International Military Training & Education Programs

International military training and education programs are an important part of U.S. Security Cooperation relationships, strengthening our alliances and attracting new partners. The United States has offered both skill-focused training and college- and graduate-level education to international military education students for over 50 years. This function was one of the original tasks overseen by DSCA since its inception as the Defense Security Assistance Agency in 1971.

Of the 78,000 foreign military students trained annually by the United States, approximately 22,000 receive that training in the United States in a non-COVID year. Conducted at military institutions across the United States, these programs also enable cultural exchanges with local communities and exposure to U.S. history while those students attend courses.

Like all security assistance programs, more than one organization is involved in international military training and education. These military education and training programs are funded through both the Departments of State and Defense and provide skill-focused training as well as professional military education (PME). These programs have multiple benefits to the United States:

  • They build the capacity of partners to provide for their own defense.
  • They professionalize U.S. ally and partner nation forces, increase their capabilities to deploy to peacekeeping operations, and improve operational interoperability.
  • They build intellectual interoperability by enhancing U.S. ally and partner nation militaries’ abilities to think and plan with the United States in order to fight, train, or deploy.
  • They provide U.S. forces with exposure to foreign military cultures and thinking while these programs advance U.S. values.
  • They foster partners’ understanding of and respect for civilian control of the military and promote strong civil-military relations through training in human rights and law of armed conflict.
  • They build relationships between U.S. students and future foreign military leaders.

The Departments of State and Defense have varying authorities and appropriations to fund these programs. In some cases, as with technical and operational training, these activities are funded by the partner nations themselves through the Foreign Military Sales program. Among the better known programs, the Department of State’s International Military Education and Training program focuses on PME for foreign military officers and other personnel, and also funds education in human rights, law of armed conflict, and civil-military relations. 

The Department of Defense-funded engagements include opportunities through the Regional Centers for Security Studies, Regional Defense Fellowship Program, Defense Institute for International Legal Studies (DIILS)Institute for Security Governance (ISG)Section 333 Global Train and Equip, and a variety of opportunities at Service Academies and Service-specific exchange programs.

The DSCA at 50 campaign will focus more closely on the Regional Centers for Security Studies, DIILS, and ISG which fall under our Defense Security Cooperation University, in August.

For our “DSCA at 50” campaign, DSCA is spotlighting storied U.S. Army officer Gen. James Van Fleet.  Van Fleet’s efforts advising, training, and educating U.S. allies and partner militaries in Greece and Korea demonstrate the importance of the International Military Training and Education mission set to Security Cooperation tool and U.S. foreign policy.

View this one-minute video on the mission-set: