John O. Cope

Policy and Research Papers

Defence White Papers in the Americas

In preparation for the October 2000 Defense Ministerial of the Americas (DMA) in Manaus Brazil and at the request of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS) studied the global trend toward the creation of Defense White Papers. The study aimed to understand the nature of these documents in order to prepare the U.S. delegation to discuss the tendency in Latin America and the Caribbean during the DMA. The INSS study team found no agreement about what constitutes a 'white paper' other than each is a consensus statement on a topic. The team examined 15 defense documents worldwide and interviewed participants in the development process and independent analysts. The results suggest that the formative, often difficult, process through which governments must move to solidify their approach to national security defense policy, and the structure to implement it and build consensus for it is the essential part of a 'white paper,' providing a constructive experience that benefits the country. Governments tended not to want a template for this process, although at the working level there is some interest in the experience of other states. Defense White Papers become highly stylized nationalistic documents that reflect a state's unique domestic circumstances and international geopolitical situation. The attached chart provides an overview comparison of the Defense White Paper processes of Canada, the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and South Africa. Past efforts by U.S. agencies to design templates have failed.

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