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The International Military Education and Training (IMET) program provides funding to train military and civilian leaders of foreign countries, primarily at schools and facilities in the US. IMET is implemented by the Department of Defense’ Defense Security Cooperation Agency, but funded by the State Department through the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. IMET has grown considerably during the administration of George W. Bush, from a budget of $50 million in FY 2000 to $85 million in FY 2008, a 70% increase.

IMET has a long, controversial history of helping to train foreign military personnel at the infamous School of the Americas (SOA), some of whom went on to commit human rights abuses in their home countries. Another, more recent controversial decision involving IMET stems from a Bush administration policy change to provide military training to one of America’s most notorious enemies: the dictator of Libya, Muammar al-Qaddafi.

The United States began training military personnel from foreign countries, most of them in Europe, following World War II. At the urging of President Harry Truman, Congress in 1949 authorized the Military Assistance Program (PDF) and the Foreign Military Sales program and set out rules and criteria for its use. The emphasis of these early programs was on containing the influence of the Soviet Union, while training concentrated on skills needed to effectively operate and maintain equipment provided by the US. As Europe recovered from World War II, US security assistance efforts shifted toward developing countries in the Pacific, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.
The School of the Americas (SOA) was founded in 1946 to initially provide technical training to US military personnel. Over time military officers from Latin America were invited to attend SOA, and increasingly they replaced their American counterparts in the school’s classrooms. So dramatic was this shift in focus that English language instruction was eliminated in 1956, and Spanish became the official language of SOA in 1963. During the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy placed a high priority on counterinsurgency training and programs to combat the growing influence of Communist movements in some Latin American countries. This resulted in even more work for SOA, as Latin American military officers were taught interrogation methods, and, according to critics of SOA, ways to torture rebels back in their home countries. The Argentine military, for example, received $10.6 million in US military training from 1962 to 1976. After deposing the Peronist government in 1976, the military regime “disappeared” between 9,000 and 30,000 people during its “dirty war” against leftists.
In 1976 the International Military Education and Training program was created. Funded by the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (page 15) (PDF), the IMET grant program was established to provide professional, leadership and management training for senior military leaders and selected junior and middle grade officers with leadership potential from other countries. Among the US military schools IMET students attended was the SOA, which was located in Panama until 1984, when it was moved to Fort Benning, GA, in accordance with provisions in the Panama Canal Treaty. SOA became the target of a broad-based, grassroots campaign to end military training for human rights abusers, which prompted the authors of a 1995 study commissioned by the US Army Training and Doctrine Command to recommend that the school be renamed to shed its negative image.  In 2000, the SOA was “closed,” reopening on January 17, 2001, under a new name: the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. 
As the Cold War came to an end in the late 1980s, security assistance training changed. In 1990 Congress earmarked $1 million in IMET funds to train foreign civilian and military officials in four areas: managing and administering foreign military establishments and budgets; understanding democracy and civilian control of the military; improving military judicial systems; and promoting awareness and understanding of internationally recognized human rights. This program came to be called the Expanded IMET (E-IMET) program because of the inclusion of foreign civilian officials. E-IMET is based upon the premise that active promotion of democratic values is thought to be one of the most effective means for achieving US national security and foreign policy objectives, particularly in emerging democracies and developing countries. The program includes new courses developed to meet Congressional objectives regarding democracy building and human rights, as well as existing courses that focus on other E-IMET goals.
In the early 1990s the US continued to provide IMET training to governments with poor human rights records. The Clinton Administration supported military training for several Sub-Saharan regimes, including Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe, that were guilty not only of human rights abuses against their own people but also of exploiting and exacerbating the regional war being fought in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Robert Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front received consistent IMET assistance throughout the 1990s despite the regime’s anti-democratic and internationally aggressive policies. 
In 1998 the Mugabe government deployed troops to the DRC, fueling conflict in the Congo. A year later, the State Department conceded in its own annual human rights report that Mugabe's human rights record had “worsened significantly” since its last report, citing an intensification of government efforts to silence journalists; killings, torture and beatings committed by police and security forces; and efforts to distort the political process to favor the ruling party. Yet the aid from Washington kept coming. In 2000-2001, the US provided $186,830 in IMET assistance to train 124 members of the Zimbabwean military. 
In other cases, the US government began placing restrictions on IMET to certain countries. For example, the Clinton Administration responded to former Nigerian dictator General Ibrahim Babangida's annulment of the June 1993 presidential elections by terminating that country's $450,000 IMET program and expelling the five Nigerian military officers receiving military training at the time. Similarly, after the November 1991 Dili massacre in which 273 people were murdered by the Indonesian military, the US cut off IMET assistance to Jakarta. For FY 1997, Congress denied all IMET funding to Guatemala and Zaire because of human rights abuses.
In the 21st century, some Congressional members have tried unsuccessfully to curtail IMET support to repressive governments. In 2001 Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) introduced the International Military Education and Training Accountability Act (S. 647) (PDF) to require that the State and Defense Departments be more forthcoming with information about the human rights records of IMET alumni. Another bill, HR 1810, was introduced in 2001 to try to close the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC). Both bills failed to pass Congress.
Altogether, between IMET and its predecessor grant programs, the US has trained more than 500,000 students in the past 40 years. Thousands of former IMET students have reached positions of prominence in their countries’ military and civilian sectors. Theoretically, according to the Department of Defense, these well-trained, professional leaders with firsthand knowledge of the United States and its values are expected to make a difference in winning access and influence for both US diplomatic and military representatives in foreign countries.

Over 100 Nations Benefit From U.S. Military Training, Education

(by Lincoln P. Bloomfield, Jr., Federation of American Scientists)


What it Does  

The International Military Education and Training (IMET) program provides funding to train military and civilian leaders of foreign countries, primarily at schools and facilities in the U.S. On occasion, IMET-funded programs are conducted in the recipient country by mobile education and training teams consisting of US instructors. IMET is implemented by the Department of Defense’ Defense Security Cooperation Agency, but funded by the State Department through the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. IMET has grown considerably during the administration of George W. Bush, from a budget of $50 million in FY 2000 to $85 million in FY 2008, a 70% increase.
According to the Secretary of State, IMET has three objectives: a) to enhance the capabilities of allied and friendly militaries to participate in peacekeeping operations under the UN or other multinational efforts; b) to promote common understanding with US military forces by exposing IMET students to American military doctrine, strategic planning processes, and operational and logistical procedures; and c) to build positive relationships between civilian and military officials from the United States with counterparts in other countries. This last objective is considered the most important by US officials.
Courses made available to IMET grant recipients are divided into two main categories: Professional Military Education (PME) and technical training. PME is designed to prepare recipients for leadership positions, while technical training courses equip students with the skills required to operate specific weapons systems, or fulfill the demands of a specific military occupational specialty. Examples of E-IMET courses include Advanced Management Program Course (AMP), Civil Military Operations, Democratic Sustainment, Civil Affairs, Law of War and Military Accounting. For a complete list of courses and schools, see the Expanded IMET Handbook (PDF). Almost 120 courses are currently approved by DoD for IMET students
The IMET Process
The initial steps by which countries gain access to the IMET program are coordinated by the local Security Assistance Organization (SAO), which consists of US military personnel assigned to embassies to field such requests, provide specifics about the training programs, their goals, and funding levels, and work with the host government to develop and submit the request. Requests are submitted yearly at the annual Training Program Management Reviews (TPMRs) at which the SAOs submit a budget for the next fiscal year.
According to the DSCA, all IMET applicants are screened rigorously for health problems, human rights violations, and other potential problems. If an applicant satisfies all screening requirements, an Invitational Travel Order (ITO) is issued. Once they arrive in the United States, each new International Military Student (IMS) is assigned an International Military Student Officer (ISMO), who is responsible for coordinating logistics associated with the student's arrival, monitoring their academic progress, and arranging DoD Informational Program (DoDIP) activities, which seek to expose foreign military students to American culture, values and institutions.
In the case of Mobile Training Teams (MTTs) sent to a country, US military and civilian personnel spend up to six months providing training or assessing the training needs of a country.
Types of Training
All International Military Students must achieve a degree of English language proficiency before they can take courses at most of the US training institutions. The Defense English Language Program was created to oversee English language training programs utilized by IMSs to acquire these language skills.  MTTs, language training detachments, training for language instructors and various teaching aides are available to foreign governments interested in setting up in-country training.
Flying training includes instruction on how to fly fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft.  Compared to other forms of training, flying training is costly, so IMET funded flying training is quite limited.
Observation/familiarization training allows students who are unable or prohibited from engaging in classroom exercises to learn specific skills through observation instead.
On-the-job/Qualification Training allows students to hone and develop the skills they acquire in the classroom in a real-world setting. 
Professional Military Education provides leadership training to officers at every level of their professional development.  While there are no special restrictions placed on courses for new and mid-level international officers, senior officers must be invited by one of the military services to attend the war or command colleges.  Examples include International Officer Logistics Preparation Training, Infantry Officer Basic Training and International Officer Intelligence Advance Training.
Technical training focuses on developing a specific skill or set of skills necessary for operating a particular weapon system or to perform required functions within a military operational specialty.
Schools that provide training to IMET recipients are divided into the following three categories: Professional Military Education (PME), designed to teach officers specific leadership skills; English Language Training; and Senior Service Schools. The latter offers courses on national security policy and the politico-military aspects of defense to senior foreign military officers and civilians.  The Senior Service Schools are the National War College, which is part of the National Defense University, and the Service War Colleges (Army, Navy and Air War Colleges). Additionally, separate schools and programs are tasked with implementing various components of the E-IMET program.
The Naval Justice School offers courses focusing on fundamental principles of military justice, civil and administrative law and procedure. The Center for Civil-Military Relations provides host countries with a five-day course, normally taught abroad, that focuses on addressing the inherent conflict between civilian and military institutions in democracies.  The course focuses on this natural tension and the various strategies for ensuring effective civilian control over military institutions. Specific topics covered during the course include the process of promoting officers, the respective roles of the legislators and military officials in the defense budgeting process, and handling disputes between civilian officials and military officers.
Defense Resource Management Institute (DRMI) offers a multi-disciplinary program designed to develop and strengthen the analytical and decision-making skills of mid- and upper-level officials responsible for managing defense resources. While the programs are normally taught at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, the institute also occasionally teaches them overseas and elsewhere in the United States.

Is Expanded International Military Education and Training reaching the right audience? (by Ronald H. Reynolds, DISAM Journal)


Where Does the Money Go  

The primary stakeholders of IMET are foreign military and civilian students, schools that offer DoD-sanctioned training and education and the governments of foreign countries that receive IMET funds. The State Department’s IMET Account Summaries lists all countries that received IMET funds from FY 2005 to FY 2008. Some of the top recipients of IMET are Turkey, Jordan, Philippines, Thailand, Poland, Pakistan, Morocco and Tunisia.
DSCA’s Expand IMET Handbook lists all schools in 2001 that offered DoD-approved courses for IMET students. Some of these schools are:
  • National Defense University
  • Information Resources Management College
  • Center for the Defense Leadership and Management Program
  • Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation
  • US Army Special Warfare Center
  • US Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) School
  • US Army War College
  • US Army Command and General Staff College
  • US Army Logistics Management College
  • US Army Finance School
  • US Army Medical Department Center & School
  • Defense Resources Management Institute
  • Center for Civil-Military Relations
  • Defense Healthcare Management Institute
  • US Naval Post Graduate School
  • US Navy Oceanographic Office
  • Defense Institute of International Legal Studies
  • US Joint Forces Staff College
  • Expeditionary Warfare Training Group, Pacific
  • US Naval Supply Systems Command
  • Defense Healthcare Management Institute
  • Naval Postgraduate School
  • Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute
  • Defense Institute of Security Assistance Management
  • US Air Force Special Operations School
  • Inter-American Air Force Academy
  • Air War College
  • Air Command and Staff College
  • Air Force Judge Advocate General School
  • US Air Force Institute of Technology  
  • Defense Acquisition University
  • US Coast Guard Training Center Yorktown, VA 
  • US Coast Guard Training Center Petaluma, CA 
  • US Coast Guard Regional Fisheries Training Center Gulf; New Orleans, LA
  • US Coast Guard Academy Leadership Development Center; New London, CT



Bush Administration Helps Dictators
Concerns about human rights and democracy have taken a back seat to immediate strategic interests, as evidenced by President George W. Bush's strategy of rewarding states that cooperate with the US in its Global War on Terrorism campaign. Pakistan currently receives approximately $2 million in IMET funding in spite of President Pervez Musharraf regime’s poor human rights record and anti-democratic practices, placing it among the most flagrant violators of US security assistance eligibility criteria. The Bush administration elected to waive restrictions on foreign assistance to Pakistan both as a reward for siding with the Americans in their military campaign against the Taliban and to ensure its continued support of US operations in the region. In addition to Pakistan, Central Asian countries that lent support to the US during Operation Enduring Freedom, including Uzbekistan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan, are also slated to receive significant IMET assistance, even though all have been accused of human rights violations by the State Department.
Another country that just recently began receiving IMET support under the Bush administration is Libya. During the 1980s, the Reagan administration branded Libya’s leader, Muammar al-Qaddafi, a “madman” and his government one of the most dangerous supporters of international terrorism. But beginning in FY 2008, the US allocated $333,000 in IMET funds (and is proposing another $350,000 in FY 2009) for Libya because of its “commitment to renouncing weapons of mass destruction; combating the rapidly growing terrorist threat posed by al-Qaeda in Libya and the region; and promoting professional, effective law enforcement and military services that respect international norms and practices,” according to the Bush administration’s Foreign Operations Budget (page 524) (PDF). The document adds that the IMET funds will “educate and train Libyan security forces as well as create vital linkages with Libyan officers after a 35-year break in contact,” adding the money will bring “Libyan officers to the United States and expose them to democratic practices and respect for human rights.”
According to the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Libya could use the help in improving its human rights practices. The 2008 report on Libya states that “the country maintains an extensive security apparatus that includes police and military units, multiple intelligence services, local revolutionary committees, people’s committees, and ‘purification’ committees. The result is a multilayered, pervasive surveillance system that monitors and controls the activities of individuals. The legal basis of security service authority is unclear; citizens have no obvious recourse if they believe security services have exceeded their authority. Frequently cited laws are the 1971 and 1972 “Protection of the Revolution” laws, which criminalize activities based on political principles inconsistent with revolutionary ideology. Although the law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, in practice security services can detain individuals without formal charges and hold them indefinitely without court convictions.”
The Libya report adds, “Security forces committed serious human rights abuses with impunity” and “regularly enjoyed impunity from criminal acts committed while performing their duties.” Overall, the State Department found “the government’s human rights record remained poor. Reported torture, arbitrary arrest, and incommunicado detention remained problems. The government restricted civil liberties and freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association. The government did not fully protect the rights of migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees. Other problems included poor prison conditions; impunity for government officials; lengthy political detention; denial of fair public trial; infringement of privacy rights; restrictions of freedom of religion; corruption and lack of transparency; societal discrimination against women, ethnic minorities, and foreign workers; trafficking in persons; and restriction of labor rights.”
In reality, Libyan security officers are more likely to use the skills they learn through IMET against Qaddafi’s political opponents than they are against terrorists.
School of the Americas
Proponents of IMET argue that by providing training to military officials from countries with poor human rights records, the US can influence positive change in these regimes. However, the historical record shows otherwise. In the case of the SOA, the School of the Americas contributed to human rights abuses suffered by Central and South Americans at the hands of abusive militaries and security apparatus. Many of the most notorious Latin American human rights violators passed through the doors of the SOA, including CPT Eduardo Ernesto Alfonso Avila, who ordered the assassination  of El Salvador's Archbishop Oscar Romero (among others), and Maj. Armando Azmitia Melara, who was implicated in several Salvadoran massacres including those at El Mozote and Lake Suchitlan. The non-governmental organization, School of the Americas Watch, monitors many of the SOA’s more notorious graduates.
The release of training manuals used at the SOA from 1987 until 1991 that “taught tactics that come right of a Soviet gulag” confirmed critics’ concerns of the school. The manuals instructed students on the “neutralization” of “personality targets” that included “governmental officials, political leaders and members of the infrastructure.” Other sections advocated the use of beatings, imprisonment and the jailing of family members as tools of coercion.  Finally, the manuals recommended that government agents view “all the organizations as possible guerilla sympathizers.” The Pentagon later called these sections of the manuals “mistakes” but also absolved those responsible for these sections of any wrongdoing by declaring that since any violations of DoD policies were not deliberate, “further investigation to assess individual responsibility is not required.”
Since 1990 the SOA, now the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, has required that all courses include a four-hour human rights component, consisting of instruction on the laws of war, democratization and civilian control of the armed forces.  It also added new classes to its curriculum that address the abuses of its alumni, including one on Democratic Sustainment and another on civil-military relations. 

Federation of American Scientists on Security Assistance Programs


Suggested Reforms  
Congressional Oversight  

House Appropriations Committee


Former Directors  

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Table of Contents

Founded: 1976
Annual Budget: $85.1 million

International Military Education & Training (IMET)
Wieringa, Jeffrey
In his capacity as director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, Vice Admiral Jeffrey A. Wieringa oversees the International Military Education and Training program. Wieringa was appointed director of DSCA on August 29, 2007. He entered the Naval Service in 1973 through the Aviation Reserve Officer Candidate Program. In 1975, he received a B.S. degree in Physics form Kansas State College. Prior to his appointment, Wieringa served as deputy assistant secretary to the Navy for International Programs and director of the Navy’s International Programs Office. He has served 34 active years in the Navy also serving as chief test pilot and chief engineer for naval aviation. During his active years, he flew 51 different types of aircraft with over 4,000 flight hours and 534 carrier landings. Wieringa also commanded the F/A-18 Program (PMA-265) to support the first combat deployment of the Super Hornet in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Official Bio