tool aimed at assessing security force assistance, which they then presented to a U.S. military team in May.

The students traveled to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and delivered the tool to U.S. Army Colonel Paul Riley, director of the Joint Center for International Security Force Assistance (JCISFA) and his staff.

The goal of the tool is to provide analysis that can help national-level policy makers determine where to employ security force assistance. Over the course of two days with the JCISFA team, the Yale students demonstrated the tool and its elements. They also presented a 60-page report describing potential gaps, as well as recommendations for future refinements and improvements to the tool.

The students, who were in Lockhart’s class “Practical Challenges in Reform, Transition, and Reconstruction Contexts,” utilized an existing RAND took known as the Security Cooperation Prioritization and Matching Tool, and selected eight cases of varying geographic locations and periods of time post-WWII to conduct a historical validation of the tool. These locations included South Korea, Colombia, Liberia, El Salvador, Philippines, Vietnam, Panama, and Mali.

The students’ analysis led to some unexpected findings. The tool, for example, predicted a 67% security force assistance success score of 67% for Colombia and 19% for Panama. Based on these scores, one might expect that Colombia was significantly more likely to experience improved capability in its defense sector as a result of security force assistance. However, both countries experienced notable improvements in their capacity after security force assistance was provided, so both examples were considered successes, the Yale students concluded.

JCISFA is an activity of the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that supports the strategy, policy, planning, and integration of security force assistance capabilities into the current and future Joint Force to advance joint warfighting.

JCISFA also provides analytical and technical support to assess capability and readiness gaps in warfighting areas within their area of expertise. The team also advises and assists other U.S. government departments and agencies in security force assistance doctrine, best practices, and proven tactics, techniques, and procedures to prepare for and conduct security force assistance missions.

The collaboration between Yale students and JCISFA results in a new method to better understand security force assistance as well as eight researched and analyzed cases.

U.S. Army Col. Paul Riley of the Joint Chiefs of Staff presents members of the Yale team with commemorative coffee mugs.
U.S. Army Col. Paul Riley of the Joint Chiefs of Staff presents members of the Yale team with commemorative coffee mugs. (Photos courtesy of The Joint Staff via Twitter)

Our partnership with Yale University is mutually beneficial to these gifted graduate students and the Joint Force,” said Riley. “By studying and producing products like this one and leveraging Yale’s intellectual and analytical capacity, we are making significant contributions to the Joint Force’s body of knowledge on security force assistance.

Yale students and faculty, for their part, gain valuable insights from Joint Force national security practitioners like JCISFA and are given the opportunity to research and write on actual national security questions currently facing Joint Staff. This partnership with academia is a way to inform the next generation of policy makers, and JCISFA will continue to partner with Yale University’s Jackson Institute to further study and better integrate security force assistance as a joint warfighting capability.”

Lockhart is the director and cofounder of the Institute for State Effectiveness, which seeks to address the challenge of accountability and governance through a system-building approach across governments, markets, and citizens.

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