Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the more frequently asked questions about WHINSEC in general.
The Institute campus is on Baltzell Avenue in Fort Benning, which is adjacent to Columbus, GA.
7301 Baltzell Avenue, Bldg 396, Fort Benning, GA 31905
Yes. Please call (706) 545-1923.
Between 1400-1800 students attend resident courses annually.
Any country in the Western Hemisphere may send students, as long as the U.S. government authorizes the country to do so. In the history of WHINSEC, 32 different WH partner nations have sent students.
The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation was established by federal law (Title 10, US Code, Sec. 2166), and opened in January 2001 to provide professional education and training to military, civilian and law enforcement personnel from eligible nations of the Western Hemisphere. The Institute provides the nations of the Western Hemisphere the opportunity to enhance the professional level of their national military, uniformed police and civilian security workforce and to provide them the tools to successfully use multinational and interagency approaches to regional security challenges. An equally crucial component of the WHINSEC mission is the establishment of professional and personal relationships within and among participating nations, encouraging cooperation at all levels.
Because of the long-established relationships with the countries of this region, especially through the Organization of American States, the U.S. has had security cooperation strategies that include promoting the professionalism and capabilities of all the security forces. One aspect of that is education and training. In 2000, Congress saw a need in this post Cold-War world for an institute that would provide that professional education and training for military, law enforcement and civilian security officials from throughout the Western Hemisphere, with particular attention to supporting democratic governments, ethics, and human rights. WHINSEC was created by law, the 2001 Defense Authorization Act, 10 USC, Sec 2166, and opened its doors Jan. 17, 2001. Courses are focused on current challenges to security, including illicit trafficking, natural and man-made disasters, and threats to peace.
There is a strategic need for the institute. It fills a vital role in building the capacities of security forces in the region to meet those challenges. Perhaps more importantly, its diversity promotes relationship-building among countries and even within countries in places where past distrust of the military and police forces have hampered democratic development and sustainment. The professional development of militaries and law enforcement working together is key to the cooperation envisioned by our leaders as part of our national security strategy.
The purpose of the institute is to provide professional education and training to eligible personnel of nations of the Western Hemisphere within the context of the democratic principles set forth in the charter of the Organization of American States (to which the United States is a signatory). Those principles are:
- to strengthen the peace and security of the continent;
- to promote and consolidate representative democracy, with due respect for the principle of nonintervention;
- to prevent possible causes of difficulties and to ensure the peaceful settlement of disputes that may arise among the member states;
- to provide for common action on the part of those states in the event of aggression;
- to seek the solution of political, judicial and economic problems that may arise among them;
- to promote -- by cooperative action -- their economic, social and cultural development;
- to eradicate extreme poverty, which constitutes an obstacle to the full democratic development of the peoples of the hemisphere; and
- to achieve an effective limitation of conventional weapons that will make it possible to devote the largest amount of resources to the economic and social development of the member states. These principles are listed in Chapter One, Article Two, of the OAS charter, dated 1997.
For more information on the charter, please go to: http://www.oas.org/juridico/english/charter.html
Faculty and staff include uniformed members of the armed services of the United States and partner nations; a State Department officer, and civilian professors. One-third to two-fifths of the faculty consists of Partner Nation Instructors. Twenty-six different nations have provided Partner Nation Instructors during WHINSEC’s existence. The institute could not provide the quality education it does without them.
The long-term goals of U.S. foreign policy have been hemispheric peace and democratization. That is in the best interests of the United States and the nations of this hemisphere. The dramatic transformation to democratic rule that has occurred throughout the hemisphere took place to a degree because of U.S. diplomacy and engagement. The institute is one tool supporting U.S. policy in the region with its primary focus on enhancing security force capacity to meet challenges and doing so in a legal, moral, ethical context. The military and civilian faculty chosen from throughout the hemisphere is a superb example of our common values and principles and demonstrates these values through a sound educational process. Every course includes a minimum of eight hours of human rights instruction that addresses just war theory, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva and Hague Conventions, the proper role of a military in a democratic society and relevant case studies. Human rights experts also provide instruction. In longer courses, students spend far more time on human rights issues.
This mandatory instruction provides a comprehensive, substantive, and relevant curriculum that genuinely supports and communicates international standards of human rights defined in international laws and treaties. It promotes the national values enshrined as rights in the U.S. Constitution and international treaties and emphasizes the U. S. commitment to democracy and human rights.
There is a thorough screening process in place. Before coming to the U.S. for training, each student is “vetted” by the U.S. embassy in that country, and the screening is reviewed at the State Department. If there is any hint of wrongdoing in the student’s past, the student is not given a visa to come to the United States. This dual system of checks and balances helps ensure that students in all USG education and training (not just WHINSEC) are well-qualified and honorable. It is a complex but thorough process.
How can you ensure students graduating from your institute will not commit crimes against their people?
Just as any school cannot guarantee that some of their students will not someday commit crimes, neither can we. We provide our students with the training that emphasizes their role in serving a democratic society. They learn what it means to “protect and serve.” They learn the moral and ethical reasons for doing what is right and just in their duties, and they learn the practical benefit—the support of their people.
We can guarantee that all instruction will be conducted in accordance with U.S. law, doctrine and policy. The institute instructs its students within the context of the democratic principles set forth in the Charter of the Organization of American States and supporting agreements, while fostering mutual knowledge, confidence and cooperation among the participating nations and promoting democratic values, respect for human rights, and knowledge and understanding of U. S. customs and traditions. The operation and curriculum of this institute are under the independent oversight of the Board of Visitors that includes members of the U. S. Congress, representatives from the State Department, Department of Defense, along with civilians from academia, religious and human rights groups and nongovernmental organizations. WHINSEC maintains the highest academic standards, as shown by its accreditation from the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, as well as by the recognition of the American Council on Education, which evaluates its courses for their academic value to students seeking degrees in civilian educational institutions.
Do you ‘track’ former students to know they have not committed and illegal acts after leaving the institute?
By U.S. law, none of the USG schools teaching foreign students may “track” students after they return home. When students return to their own countries, the U. S. military groups there maintain ties with them as part of the U.S. military-to-military engagement plan. There is also a report to Congress each year on all U.S. education and training of foreign students; the report includes any known illegal activity by former students.
WHINSEC’s Board of Visitors (BOV) is a federal advisory committee that provides external and independent oversight of the institute's operations. The BOV’s 14 members include four members of the U. S. Congress; representatives from the State Department and the Department of Defense; and six persons from academia, clergy and other nongovernmental organizations. Collectively, they provide oversight of the curriculum, instruction, physical equipment, fiscal affairs and academic instruction methods of the institute to ensure relevance and consistency with U. S. laws, regulations, policies, goals and doctrine. Following its annual meeting, the Board of Visitors is required to submit a written report to the Secretary of Defense on its activities, views and recommendations pertaining to the governance of the institute. The report is sent to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees and posted on the Federal Advisory Committee website: www.facadatabase.gov.
Analysis of the costs and benefits to operate WHINSEC for one year shows that the institute is a foreign policy bargain for the United States. In Fiscal Year 2013, the Institute’s budget was approximately $10.8 million; operations and maintenance of $8.4 million, augmented by approximately $2.4 million in U. S. State Department security assistance program funds to finance student tuition and living expenses. When one considers that for this amount, more than 1800 students from 21 countries (including the U.S. and Canada) were touched, the ‘Return on Investment’ is obvious.
If most instruction is given in Spanish, are non-Spanish-speaking Canadians prohibited from attending the WHINSEC?
Canadians and U.S. military personnel are taking courses every year, and Canada provides a Spanish-speaking instructor to the faculty. Courses taught in Spanish require that the students are fluent in the language, but many non-Spanish speaking nations have linguists and politico-military specialists who participate in WHINSEC’s unique multi-national, multi-discipline environment and its courses. In addition, two courses are taught in English: a Sergeants course for students from Canada and the nations of the Caribbean, and a Peace Operations Course for students who will be Staff Officers in UN Peacekeeping missions.
Here you will find frequently asked questions regarding the academics at WHINSEC.
Yes, at any time. If your interest is in a specific course, please contact the public affairs office at (706) 545-1923 to find out when that course will be in session.
Most are, and when a presenter or instructor does not speak Spanish, simultaneous interpreters from the Translation Division ensure students receive the material accurately in Spanish. Two courses are taught in English: a Sergeants course for students from Canada and the nations of the Caribbean, and a Peace Operations Course for students who will be Staff Officers in UN Peacekeeping missions. For non-Spanish-speaking visitors, we can usually find an instructor in the classroom who can interpret.
Please call the Public Affairs Officer at 706-545-1923 or use the email link on the “Contact Us” page of this Web site.
Listed below are some questions regarding visiting the Institute.
Visitors may enter Fort Benning from I-185 or from Fort Benning Road. After showing a photo ID at the security checkpoint, visitors can drive to the WHINSEC campus at 7301 Baltzell Avenue. Contact the Public Affairs Office for detailed directions (ph: 706-545-1923, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
If visitors want a guided tour of the campus, contact the Public Affairs Office. Visitors who come unannounced will be assisted, if possible, to see what they are interested in.
The only requirement to enter Fort Benning is that adult visitors must have a photo ID, such as a driver’s license or passport, to present at the security checkpoint. The checkpoints have multiple lanes; one is marked for visitors.
Prior notice is not required, although if you want to be sure to have someone guide you, or if you want to see a particular course, contact the Public Affairs office for information.
Groups are welcome. Please contact the Public Affairs office to arrange a time and date.
WHINSEC is open on workdays, so your group may visit on the Friday prior to the protest, or the Monday after.