Small Wars Journal

Utilization of the DIMEFIL Framework in a Case Study Analysis of Security Cooperation Success

Sun, 11/08/2020 - 5:51pm

Utilization of the DIMEFIL Framework in a Case Study Analysis of Security Cooperation Success

MAJ David Kimsey, USA

MAJ Jin Woo Kim, ROKA

MAJ John McCoy, USAF

LCDR Charles Cuddy, USN




This article conducts a three-country case study analysis with a focus and emphasis on the elements of national power as the analytic framework.  Diplomatic, Information, Military, Economic, Financial, Intelligence, Law Enforcement (DIMEFIL) are the elements of national power.  By showcasing examples across the DIMEFIL in the three countries, we provide examples of how the military effort alone does not lead to success.  Therefore, while important, the military aspect of national power must be leveraged in synch with the other elements of national power requiring fundamental interactions and cooperation through a whole of government approach to security cooperation success.  Through efforts across the DIMEFIL, minor setbacks and challenges in one or more instruments of national power can be overcome if there are a balance and effective spread across the other elements of national power.  By understanding the importance of spreading efforts in a security cooperation partnership across all elements of national power, planners and leaders in Joint and Interagency organizations will best set the conditions for success.  In addition to the elements of national power, leaders and planners that fail to account for and give equal consideration to time as a factor of success are sure to fail at expectation management.



In an era of globalization that defines the current international environment, the lines of economic, political, and social dependence have become increasingly interwoven outside a nation’s borders. In many cases, these boundaries have become increasingly difficult to identify.  It is in this environment that the U.S. government has increased its efforts to recognize and establish relationships with partner nations that will help to solidify our national interests across the world.  While there are many avenues of approach to increasing and improving these relationships across all aspects and functional areas of a nation’s governmental and non-governmental organizations, the paper focuses its aperture and attention on the institution the Defense Department refers to as security cooperation.  Per the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, security cooperation is:

Security cooperation comprises DoD activities, including DoD interactions with foreign defense and security assistance programs, to encourage and enable international partners to take action in support of U.S. goals; provide the United States with access to territory, information, and resources; and develop and apply capability and capacity consistent with U.S. defense objectives.[1]


Of consideration is if the DoD can conduct successful security cooperation engagements and establish partnerships on its own.  The same way that one nation cannot survive in isolation, neither can one government institution’s policies nor efforts succeed in isolation.  Under this assumption, it is necessary to utilize a case study method of analysis to determine what other whole-of-government avenues security cooperation relies on for success if any. 

An analytical framework that relies upon the instruments of national power: Diplomatic, Information, Military, Economic, Financial, Intelligence, and Law Enforcement (DIMEFIL) is applied to the examples provided to show how engagements with partner nations across all involved government and nongovernment institutions lead to security cooperation success.  Case Studies of Thailand, Columbia, and the Philippines provide examples of successful security cooperation partnerships.  Through case study analysis of partnerships with these countries, the recurring theme of efforts across the DIMEFIL is highlighted in each case as characteristics that lead to security cooperation success.  Country selection criteria included a sampling of recent and longstanding partnerships as well as the criteria that at least two different global regions were represented by the three countries.  This was necessary to show that the DIMEFIL framework is an effective analytic tool that can be applied to any future security cooperation planning regardless of in what region of the world the partnership will exist.  To conduct successful security cooperation, the United States must implement all elements of national power throughout the planning and execution of the partnership. 

To provide a thorough analysis of the security cooperation partnerships, challenges to the success of U.S. security cooperation engagements with each of the countries will be identified.  In every case, it is also assumed that some of these challenges will continue to tear at the very core of the partnerships and require flexible application within the DIMEFIL framework to improve stability and secure our vital U.S. interests in the respective region when these challenges arise.  Violent Extremist Organizations (VEO’s) and national and trans-national criminal organizations seek to expand their recruitment, funding sources, and operations through exploitation in many regions of the world that are dominated by weak or little governance, corruption of government officials, displaced migrant populations, or humanitarian disasters.  Some of these enablers are present in all three of the countries chosen for analysis and their impact on security cooperation will be addressed.


Case Study #1

Security Cooperation with the Philippines

U.S. security cooperation with the Philippines dates back to 1951 when the two states signed the Mutual Defense Treaty.[2]  The signing of Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement in 1953 further developed and consolidated the security cooperation efforts between the two states.[3]  In 1992, U.S. military bases in the Philippines were closed due to the shift of Filipino public opinion that created an environment unfavorable to having such a large contingent of U.S. forces permanently stationed in the Philippines.[4]  Fortunately, these changes like the relationship between the two nations did not impede the overall result of security cooperation efforts.  Since that time, security cooperation activities such as joint military exercises and military assistance have continued, and the Philippines is a significant partner in conducting global counterterrorism operations.  In addition to U.S. military assistance, Figure 1 represents the total U.S. assistance from 2008 to 2014; the Philippines received $1.05 billion across DIMEFIL.[5]  The sustained support from the U.S. to the Philippines across all elements of national power is a successful example of security cooperation.[6]   

Figure 1.  U.S. Assistance to the Philippines, FY2008-FY2015

(U.S. dollars in thousands)[7]


The success of U.S. security cooperation in the Philippines is based on shared security interests and helped them become a reliable regional partner in Southeast Asia.  The two states are aligned with each other in pursuing the defeat of terrorism and the achievement of broader regional security.  One example of this joint effort between the two nations is seen through the operations conducted to neutralize the Abu Sayyaf terrorist organization and al Qaeda-linked militants within Filipino national borders. Success in these endeavors not only served U.S. core strategic and security objectives but also helped to eliminate a persistent threat to security and stability within the Philippines.[8]  In addition to shared security interests with the United States, active diplomacy in Southeast Asia, relatively stable governance, and capable economic power are positive characteristics of the Philippines that enable security cooperation activities.

U.S. military assistance and security cooperation engagements with the Philippines contributes to the increase of U.S. influence in the Southeast Asia region.  This increase is due in part to the Philippines’ effective diplomatic relationships with various regional states.  Through positive messaging regarding the United States, the Philippines plays an important role as a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to help the United States secure its interests in the region.[9]  Active diplomatic relations with the Philippines have also turned existing bilateral military exercises into platforms for broader regional cooperation with the United States.  A good example is the annual combined military exercise ‘Balikatan,’ which focuses on foreign humanitarian assistance.  Showcasing the potential for future expansion, what started out as a two-country exercise has grown and, in 2013, the 29th annual Balikatan included eleven regional nations.  As evidence of an increase in efforts with the Philippines, even further widening the scope of the exercises has been discussed.[10]  The more diplomatically active the Philippines becomes, the more opportunities for multilateral cooperation will be created for the United States. This means that as long as the Philippines keeps its diplomatic and economic power, it will remain as a valuable security cooperation partner for the United States. 

Stable governance of the Philippines is one of the key factors responsible for the successful results of U.S.-Philippine security cooperation.  Even though the Philippines has experienced political turmoil, corruption, coup attempts, and Muslim and communist insurgencies, it has maintained a relatively stable political system throughout its recent history. The Philippines’ level of democracy has been improving (e.g. from 75th in 2012 to 69th in 2013 according to the Economist Intelligence Unit) and Filipinos experience a society where they have the right to exercise civil rights with few restrictions, freely criticize national leaders, and enjoy academic freedom and religious liberties.[11]  Security cooperation in the Philippines has been successful because its government has been capable and sustainable.  However, there are still more areas for the Philippine government to make improvements and focus its efforts to reach the desired level of stable governance.  If the United States keeps providing the Philippines with necessary assistance for the improvement of governance, it will become a more credible partner capable of contributing even further to U.S. security interests.

Christopher Paul argues that states with relatively strong economies have historically produced more positive outcomes in security cooperation.[12]  The Philippines’ stable economy has played a significant role in contributing to the success of security cooperation.  The Philippines is ranked 30th regarding GDP, and economic growth has continued, increasing an average of 6.1% per year from 2011 to 2016.[13]  Also, the Philippines has maintained over 1% of GDP on military-related expenditures since 2011 and continues to seek ways to increase its annual budget for the modernization of its military.[14]  The sound economic policies practiced by the Philippines is one of the reasons the Philippines was rewarded with a 5-year contract worth $434 million by the Millennium Challenge Account in 2010.[15] The U.S. military assistance given to the Philippines has brought prominent developments to their military since its relatively stable economic system could prevent potential misuse of financial assistance, and deviation from initially scheduled programs. The Philippines will continue to increase the growth rate of the military as an institution on a consistent basis as the United States continues to increase the role of security cooperation partnership.


     The Philippines is an example of how enduring U.S. partnerships demonstrate the success of security cooperation when all of the all the elements of national power are brought to bear.  Successful security cooperation can increase stability within a country and also within a region.  Over the course of the United States’ engagement with the Philippines, the emphasis on each particular element of the DIMEFIL has ebbed and flowed.  What has remained constant is the commitment that each country has maintained to ensuring security cooperation through sundry challenges.


Case Study #2

Security Cooperation with Colombia

In the late 1990s, Colombia was on the verge of failed state status.  The cocaine cartels that had run the country into the ground were leaderless, largely due to help from the United States, but demand for the drug was still high.[16]  Into the vacuum stepped the various leftist and paramilitary groups that populated the hinterland.  The greatest among them was the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionaras de Colombia, FARC, a half-century old Communist insurgency, which had expertise in the Columbian drug industry due to a long history of extorting coca growers in the territory it controlled.[17]  The money financed their war against the Colombian government, contributing to the destabilization of nearly every aspect of society.  In Colombia, murders, disappearances, kidnappings, extra-judicial killings, extortion and, of course, drug trafficking were the worst in the world.[18]  So in 1998, the Colombian president, Andrés Pastrana, approached President Clinton with a plan, Plan Colombia.[19]  The plan detailed how the United States would provide security cooperation across the DIMEFIL spectrum to terminate Colombia’s (and America’s de facto) drug problem.


Perhaps the single most vital contributor to Plan Colombia had happened before it was even conceived.  In 1997, the United States designated the FARC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.  This critical designation set in motion the mechanism through which the government of the United States was able to dramatically increase funding for security cooperation across all elements of DIMEFIL.  In 1998, the government of Colombia lacked presence in 169 of its 1,099 municipalities (each municipality is the equivalent to a county in the US).  By 2007, all 1,099 municipalities in Colombia had state representation and presence.[20]  The longevity of Plan Columbia’s diplomatic influence cannot be undervalued.  Plan Colombia has now outlasted three Colombian and four U.S. administrations, a sign of the positive effects of a U.S. policy of long-term and consistent diplomatic engagement.

Informational longevity is just as important as a diplomatic engagement to security cooperation success.  The battle over the narrative has been critical to security cooperation success in Colombia.  In October of 1999, over 1 million Colombians marched against the FARC in a “No Mas” nationwide protest.[21]  A politically active, vocal population is necessary to support security cooperation activities.  It is not difficult to determine the motivation for why the Columbians became active when it is revealed that Colombia became “the home to the world’s largest internally displaced population—4.7 million people by 2012—a distinction it has only recently ceded to Syria.”[22]  Key indicators of violence, including kidnappings, homicides, disappearances, and forced displacement, have declined over the past 17 years, increasing the positive effects of the narrative.[23]  Colombia has not always won the battle of the narrative though.  Evidenced by Colombia’s hardline stance against narcotraffickers, many in the international community to refused to engage in security cooperation activities with the Colombia.  By reaching out to the FARC, the current president, Juan Manuel Santos, has effectively switched the narrative about Colombia in the eyes of the international community.[24]  Additionally, the FARC abandoned its leftist ideology and ramped up kidnappings, murders, and drug trafficking, which ultimately led to its loss of popular support.[25]  When the military launched multiple campaigns against the FARC and like-minded groups, the population supported it despite rumors and evidence of human rights abuses.

Perhaps the most visible form of intervention through security cooperation is the military function.  In 1999, the FARC controlled an area the size of Switzerland, had 20,000 fighters, oversaw over $400 million in the drug business and earned $500 million from other illicit activities.[26]  Through the years of Plan Colombia and fighting the FARC, the Colombian military has become the most professional in Latin America.[27]  With the capability to use all of the most advanced technology, the Colombian military can deploy quickly to rugged and isolated jungle areas in U.S. provided Black Hawk helicopters and confront the FARC.  They advanced over the course of several years during President Uribe’s “Democratic Security” offensive that drove the FARC from populated areas to where they could be more easily targeted by the superior tactics and capability of the military.  The greatest indicator of the military security cooperation success, however, is the ability that Colombia has to export security cooperation.  Colombia has established security cooperation with a multitude of nations, but its primary partners are Mexico, Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, Peru, El Salvador and Costa Rica.  At this point in the maturation of its military, as seen in Figure 2 below, Colombia is a “net security exporter.”[28] These arrangements are beneficial for each country due to Colombia’s trainers costing nations receiving their assistance up to four times less than the use of U.S. asset.[29]


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Figure 2: Police and Military Personnel trained by Colombia from 2009-2013[30]

As insecurity grew, Colombians faced an economic recession.  In 1999, Colombia had a deficit of 5.2 percent, and the nation’s economy dropped by 4.5 percent.[31]  Recession further exacerbated inequality, unemployment grew by 100 percent, and more than half of the population lived below the national poverty line, with 23 percent living in extreme poverty.[32]  As a result of the comprehensive approach to security cooperation, Colombia became, “the largest recipient of American assistance in Latin America and one of the top ten worldwide.”[33]  That fact is slightly misleading, however, as the US spent $10B on security and development-based stability in Colombia by 2010, compared to $1.6 trillion combined in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom from 2001 to 2014, an average of 10 billion every 29 days.[34]  Perhaps one of the best signs of the success of Plan Colombia is the bipartisan recognition that it has received domestically in the United States as a U.S. foreign policy success.[35]  Finally, for the past several years economic support to the Andean nation has declined.