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DOD Makes Progress Implementing Women, Peace, Security Act

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Back in October 2017, the U.S. Congress passed — and the president signed — legislation that identified the active participation of women as crucial to maintaining peace and security around the globe.

A woman in a military uniform shakes hands with a young boy. Other women and children are milling about in the background.
Smiling Shake
Marine Capt. Alison M. Anderson, a female engagement team member, shakes the hand of a young Afghan boy after a meeting in the boy's home in Afghanistan, Dec. 6, 2009.
Photo By: Marine Corps Sgt. Jennifer Calaway
VIRIN: 091206-M-ZZ999-344M

"The meaningful participation of women in conflict prevention and conflict resolution processes helps to promote more inclusive and democratic societies and is critical to the long-term stability of countries and regions," reads the "Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017," or WPS, which was signed into law on Oct. 6 of that year.

Lawmakers and the president even agreed U.S. policy should not just identify women as being critical to conflict resolution and the preservation of peace, but should also promote their participation.

"It shall be the policy of the United States to promote the meaningful participation of women in all aspects of overseas conflict prevention, management, and resolution, and post-conflict relief and recovery efforts, reinforced through diplomatic efforts and programs," the law continues.

Three women in black robes sit on a couch and talk to a woman in a military uniform who is sitting on a chair.
Agriculture Projects
In Afghanistan, Army Capt. Carla Getchell discusses agriculture projects during a key leader engagement with the Saifora Kohistani, Kapisa province’s director of women’s affairs ; the education director; and Sohaila Kohistani, the women’s affairs coordinator with the director of agriculture, irrigation, and livestock, March 14, 2011.
Photo By: Army Capt. Carla Raisler
VIRIN: 110314-A-ZZ999-002

The law specifically directs the Defense Department to ensure, among other things, training for personnel in conflict prevention, peace processes, mitigation, resolution and security initiatives that address the importance of participation by women, as well as strategies and best practices for ensuring meaningful participation by women.

Stephanie Hammond, the acting deputy assistant secretary for stability and humanitarian affairs, said the department is thoroughly on board with the intent of the law and is on track with implementing its requirements.

"DOD very forcefully supports the whole-of-government implementation of the WPS Act and strategy," Hammond said during a virtual presentation today at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. "The United States faces an increasingly complex global security environment ... the United States and our partners must be better prepared to meet these security challenges, which means we cannot afford to overlook half the population."

In June, she said, the department launched DOD's strategic framework and plan for implementing the Women, Peace, and Security Act.

"In recognition of the relationship between our own ability to implement the intent of the WPS mandate abroad and how we organize, train and equip our own forces, our plan acknowledged the need for the department to model and employ the WPS principles it advises other partner nations to uphold," she said.

In implementing the plan, she said, the department has a network of WPS advisors and subject matter experts who advise and train senior leaders, commanders and staff on how to integrate WPS principles into policies, plans, operations and partner-nation engagements.

Women in headscarves stand together, indoors, and speak with each other.
Group Talk
Sadiqa Jalali (right), Zabul director of Women's Affairs, speaks to Afghan women and Female Engagement Team members from the Zabul Provincial Reconstruction Team in Qalat City, Zabul Province, Afghanistan, Dec. 3, 2012. U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Karley Karlson (center), 366th Aerospace Medicine Squadron surgery medical technician, and U.S. Army Capt. Peggy Hu (second from right) were two FET members in attendance.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Patrice Clarke
VIRIN: 121203-F-QU636-002M

"To date, we have engaged with more than 50 partner nations to demonstrate the value of women's meaningful participation to national security and to share best practices on the recruitment, employment, development, retention and promotion of women in military forces," she said.

The department has also developed a number of formal training programs as part of its WPS implementation efforts, Hammond said. These training programs are aimed at WPS advisors, but development is also underway on training for senior defense leaders and augmenting existing training programs — such as the defensewide training on combating human trafficking — with relevant WPS material.

Hammond also said the department is working with the Defense Security Cooperation University to put WPS material into that school's curriculum.

A dozen women in military uniforms sit on a tank turret.
Group Photo
Members of a Marine Corps female engagement team sit atop an M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank turret after completing training aboard the USS Kearsarge in the Arabian Sea, Feb. 6, 2019.
Photo By: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Tawanya Norwood
VIRIN: 190206-M-YD783-0012M

Plans for the future, she said, involve more closely integrating WPS concepts not just into department policies, plans, doctrine, training and education, but also into the department's security cooperation, guidance, training and activities with partner nations.

"We've made a tremendous amount of progress on WPS implementation in these past few years, and the department has an opportunity and the momentum and capacity right now to carry this work much further," Hammond said.

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