Article by Kate Oliver; Photo by Javier Chagoya
The Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) Defense Resources Management Institute (DRMI) taught its first course in 1965. Through its courses and workshops, DRMI has reached nearly 35,000 military professionals in over 160 countries. Given participants share their knowledge about resource management upon their return to their home countries and military commands, DRMI’s projected impact is staggering.
“We create a common language that everyone can use because fundamentally we all have the same challenges – scant resources and lots of demands,” said Dr. Francois Melese, the Executive Director of DRMI and a professor of economics. “What we teach at DRMI is essentially how to make the best decisions given the environment you’re working in and the competing demands within that environment.”
And those decisions are now being made by many high-level graduates of DRMI programs, including King Abdullah II of Jordan, Lebanese President Michel Sleiman and Albanian President Bujar Nishani, to name a few.
Most DRMI students are mid- to senior-grade military officers, like Anatolie Coguteac, a colonel in the Moldovan army and the director of the acquisitions department for the Moldovan Ministry of Defense. Coguteac attended the International Defense Management Course in 2011 and recently returned to NPS to attend the follow-on Senior Defense Management Course.
“The first course introduced me to new ways of looking at things, good ways of looking at things,” said Coguteac. “We looked at the life cycle of supplies and how to optimize purchasing based on how various suppliers impact that cycle. Often times the cheapest supplier is not the optimal one.
“For example, in Moldova we need to look at if the supplier is qualified to consistently and reliably handle orders, if they can provide quality products and services and if they adhere to ethical business practices.
“After the first course, I was able to go back home and provide recommendations on how to adjust our acquisition and procurement process to secure the optimal vendor for our needs. There is legislation in the works now that will reflect those changes once it is passed,” said Coguteac.
DRMI strives to empower participants to bring about these types of changes, recognizing the need to equip defense leaders around the world with good economic and financial decision-making tools.
“We teach established business principles that have been adapted to the unique requirements of governments,” said Melese. “Governments are not driven by profit, but by citizens’ votes. Consumers vote with their money, which forces companies to compete, but governments are monopoly suppliers. If voters don’t like the government, they vote entirely new officials into office. It becomes very important for governments to increase their effectiveness and efficiency – to become good stewards of the nation’s resources – in order to stay in office.”
And helping politicians understand defense budgetary needs is an important skill for military leaders to possess.
“Politicians know that almost no one will say their budget is sufficient, so they make us prove our needs,” said Coguteac. “For the military it becomes critical to get parliament, specifically the Security Council, to understand how cuts impact our capability. They need to know that if funding falls below a certain level, the military isn’t just leaner; it can no longer be effective in carrying out its mission.
“The course I’m in now deals with strategies on how to best communicate those types of critical issues to politicians and decision makers who need to make budgetary cuts, but also need to maintain national security,” said Coguteac. “DRMI provides a unique environment where we can exchange ideas and share experiences with colleagues from other nations facing these same challenges.
“Of course we have our own way of doing things in Moldova, many inherited from the old Soviet practices, but as a nation we are always looking for new ways of solving problems: operationally, tactically and strategically. Sometimes the old ways are still good, but sometimes new methods are needed. Our minister of defense recognizes how important it is to be flexible and mobile, so he sends people abroad in an effort to expand their knowledge and return with new ways of thinking. That’s one of the reasons I am here attending this course,” said Coguteac.
DRMI welcomes international participants like Coguteac, striving to build multinational learning environments that benefit U.S. and international participants alike.
“A part of our mission, beyond teaching the importance of managing defense resources, is building bridges between the U.S. and our friends and allies. We hope by creating these networks between other countries and between ourselves and other countries, we build meaningful relationships that reduce tensions and potentially conflict,” said Melese. “It’s a big mission, but we’re up for that challenge.”