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Mission-Ready: Preparing for Security and Diplomacy

Dr. Jessica Lee, Deputy Director of the Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Division at Dexis, offers her insights about our recent work with the Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB), a specialized unit with the U.S. Army focused on partner nations’ capacity building.






Security concerns across the globe create a host of challenges for the U.S. forces and partner nations. Among these is how well and how quickly U.S. military advisors and other personnel can integrate into the local context and support allies’ security units. The leadership of the SFAB commissioned Dexis subject matter experts to participate in upcoming mission readiness exercises for future SFAB deployments. Dexis was selected based its previous pre-deployment, diplomacy-focused trainings with the U.S. security agencies.

Q: What is the SFAB’s mission, and why is it important?
A: It is well established that equipment alone does not make an effective security agency — committed, professionalized forces must be part of the equation. To this end, the SFAB conducts sustained advise, assist, and assess missions with strategic partners’ local forces to advance their skills, institutional capacity, and overall effectiveness through advising and, more importantly, by modeling the professionalism of U.S. security agencies.

As a highly trained and experienced force, the SFAB is the source of continuity for security cooperation overseas. And as active military, they have credibility to work with on-the-ground forces. The SFAB’s presence can give local security forces confidence as well as much-needed tactical skills.

The logic behind SFAB is that the greater our partners’ capacity, the more effective they’ll be in helping to address threats shared between our partner and the U.S. And having local security forces that respect their populations and constitutions and uphold their governments is also a direct benefit to civilians. Local forces learn, for example, that you can disagree with your government or an order but still perform your duties.

Q: Can you describe the readiness training exercises?
A: The point of the exercise is to ensure the SFAB is ready to deploy and operate overseas. The exercise at Fort Benning, Georgia was about two weeks long and focused on a range of skills areas including communications, dynamics, and working effectively in new settings. Dexis employees advised on cultural considerations, provided a better understanding of the security cooperation infrastructure and processes, and served as U.S. Embassy role players in the exercise. For example, the participating battalions engaged in a scenario where a member of their unit went missing, and they had to mobilize while staying in constant communication with the Embassy. For some military personnel, this kind of interagency coordination can be vastly different from their other deployments.

Q: How was working with the battalions?
A: This is probably the first time in my 10 years of doing these kinds of preparedness trainings where the cultural and communication training was not an afterthought but was intentionally woven into the exercise from the beginning. The SFAB took the training seriously and recognized the importance of it. They were adept at making changes on the fly based on our feedback and demonstrated real forethought and commitment. They were forward-planning and recognized the need for advanced preparedness by dedicating resources and bringing in true subject matter experts.

Q: What’s next in training with SFAB?
A: Dexis is returning to Fort Benning later this year to train an additional battalion and will continue to provide further exercises on cultural and contextual competence and on building relations with local militaries. The work the SFAB is doing is amazing, and Dexis is so honored to support it.

Jessica Lee, Ph.D. is Deputy Director of the Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Division at Dexis where she manages Dexis’ work in assessment, monitoring, and evaluation of security assistance programming.