Reform strategies for Defence

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Text here..what do we mean by strategy?



A narrow focus is self-explanatory: picking just one or just a few changes, on the grounds that such targeted efforts are more likely to succeed than a broader change effort.

There are several very different contexts where this may be the best strategy:

  1. Major blocking barrier.Sometimes there is a major problem which is blocking almost all reform efforts. One such example is where individual services (army, navy, air) have such extensive autonomy that they are run like autonomous fiefdoms. In such a situation, only marginal change may be possible until the power of the individual service chiefs is fought and curtailed. One such example was in Colombia in 2005-2010, which is discussed elsewhere; see here.
  2. Extensive corruption.When corruption is so deeply embedded in the ministry/military that no significant anti-corruption initiative has a chance of getting underway. In this situation, reformers need to seek out smaller entry points through which improvements against corruption can be made without threatening the established order. They will be placing faith in a strategy of ‘little by little’. This might gradually gain support, or support in certain areas or functions. Alternatively, it might help to prepare the ministry/military for when circumstances change, and larger reforms become possible. One such example was reform in the MOD/military in Ukraine around 2010, discussed elsewhere (see here).
  3. One or two over-riding corruption risks.For example, in Poland, the most significant abuse was in procurement of national defence equipment services. The MOD leadership felt that they would gain increased credibility to the overall plan by showing that they could first tackle and solve this particular problem before embarking on others: see the example of Poland’s Ministry of National Defence, here.
  4. Limited resources.Corruption reform efforts need resources, like all other change programmes. Sometimes it is not possible to allocate resources, at other times deliberately insufficient resources are allocated so that the initiative is very likely to fail. In such circumstances it makes sense to concentrate resources on a few reforms.
  5. Extreme sensitivity to ‘Corruption’. A quite different situation is where there are a wide range of known corruption problems, but the corruption issues are so sensitive that the only way for the plan to gain momentum is to focus on ‘integrity’, not corruption, and to focus on a positive aspect of that, by increasing the training of senior officers in good conduct. See the example of Saudi Arabia, here.


A broad corruption reform strategy is appropriate when the defence leadership wants to show that integrity and corruption minimisation are a central pillar of the national defence organisations.

This can be true in high corruption countries, where the government has been elected on an anti-corruption platform and each ministry is required to set up and implement its own reform strategy. One such example is Bulgaria, see below.

It is also appropriate where there is high insecurity in the country, that may be at least partly due to a mistrusted and/or corrupt military/MOD; and major reform is called for. A good example of major reform in such circumstances is Colombia, where the military have been part of both the problem and solution in dealing with corruption throughout the major, long-running insurgency of the FARC. The example is discussed further below.

It can also be appropriate in countries where corruption may be limited in defence but the problem has never been properly addressed before, at least not in an sustainable way. Even though the problems may not be fundamental, the defence leadership wants to set up a proper management system that will ensure that corruption risks are considered and acted upon in a regular way in the future. This has sometimes been referred to as ‘ensuring that attention to corruption because a natural part of the DNA of the organisation’. There are examples of the UK and New Zealand, see hereand here.

Example: Bulgarian MOD/military

An example of a broad reform strategy in 2009, with the goal to make progress on a broad front. About half-way through, the strategy was changed after the government lost power in 2013. They prepared their plan in advance of election, and made many changes on arriving in power at the MOD:

  • Changed a number of key leadership positions to those more sympathetic to reform
  • Immediately established an anti-corruption council in the MOD as the key leadership change body
  • Introduced transparency into formulating decisions as well as into the decision-making process as a basic weapon against the hidden practices related to abuse of position-in-office for personal gain.
  • Developed the strategic documents of the defence policy and the modernisation of the armed forces with transparency to the citizens regarding the spending the defence budget

There is a report that describes the reform strategy and effort, here.

Or Read more here >

Reforms in the Bulgarian MOD 2009-2013


Example: Colombian MOD/military

Read more >

Huge reforms..see the TI assessment. (more to come)

Reforms have been underway since 2005. See the TI reports from 2005, 2010 and the TI vulnerability assessment of 2015.

The reforms were substantial and were among the government-wide improvements that led to the greatest increases in public confidence – see the table below showing progress as measured by the World Bank in 2010[2].


Once defence officials and officers recognise that there is a problem to be solved, they want to analyse it, develop reform plans and implement those plans. They take the same approach of professionals in almost any sector.

Where defence is different is in the immense emphasis on training in the military sphere. Training is at the heart of learning and adaptation: only this way can officers, officials and soldiers can then better recognise the problem in future and are equipped to deal with it.

Helpful advice: DCAF/ISSAT is one of the leading institutions in the design and delivery of training programmes on Justice and Security Sector Reform. On average, ISSAT facilitates close to twenty training courses each year. ISSAT courses use the co-learning methodology that encourages a participative, problem-solving approach through use of case-studies, exercises, examples and the collective sharing of experience. Read more here.

(more to come)


The Centre for Integrity in the Defence Sector (CIDS) is an entity within the Norwegian Ministry of Defence that assists nations in strengthening integrity in defence. They have worked with many nations and some of the resulting plans and strategies are publicly available on their website. It is well worth contacting them (email here).

Among other resources, CIDS has a good handbook that guides a military and/or defence ministry through the necessary steps of developing an integrity reform strategy – from the planning stages to the actual drafting of the plan through to practical implementation.

You can read their full handbook here. Or read more >

The CIDs handbook takes you through the following steps:

Getting started– assessing risk & context, support & leadership

Planning phase– ownership, approach, steering & working groups, resources & timescales

Drafting the plan– the document, main body of the plan, examples

Implementing the plan– progress meetings, communication, managing risks

Evaluation– indicators, measuring impact, long term monitoring

From a different perspective, DCAF/ISSAT have done considerable work with countries on developing action plans to improve security sector integrity, as per the report, see opposite and here


The country defence vulnerability reports researched and published by TI Defence & security form a strong starting point for developing the strategy

The quantitative, evidence-based approach to underpin the chosen strategy is working well in defence. 66 defence ministries/militaries followed up with TI on the 2015 analysis, several with detailed strategies.

Having quantitative metrics with ‘model answers’ allow for improvements – or the lack of them – to be demonstrable. This is not only beneficial within the MOD and military, but can also be used externally, eg with citizens, the media.

Quantitative metrics allow for some seriously useful benchmarking and critical discussion with other nations on what is good/bad about groups of countries.  This excites professionals like almost nothing else and is also motivating.

The summary rankings for all the 113 countries were shown and discussed in the ‘Corruption types’ part of the defence sector review, here. You can also see the overall ranking table here. +/-

Detailed reports – defence corruption vulnerability

Transparency International Defence & Security

Afghanistan Comoros Iraq Norway Taiwan
Algeria Congo, Republic Italy Oman Tanzania
Argentina Cote D’Ivoire Japan Pakistan Thailand
Armenia Croatia Jordan Philippines Togo
Australia Czech Republic Kenya Poland Tunisia
Austria DRC Kuwait Portugal Turkey
Azerbaijan Denmark Latvia Qatar Uganda
Bahrain Egypt Lebanon Russia Ukraine
Bangladesh Equatorial Guinea Liberia Rwanda United Arab Emirates
Belgium Eritrea Libya Saudi Arabia United Kingdom
Benin Ethiopia Lithuania Senegal United States
Bosnia & Herzegovina Finland Madagascar Serbia Uzbekistan
Botswana France Malawi Sierra Leone Yemen
Brazil Gabon Malaysia Singapore
Bulgaria Gambia, The Mali Somalia
Burkino Faso Georgia Mauritania South Africa
Burundi Germany Mexico South Korea
Cambodia Ghana Morocco South Sudan
Cameroon Greece Mozambique Spain
Canada Guinea Myanmar Sri Lanka
Cape Verde Guinea-Bissau Namibia Sudan
Central African Republic Hungary Netherlands Swaziland
Chad India New Zealand Sweden
China Indonesia Niger Switzerland
Colombia Iran Nigeria Syria


NATO encourages its nations – both allies and partners – to strengthen integrity in their defence institutions. Called ‘Building Integrity’, or ‘BI’ for short, this initiative has been running since 2007 and is now well established across the NATO system.

The BI approach is to request a NATO team to carry out an assessment of the vulnerabilities to corruption in the nation’s defence institutions, then to discuss and agree an action plan to remedy the deficiencies found.

NATO BI also runs a substantial number of training programmes and runs workshops for practitioners working in NATO defence institutions on integrity an counter-corruption. You can read more about the BI initiative on the section on transnational initiatives, here.

It operates through nations completing a BI Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) and Peer Review Process, then developing a Tailored programme to build capacity.


In general, military forces do not have a high public profile. Most corruption reform strategies are therefore largely internally focused: relating to the internal institutional strengthening of the ministry of defence and the military.

However, an externally focused reform strategy may be more appropriate where there is high public mistrust of the military. Externally visible reforms – such as stopping the practice of soldiers taking bribes at checkpoints – are not significant financially but can have a bigger effect on public opinion and public support for the military.

Colombia was one example (see above and here) where the military needed to rebuild public trust after all the abuses and corruption related to the war against the FARCC. Burundi is another case. In such situations internal reforms like improving integrity in high value procurement may be very significant financially – and necessary – but are unlikely to lead to any positive reflection among the public.


Most defence anti-corruption strategies do not prioritise actions against corrupt officials. This is because it is difficult to prosecute senior officers or senior staff in a legal environment that may be fragile and politicised, and/or the prosecuting environment is easily used as a political tool.  Punitive action may also require handling suspected cases of corruption or other fraud over to the police or other external agency for further investigation and potential prosecution, with unpredictable results.

However, the cases of corruption are often so visible and/or egregious that an anti-corruption plan does not have credibility unless active measures are being taken against the offending individual, and punitive action should be a component of the action plan. It usually takes the form of firing officials and officers, as in Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Ukraine and the USA.  A quieter form of internal discipline is through the introduction of a strong asset declaration requirement. Poland took this route for officers at and above the rank of Colonel as an “intermediate” way of showing reduced tolerance for this behaviour without going the extra step to prosecution. It is seen as having been effective.


Integrity building measures are less contentious politically, and work naturally with the grain of the values of public and military service personnel. They thus tend to be popular with military personnel, and this can serve as one way of building support for the action plan. See the example of Saudi Arabia. A focus on training can also be the right approach where there is little or no top-level buy-in on anti-corruption, but where there is none the less enthusiasm for reform from the middle level and downwards. See the example of Ukraine prior to 2014.

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