United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

MoDA: Ministry of Defense Advisors Program

"The United States has made great strides in building up the operational capacity of its partners by training and equipping troops and mentoring them in the field. But there has not been enough attention paid to building the institutional capacity (such as defense ministries) or the human capital (including leadership skills and attitudes) needed to sustain security over the long term."

Robert M Gates
"Helping Others Defend Themselves: the Future of U.S. Security Assistance," Foreign Affairs (May/June 2010)

MoDA Program Overview

The Ministry of Defense Advisors (MoDA) program was developed as a result of operational requirements in Afghanistan and Iraq. Defense capacity building efforts in these countries focused heavily on improving the tactical proficiency of security forces, but often neglected ministerial capacity building. Such an unbalanced approach undermines the hard-won tactical gains that can only be sustained by a partner state's effective and accountable defense institutions.

Past U.S. defense institution building activities abroad relied heavily on contractors and military personnel. The MoDA program adds defense civilians to this effort and demonstrates the value of a cohesive civil-military team. Finally, the MoDA program enhances the professional development of participating U.S. senior defense civilians.

MoDA is designed to forge long-term relationships that strengthen a partner state's defense ministry. The program matches senior Department of Defense (DoD) civilians with partner-identified requirements and provides backfill funding to the experts' parent organizations. The advisors deploy for up to two years under the auspices of the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce. While deployed, the advisors exchange expertise with foreign counterparts in similar defense specialties.

The Ministry of Defense Advisors program partners DoD civilians with foreign counterparts for up to two years. Several elements make the program unique:

  • Extensive Training The MoDA program offers a comprehensive 7-week training course that includes: Professional advisor training; cultural awareness , country familiarization, and language instruction; senior-level consultations and briefings; and an evaluated capstone exercise.
  • Enhanced Reachback Advisors may reachback to their parent organizations for substantive support, but the MoDA program office also coordinates a reachback mechanism designed to provide DoD-wide support. This resource empowers advisors to develop creative solutions to ministerial development challenges.
  • Temporary Backfill The MoDA program funds a backfill for the deployed advisor. The advisor's parent organization may hire a temporary replacement to cover the period of absence. This unique feature encourages employers to release experienced volunteers for security missions abroad while ensuring continuity at home.
  • Long-term relationships Civilian experts return to DoD and may maintain connections with foreign counterparts. The network of relationships established during deployment promises greater defense cooperation in the future.

MoDA in Theater

The Ministry of Defense Advisors (MoDA) program is comprised of senior Department of Defense civilians deployed to advise officials in the Afghan Ministries of Defense and Interior under the direction of LTG Bolger, commander of the NATO Training Mission- Afghanistan and Combined Security Training Command- Afghanistan (NTM-A/CSTC-A).

The group includes individuals of GS-13 rank or higher and who, on average, bring with them over 20 years of experience. The team's pre-deployment training included courses on advising approaches and tools, Afghan familiarization, and protection and survival. The course culminated with a capstone exercise where the advisors applied the skills and knowledge they acquired throughout the 7-week course.

Since their arrival in Afghanistan the MoDA program advisors had an immediate and far reaching impact.

Because of the great success of the initial program and with the support of NTM-A, there are currently over 60 advisors in Afghanistan, with three additional classes scheduled to deploy in 2012.

Examples of MoDA advisors making impact:

  • A Defense Commissary Agency employee with years of meat processing experience advises the MoD slaughterhouse and sewing factory. This organization provides the entire Afghan National Army food and clothing. Until MoDA, this critical position with whichever incoming military advisor had a hunting background. Mr. Hart is now helping his counterparts develop a workable business plan to increase efficiency.
  • A former Director of Logistics, helped his counterparts at the MoI implement a functional "logistics reporting tool."
  • A licensed architect with Washington Headquarters Service, helped MoD counterparts include a partnership clause in design services work orders that allows intense on site cooperation between the MoD's Installation Management Directorate and construction firms.
  • Stories from the Field

Training Contributers

OSD Personnel & Readiness
  • DoD's Office of Readiness and Training Policy and Programs provides direct support to the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Readiness (DUSD(R))who is responsible for advising the Secretary of Defense, Deputy Secretary of Defense, and Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness) on key military readiness and training issues.
  • OSD Readiness-Training Policy and Programs has worked hand-in-hand with the MoDA staff molding the most relevant training to prepare US Government civilians for the work ahead. Much of the courses are culturally and language focused but with the help of Readiness the curriculum also includes COIN Training and Mobilization at The Indiana Regional Training Institute, Camp Atterbury.
United States Institute for Peace
  • USIP was established under the United States Institute of Peace Act. It was passed by the Congress and signed into law in 1984, establishing the Institute as a publicly funded national institution chartered to "serve the American people and the federal government through the widest possible range of education and training, basic and applied research opportunities, and peace information services on the means to promote international peace and the resolution of conflicts among the nations and peoples of the world without recourse to violence."
  • United States Institute for Peace has worked closely with the MoDA team to help establish a comprehensive and relevant pre-deployment training curriculum. Insightful trainers and leaders have provided an array of seminars on leading topics, such as rule of law, international conflict management, culture and language training, governance building, to the current class of MoDA participants. As the MoDA program grows to fulfill its requirement in Afghanistan, USIP continues to find creative and meaningful ways to support MoDA's mission to equip our government civilians.
Center for Complex Operations (National Defense University)
  • The Department of Defense, with support from the State Department and USAID, established the Center for Complex Operations (CCO) as an innovative interagency partnership. Recognizing that unity of effort across disparate government agencies, and across DoD components, requires shared intellectual and decision-making frameworks, the CCO will connect education and training programs across the government to foster a 'whole of government' understanding, assessment and approach to complex operations.
Joint Center for International Security Force Assistance
  • The Joint Center for International Security Force Assistance (JCISFA) captures and analyzes security force assistance lessons from contemporary operations in order to advise combatant commands and Military Departments on appropriate doctrine, practices, and proven tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP's) to prepare for and conduct security force assistance missions efficiently.


  1. Teach functional experts the necessary tools, approaches, and skills to become effective mentors, advisors, and capacity builders.
  2. Impart cultural, historical, and political knowledge of the Afghan Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior environments.
  3. Prepare advisors to be safe, resilient, and adaptable while deployed.

Apply Here

MoDA Program advisors deploy though the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce (CEW)

Contact Us

For More information about the program, or to inquire about specific opportunities, please contact:

Claudia Muñoz

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