Secrecy News

Security Assistance & Foreign Internal Defense

Through its international security assistance programs, the United States advances its foreign policy agenda, exercises influence, sometimes wreaks havoc or abets abusive conduct, and now and then does good things.

Security assistance refers to a variety of programs involving arms sales abroad, military training of foreign security services, and other defense-related activities.

A new non-profit website called Security Assistance Monitor presents “all publicly available data on U.S. foreign security assistance programs worldwide from 2000 to the present.”

It is a project of the Center for International Policy, with the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Latin America Working Group Education Fund, Project on Middle East Democracy, and Washington Office of Latin America.

Richly documented and handsomely presented, it is an impressive new resource for journalists and students of international security policy.

Foreign Internal Defense (FID) is a related but distinct concept. Both involve support to foreign governments, but unlike security assistance, FID may include U.S. military operations as well as other forms of non-military aid.

FID “involves application of the instruments of U.S. national power in support of a foreign nation confronted by threats,” according to a new U.S. Army manual that explores the issue in depth. See Foreign Internal Defense, Army Techniques Publication (ATP) 3-05.2, August 19, 2015.

“FID may include financial, intelligence, and law enforcement assistance” as well as military support in some cases. “The fundamental goal is to prevent a downward spiral of instability by forestalling and defeating threats and by working to correct conditions that may prompt violence.”