What is it? Created by federal law in 2000 as a Department of Defense Institute, WHINSEC is under the executive control of the Army. As required by its Congressional mandate, WHINSEC supports the Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS) and provides professional education and training to military, civilian and law enforcement personnel in the Western Hemisphere. Just as importantly, the Institute’s tailored curriculum, international environment, and cultural orientation serve to promote regional interdependence. In addition, WHINSEC’s focus on maintaining a model human rights program and efforts to be transparent are clear reflections of Congress’ intent when it created the Institute.
What has the Army done? Legislation requires that WHINSEC have independent federal oversight by a Board of Visitors (BoV), and that Congress itself occupy four of the thirteen Board seats. The BoV meets twice a year to review the institutes programs and policies. Its recommendations are provided to the Secretary of Defense at a minimum of once a year. The Secretary of Defense in turn provides an annual report to Congress on WHINSEC, which includes the minutes from the annual board meeting.
WHINSEC’s mission is to provide professional education and training within the context of the democratic principles set forth in the OAS Charter to eligible nations in the Western Hemisphere. Specific subjects set by Congress are leadership development, counterdrug, peacekeeping, resource management, and disaster relief planning (all taught in Spanish). In addition, the Institute’s mission includes fostering mutual knowledge, transparency, confidence, and cooperation among nations. Key to this process is promoting democratic values, respect for human rights, and an understanding of U.S. customs and traditions.
WHINSEC’s faculty and staff are representative of all the armed services of the United States and partner country guest instructors; other U.S. government agencies, including the State Department and the Drug Enforcement Agency; and civilian professors. Students are men and women—military, law enforcement, and civilians—from the member states of the OAS, as well as U.S. and Canada. Students are not selected by WHINSEC, but rather by means of a standard selection process common to all foreign students coming to the U.S. for government-sponsored training. There can be twenty-two or more nations represented at WHINSEC at any given time.
What does the Army have planned for the future? As part of its emphasis on promoting democratic values, Congress requires WHINSEC to provide eight hours of human rights training for each subject taught. To complement its human rights training, WHINSEC has a well developed Field Studies program designed to acquaint foreign students with US customs and culture. It consists of trips to state and local governments and, depending on a student’s length of stay, may include visits to non-governmental organizations as well as sites of cultural interest such as Andersonville, Tuskegee University, the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial, and the Carter Center. This portion of the program will continue to be developed and emphasized.
Why is this important to the Army? U.S. engagements in Latin America are occurring at a critical time when anti-US governments are in vogue in the region, and the narcotics and GWOT threat is real and growing. WHINSEC is the single most effective security cooperation program in US Southern Command and serves to anchor US and Latin-American relationships.