Thomas C. Bruneau
November 2004

In a democracy, those who govern have power by virtue of a popular vote of their country's citizens. While not similarly elected, the military also holds power. Consequently, effective civil-military relations — the relationship between elected civilian leaders and the military — are vital to those seeking to create a government that is ultimately responsive to the people who elected it.

The key issue remains how a democratic government can exert control over the military, rather than the other way around. This is especially important since the military formed the government in many countries, and in others the military is relied on periodically to support a civilian government. As always, "the devil is in the details" because institutions such as defense ministries, legislative committees, oversight commissions, and others must exercise control over the military for a democratically elected civilian government to succeed.

Value of Democracy

The study and teaching of civil-military relations is extremely important because unless civilians know how to establish and manage these key institutions, real democratic civil-military relations cannot be achieved. Absent effective institutional controls, a country is simply not a democracy. Democracy is a value by itself, derivative of the benefits of liberty and freedom, and it is widely known that democracies create better conditions than other political systems for human progress and the minimization of conflict and war. By employing a "lessons-learned and best-practices approach," civilians can learn how to control the military, and officers can come to understand that, in the long run, such control benefits them and their nation.

The Center for Civil-Military Relations at the Naval Postgraduate School was established in Monterey, California, in 1994 to provide graduate level education to foreign civilian and military participants through resident and nonresidential courses. The Center's program assists foreign nations in resolving civil-military issues that can occur as a nation addresses defense transformation requirements, participates in stability and support operations, seeks to combat terrorism, and steps up to other security challenges.

Last year the Center reached 3,717 students through 89 programs — 75 organized abroad and 14 at its California campus. Through October 2004, the Center had conducted 121 nonresident programs; 17 took place away from Monterey in the United States and 104 abroad. It also offered 17 resident programs in Monterey. Participants in these 138 programs included 2,241 foreign officers, 1,259 foreign civilians, 10,951 U.S. military personnel, and 247 U.S. civilians.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency and the Postgraduate School created the Center to develop programs and projects for several different departments and bureaus in the departments of Defense and State.

All of the Center's programs emphasize three main goals:
While these goals apply to all of its programs, the Center has developed a number of different programs tailored for specific purposes: for example, teaching leaders how to carry out defense restructuring, how to formulate defense policy and strategy, how to implement defense reform, how to address civilian control and personnel management issues, how to pursue defense acquisitions, and how to handle civil-military relations and public affairs.

In the area of counter-terrorism policy and strategy, the Center has created programs that emphasize how to implement these policies effectively while simultaneously strengthening democratic processes and culture. Of particular emphasis is the theme of reforming intelligence policies and processes. The Center has taken the lead in U.S. graduate-level education and training for stability or peace support operations. Three dozen nations, for example, are receiving education about the most current doctrine and peacekeeping methods through the Enhanced International Peacekeeping Initiatives program. The United Nations provides the doctrine, and the Center contributes to its formulation.


Through other programs, officers and civilian leaders learn about the challenges and opportunities provided by international peacekeeping duties. And through its program, Leader Development & Education for Sustained Peace (LDESP), the Center prepares U.S. military units and personnel for peacekeeping support missions in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Increasing demand on the Center has led to the proliferation of programs and greater student participation. The Center has rapidly expanded its graduate-level, short-course educational programs for international civilians and officers, as well as for American civilians and officers scheduled to serve abroad.

The Center's programs incorporate requirements established by the U.S. government and, when abroad, by the host nation. The programs are rigorous and demand graduate-level thought and analysis. The Center draws on the teaching expertise of academic experts, retired military officers, members of Congress, executive and legislative staffers, and international experts. Discussion groups and simulations are emphasized throughout.

Successful programs generate additional requests. Examples include creation of a civilian defense cadre in Taiwan; reform of the defense planning and management system in Estonia; ministry of defense reform and promotion of national security public awareness in Colombia; and development of a national defense planning system in Ukraine. Building upon previous seminars and workshops, the Center can institutionalize its three goals of achieving democratic civilian control, demonstrating military effectiveness, and promoting efficient use of resources.

The Naval Postgraduate School faculty leads most Center programs. Organized into teams, the faculty maintains geographic academic currency and reaches out to prominent civilians, officers, and members of academic and other communities to promote learning. This, in turn, has been an effective recruiting tool to build a cadre of young faculty members with expertise in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Latin America, Asia, and Central and Eastern Europe. U.S. military officer students at NPS are allowed to augment their educational experience by participating in Center programs abroad.

Scholarly Publications

The Center's decade of experience has allowed the faculty to publish scholarly articles on such topics as democratic consolidation, defense reform, and democratic control of intelligence organizations. Soon, the University of Texas Press will publish Soldiers and Statesmen: The Institutional Bases of Democratic Civilian Control, which includes chapters by eight Civil-Military Relations faculty. Another book will discuss reform of intelligence organizations throughout the world. A book examining case studies on defense reform will follow this.

The Center has been able to compound its influence through partnerships with other educational and research institutions. In El Salvador, for example, it has been working with the Center for Higher Strategic Studies (CAEE) for a decade. Graduates are now spread throughout the upper levels of the government and the military. In addition, the Defense University of Mongolia created the Civil-Military Relations Research Center in 2002, establishing close links to the Monterey center. Together the two centers have now published two books.

The Center also signed a cooperation agreement with the Geneva Center for Democratic Control of the Armed Forces (DCAF) to create courses and produce publications. And, most recently, the Center helped establish NPS as the U.S. education and training center for 39 Partnership for Peace (PfP) countries. Such links strengthen partner institutions and deepen the impact of Center programs.

The Center for Civil-Military Relations is a unique institution. It combines academic excellence in teaching and publishing with customized courses on all aspects of civil-military relations and security decision-making. Its reputation is well known in NATO and PfP circles, within the U.N. community, and among international scholars.

Artículo publicado en el Electronic Journal of the U.S. Department of State, Noviembre de 2004.