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Home Facts About SOA / WHINSEC
About the SOA/ WHINSEC

"Differences" Between the SOA and the WHINSEC- Chart outlining the lack of difference between the two institutions.

SOA Course List-under construction

SOA Budget-Under Construction

WHINSEC Course List- the following description of courses have been compiled from US goverment documents

WHINSEC Budget-under construction

WHINSEC Annual Reports-Secretary of Defense Annual Reports on WHINSEC to Congress

Course Offerings at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation PDF Print E-mail
The U.S Army School of the Americas (SOA) was re-named the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) after the school was nearly closed by a May, 2000 vote in the House of Representatives. The name change is part of an ongoing effort by the Department of Defense (DoD) to clean up the school’s image and distance itself from its history of training some of the worst human rights violators this hemisphere has known.


Responding to increasing grassroots pressure to close the School, the DoD has attempted to re-characterize the school as an institution that teaches respect for democracy and human rights. The “new” school opened on January 17th, 2001 and used the existing SOA course catalog until November, 2001. Ten months after the new school began instructing soldiers, the DoD finally released the course catalog that human rights activists and a Congressional office had been requesting for months.

WHISC Courses

The list of courses below is taken from the web site of WHISC. Quotes are extracted directly from the course descriptions. Italics indicate editorial comments.

The Department of Defense claims that this “new” school exists to promote respect for human rights and respect for civilian authority among members of Latin American militaries. Combat training has always accounted for the majority of the instruction at the school. In 1997, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer examined course attendance records at the SOA and reported, “ ‘Bombs and Bullets’ Most Popular Classes at the U.S. Army School of the Americas.” The course listings below show that this has not changed. Despite the evolving rhetoric, WHISC remains primarily a counter-insurgency combat training school.

I. Clearly Combat Related Courses

Captains Career Course (OPME-3)
Corresponding SOA course: Combined Arms Officer Advance Course

This course is designed to train combined arms company commanders and battalion-level staff officers. . .extensive study of the battle operating system, including intelligence preparation of the battlefield, logistics, combat engineer employment, use of indirect fire and close air support, and civil affairs. . . students then study the tactical level of war and plan military operations at the company and battalion level.”

Command and General Staff Officer Course (OPME-4)
Corresponding SOA course: same title

“ . . . Graduates will be able to command battalions, brigades, and equivalent-sized units in peace or war; train these units to accomplish their assigned missions; employ and sustain weapon and equipment systems in combined arms operations; efficiently manage manpower, equipment, money, and time . . .”

Battalion/Brigade Staff Operations Mobile Training Team (MTT 2)
Corresponding SOA course: Battle Staff Operations Course

“This course is conducted by a WHINSEC Mobile Training Team (MTT) deployed to the requesting country. . . The students learn to function as battle staff members at the battalion and brigade level. Decision-making is the course focal point. Students conduct intelligence preparation of the battlefield, prepare personnel, logistics, and civil-military operations estimates, develop courses of action, write orders and annexes, and coordinate the execution of command decisions.”

Joint Operations Course (OPME-5)
Corresponding SOA course: same title

Through formal lectures and ample case study analysis this course trains field-grade officers to function as multinational and joint-operations officers. The training is divided into six sections: National Defense Strategy, Military Instruments of Power, Joint Planning, Crisis-Action Planning, Regional Contingency Planning, and a force-projection wargame. The joint-operations force protection wargame is conducted as a capstone exercise to integrate all previous joint operations instruction.

Joint Operations Mobile Training Team (MTT-1)

“This course is conducted by a WHINSEC Mobile Training Team (MTT) deployed to the requesting country. Similar to the Joint Operations Course, it prepares field-grade officers to function as multinational and joint-operations officers. The training is divided into six sections: National Defense Strategy, Military Instruments of Power, Joint Planning, Crisis-Action Planning, Regional Contingency Planning, and a force-projection wargame. The wargame is designed to integrate all previous joint-operations instruction . . .”

Intelligence Office Course (TAC-2)
Corresponding SOA course: Military Intelligence Officer Course

“This course is designed to train military intelligence officers to perform the duties of a tactical intelligence staff officer in a conventional military environment, and in military operations other than war. Its curriculum provides a working knowledge of the employment of the tactical intelligence cycle: intelligence preparation of the battlefield; use of tactical counterintelligence; security of intelligence information and operations; threat analysis; internal defense and development . . .” 

Engineer Operations Course (TAC-8)
Corresponding SOA course: Sapper Course

“. . . this course trains engineers or other combined arms officers and noncommissioned officers to conduct basic engineer operations through the use of light engineer and light infantry tactics, techniques, and procedures. It also teaches basic medical and communications skills and leadership development. The course is taught in both classroom and field environments, and includes a 96-hour field training exercise in which the students perform simulated missions . . .

Combat engineer operations typically include the use of landmines and other explosives.

Cadet Troop Leader Training Course (LDR-4)
Corresponding SOA courses: Cadet Leadership Development Series

This course provides cadets with training in U.S. military doctrine, new technology and leadership development. Professional-development training is provided through classroom and training scenarios involving the laws of war and human rights. Students receive hands-on training in the use of computer simulations, and night operations and air movement capabilities with the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. They also receive new technology demonstrations. Field training consists of tactical force-on-force operations in which the Multiple Integrated Laser System (MILES) is used . . . ”

Cadet Leadership Development Course – Infantry (LDR-1)
Corresponding SOA course: same title

This course introduces cadets to the basic fundamentals of operating at the small unit leadership level. During the tactics portion of the training, students learn basic light-infantry squad and platoon operations, air-assault operations planning, and the application of leadership theory in a field environment. The course is designed to produce leaders with character, who are self-aware, adaptable and able to demonstrate the characteristics of a successful military leader.”

Noncommissioned Officer Career Course (NPME-7)

“This course prepares junior noncommissioned officers (NCOs) to plan and conduct individual and unit training at the squad and platoon-level, and to conduct common task qualification training. Students learn basic leadership skills, NCO duties, responsibilities, authority, and methods of conducting performance-oriented training. Additional instruction for each student integrates a mandated minimum of 12 hours of instruction on human rights, the rule of law, due process, civilian control of the military, and the role of the military in a democratic society.”

Senior NCO Professional Development Course (NPME-8)

“This course trains selected noncommissioned officers (NCOs) to lead, train, and direct subordinates at the squad and platoon-level. Instruction focuses on training management, battle staff planning, and squad and platoon tactics. Students acquire additional skills through training in fire support, leadership, communications, and land navigation. The course integrates a mandated minimum 12 hours of instruction on human rights, the rule of law, due process, civilian control of the military, and the role of the military in a democratic society.”

The descriptions for the two courses above would lead one to believe that human rights and the rule of law constitute a significant portion of the instruction. Despite receiving nearly half the space in the course descriptions, the five topics listed (human rights, rule of law, due process, civilian control of the military, the role of the military in a democratic society) share only a total of 12 hours instruction time in courses that are respectively five and six weeks long. This disproportionate emphasis distracts from the fact that the primary purpose of these courses is combat training, not human rights instruction.

II. Other Courses Including Combat Training and Combat Support

Civil-Military Operations Course (CMS-1)
Corresponding SOA course: same title

“This course is designed to prepare students to serve as Civil Military Officers, either as military officers or as government civilian officials interacting with the military on civil military operations (CMO) activities. It consists of training in military civic action, the proper role of the military in support of civilian authority, civil defense, disaster preparedness/relief, and CMO support to counterdrug activities. . .”

Counterdrug Operations Course (TAC-6)
Corresponding SOA course: same title

“This course is designed to provide selected military and law enforcement personnel with specialized training in the development of battalion-level staff and small-unit leadership skills in the areas of planning, leading, and executing counterdrug operations. All training is oriented toward realistic and demanding field operations, and emphasizes staff planning and command and control techniques. Students receive comprehensive instruction and training on the full spectrum of counterdrug tactics and techniques, including: advanced marksmanship; precision operations in urban environments; reconnaissance techniques; clandestine airfield interdiction techniques; drug laboratory destruction and safety considerations; and tactical patrolling operations. Students are rotated through leadership and staff-planning positions for optimal experience and learning opportunities.”

“We cannot continue to make a false distinction between counter-insurgency and counter-narcotics efforts.” Robert Zoellick, a top foreign policy advisor to George W. Bush. 

The 1.3 billion dollar military aid package to Colombia includes a “push into southern Colombia.” Army troops, often working in conjunction with paramilitary groups force guerillas out of a given area before the coca fumigation planes come in. Both of these processes result in human rights violations and massive displacement of the civilian population. Plan Colombia makes crystal clear what many have suspected for a long time: U.S. counterdrug efforts are another form of the counter-insurgency warfare that has had such devastating impacts on the people of Latin America. The military official overseeing both the fumigation and the “push into southern Colombia” is Gen. Montoya, an SOA graduate with documented ties to paramilitary activity.

Information Operations (TAC-4)
Corresponding SOA course: same title

“This course gives students a common baseline of Information Operations (IO) knowledge upon which to correctly and legally employ IO tools and techniques . . . Students learn to plan, organize, and supervise the integration of all resources into effective IO campaigns in military operations peace and in times of conflict. Students are instructed in the critical roles of public affairs and civic action in command and control (C2) operations, as well as the separation of these abilities to ensure institutional credibility, effectiveness, and international legitimacy. The course concludes with a practical exercise that focuses on the role of information management in integrated IO.”

III. Other Courses

Instructor Course (DEV-2)

“This course is designed to provide students with the theory and practice of concepts, methods, techniques, and technology of performance-oriented training.”

Medical Assistance Course (TAC-7)
Corresponding SOA course: same title

“This course is designed to train noncommissioned officers and civilians to perform lifesaving measures and apply advanced field medical care in support of combat or counterdrug operations . . .”

Computer Literacy Course (DEV-1)
Corresponding SOA course: same title

“This course is designed to teach the student the latest standard computer software programs. It consists of performance-oriented instruction and practice in the application of programs for database, spreadsheets, graphics, and word processing.”

Departmental Resource Management Course (CMS-3)
Corresponding SOA course: Resource Management Course

“This course gives students an understanding and appreciation of the concepts, principles, methods, techniques, and decision-making skills related to defense resources and logistics management . . .”

The four courses listed above all directly or indirectly provide combat support. Despite flowery rhetoric about human rights, cooperation and respect for democracy, WHISC is primarily a combat school. The courses above, whether in training skills, logistics, computers or resource management are all designed to supply an army unit with the necessary support to be able to engage in it’s primary purpose: combat.

Human Rights Instructor Course (CMS-5)
Corresponding SOA course: Human Rights Train the Trainer Qualification Course

"This course prepares students to qualify as human rights instructors at the battalion level. It provides a pragmatic approach to the integration of human rights into actual training environments . . .”

Although the Train the Trainer Course is listed in the SOA course catalog, SOA records show that no students actually attended the course in 1997, 1998 or 1999.

Peace Operations Course (CMS-6)
Corresponding SOA course: same title

“This course familiarizes students with emerging U.S. doctrine for peace operations. Training focuses on the tactics, techniques and procedures of peace operations, including logistics support, chain-of-command structures, rules-of-engagement development, psychological operations, and intelligence capabilities and assets. Further instruction is conducted in preventive medicine and sanitation for peacekeepers as well as citizens. Training encompasses the role of civilian controls on military operations and the varying roles civilian non-governmental organizations have in supporting peace operations.”

Democratic Sustainment Course (CMS-2)
Corresponding SOA course: same title

This course introduces and teaches the theory and practice of military and civilian leadership in a constitutional nation-state, drawing on the shared traditions of the countries in the Western Hemisphere. It examines governmental operations, legal/military law, historical foundations of regional democracy, and religious influences. Instruction is presented in a variety of formats, including student papers and oral reports, guest lectures, liaison visits with city and county leaders, political groups, and public administrators.”

The U.S. Army web page for the SOA once stated, “Many critics [of the SOA] supported Marxism – Liberation Theology – in Latin America – which was defeated with the assistance of the U.S.Army.” SOA graduates have been found responsible for numerous human rights abuses against Christian clergy in Latin America. This includes the Jesuit massacre, the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the rape and murder of four U.S. Churchwomen and suffering and death for countless others who practiced liberation theology.

An examination of religious influence by an institution that unabashedly takes credit for brutal repression of clergy and church workers has chilling implications.

International Operational Law (CMS-7)
Corresponding SOA course: same title

“This course provides instruction on the legal responsibilities commonly faced by military and civilian leaders in both peacetime and times of conflict. Instruction in operational law includes the legal basis for the use of force, rules-of-engagement, development and training, and the Law of War in operations other war . . . ”

While listed in the course catalog, this course was never actually offered at the SOA.

Counterdrug Information Analyst Course (TAC-10)

“This course is designed to introduce students to the demanding intelligence analyst career when operating in a counterdrug environment. The course provides basic intelligence duties and responsibilities in tactical intelligence, intelligence preparation of the area of operations, security of operations, and analysis techniques. It also prepares students to operate in a joint intelligence center.”

Inspector General Course (LDR-5)

“This course is designed to educate and develop the qualities, behavior, knowledge, and skills required by Inspectors General (IG). Students are taught the IG policies and processes required to perform the full-service functions of inspections, assistance, investigations, and teaching and training.” the full-service functions of inspections, assistance, investigations.

Why the School of the Americas Has Not Reformed PDF Print E-mail

April 1999

To: Foreign Policy & Defense Aides
From: Lisa Haugaard, Legislative Coordinator

In September 1998, a vote to cut funding to the US Army School of the Americas was narrowly defeated 212-201. Given this level of congressional opposition to the SOA, one would expect at a minimum increased congressional oversight of the school. In fact, oversight has taken a step backwards. While the FY98 Foreign Operations Act set forth specific requirements for the Secretary of Defense for reporting on the SOA, the FY99 Foreign Operations Act merely requires a letter from the Secretary of Defense certifying the school. This 3-paragraph letter, containing virtually no information, has been issued. The foreign operations subcommittees should reinstate the reporting requirement this year.

The FY98 report revealed serious, ongoing problems in curriculum oversight, few changes in the standard curriculum, and a complete lack of monitoring of SOA graduates. These problems remain unaddressed in 1999.

1. There is no adequate external evaluation of the School of the Americas' current curriculum.

The most thorough evaluation of the school's curriculum was carried out in 1996-97 by SOA instructors themselves. These "subject matter experts" lack any special training in human rights and law. In fact, the Defense Department Inspector General's 1997 report states that most of these subject matter experts were the instructors for the course they were responsible for reviewing. Not surprisingly, their review showed no problems. The Inspector General's report also found that "Most if not all of the those bodies responsible for external oversight of the school do not conduct hands-on content review of the school's lesson plans and instructional materials. These bodies rely instead on the school to perform its own oversight in those areas." (Executive Summary, p.1)

Another potentially "external" reviewer, the School of the Americas Board of Visitors (BOV), undercuts its own credibility by the fact that most of its recommendations were not directed to improve the school but to bolster its public relations image. A BOV report annexed to the 1998 certification report features advice on how to lobby members of Congress, meet with the media, plant op-ed pieces, and "develop a marketing plan to improve the image of the SOA in Latin America and the United States."

The SOA invites visitors to view the school. But these public relations visits are not a substitute for serious curriculum evaluation.

2. Deep flaws in past curriculum are not even admitted, so are unlikely to be corrected.

Human rights advocates find this lack of external review disturbing, given the egregious content of manuals and lesson plans used at the school in the past. The SOA and Department of Defense continue to maintain that these manuals, since removed, contained only "24 inappropriate or vague statements inserted throughout six publications (1,100 pages) that were otherwise completely consistent with U.S. law and human rights policy." This is, quite simply, an outrageous assertion. The six manuals from start to finish actively advocated that Latin American militaries spy upon and infiltrate civic organizations like opposition political parties, community organizations, labor unions, and charitable associations. They contain throughout a fundamental confusion between armed insurgents and legitimate, civic opposition. The manuals advocate illegal detention and operate in a vacuum devoid of reference to law or democratic values. On our webpage or available upon request are five pages of offensive excerpts from the manuals which the DoD apparently considers consistent with human rights policy. Given this continued dismissive attitude, human rights advocates can have no confidence in current curriculum review. If the school and the Defense Department can not admit or recognize the problem, they cannot correct it.

3. Human rights and democratic values remain a very small part of the school's curriculum.

Currently, the school promotes its new focus as a training ground for human rights and democratic values. However, the facts do not fit this picture. Of 52 courses (33 courses at the school plus 19 at the associated helicopter school) listed in the SOA 98-99 catalog, only five--Democratic Sustainment, Peace Operations, Civil Military Operations, Humanitarian Demining, and Human-Rights-Train-the-Trainer--focus on directly on human rights, democracy or humanitarian issues. According to the information supplied by the Defense Department to the foreign operations subcommittees in the Foreign Military Training and DoD Engagement Activities of Interest in 1998 and 1999 report, less than 10% of the students took any of these courses in 1998. Furthermore, although the SOA has made much of its Human Rights-Train-the-Trainer course, no student is listed as having attended the course in 1997 or 1998, and none are projected to do so in 1999, according to the Foreign Military Training report. This course, for all intents and purposes, does not appear to exist.

A four-hour block of human rights instruction taught to all students has been expanded, according to a U.S. Army letter to Congress, to eight hours, although it is not yet clear what this additional class time will cover or when it will be implemented. The block of instruction is positive but not nearly adequate.

The majority of the courses taught at the SOA are standard military fare, including Cadet Combined Arms Operations (attended by 175 students in 1998, compared with 68 for all of the above-mentioned democracy-oriented courses combined), Military Intelligence, and Psychological Operations. Despite its attempts to spin itself as a school for democracy, the SOA clearly remains primarily a military combat school.

4. Counter-narcotics training makes up a small part of the SOA's curriculum.

The SOA has also been seeking to recast itself as a counternarcotics training center. However, in 1998, only 94 out of 815 students (12%) took the school's two counternarcotics courses, according to the Department of Defense. It is interesting to note that for Colombia and Mexico, where U.S. foreign policy goals specifically stress counternarcotics, not counterinsurgency, only 15% of Colombian students and 13% of Mexicans took counternarcotics courses in 1998. Given these numbers, it seems doubtful that the SOA is key to the war on drugs, as its proponents claim. More importantly, military roles in counternarcotics should be strictly limited. Training militaries to take on policing roles in counternarcotics is not good human rights policy. The United States military is prohibited from carrying out policing within our borders. In Latin America, where some countries emerging from decades of military rule are attempting to separate police and military functions, encouraging militaries to get involved in policing represents a step backwards.

5. There is no objective evaluation of SOA graduates.

The 1998 certification report baldly states that "the army does not keep track of the 57,000 School of the Americas graduates." This means that there is no objective way to measure the SOA's claim that it produces officers with respect for human rights and democracy.

Yet despite this reluctance to admit to graduates who have violated human rights, the report asserts that numerous SOA graduates have gone on to make important contributions in their fields, and provides a list of the positions they had achieved. When Congressman Esteban Torres requested the names of those graduates, it turned out that at least five of these "prominent graduates" named by the Defense Department had human rights charges against them for torture, kidnapping and illegal detention.

6. Despite SOA claims that human rights abuses by its graduates are a thing of the past, new cases continue to surface.

After a cursory review, the 1998 certification report states that there were no new cases of human rights abuses by SOA graduates in 1996. Since that time, however, the State Department Human Rights Report on Colombia provided information implicating SOA graduates in a 1997 massacre and an illegal raid on a Catholic human rights group in 1998. Furthermore, the Colombian 20th military brigade, which was disbanded in 1998 for human rights abuses, was commanded by an SOA graduate.

7. Systemic reforms to avoid future abuses like those that occurred at the SOA are significant, but limited in scope.

To ensure that the United States does not train human rights violators or those involved in drug trafficking and corruption, new regulations have been instituted both for the SOA and for all other foreign military training programs to "vet" or screen candidates for training. This is a very positive step forward. However, without any evaluation of graduates, it is difficult to determine whether these regulations are being carefully implemented or what their impact may be.

A second promised reform may not even exist. In the aftermath of the scandal over the training manuals, the Defense Department was supposed to have issued a directive to ensure that no materials for training foreign militaries violate human rights standards. It is unclear if such a directive has been issued, what it contains, and how it is implemented.

In summary, serious questions remain regarding the curriculum and track record of the school. Furthermore, given the removal of reporting requirements from the FY99 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act, it will be difficult to get answers to these questions this year.

Army School's New Name Won't Disguise Atrocities PDF Print E-mail
The Department of Defense re-opened the United States Army School of the Americas (SOA) under the name "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation" at Fort Benning, Georgia on January 17, 2001. The new institute is no different from the SOA if replaces. It is a combat school. Infantrymen and women from Latin American come to learn to fight. By refusing to make any significant changes to the new school, the Department of Defense failed to address the real issue--the violence perpetrated against the people of Latin America by US-trained soldiers-- when it renamed the SOA.

The purported goals of "strengthening democracy, deepening the rule of law, and honoring human rights," have never been taken seriously, let alone achieved, by the SOA. In the past ten years, as the evidence against the school has mounted, leaders of the SOA have increasingly talked about freedom and democracy, but the record of it’s graduates belies their words. These same goals have been adopted by the new Institute, but there is no reason to believe that, with presumably the same curriculum and faculty as the SOA, the new school will be any different.

The starting point for this issue is the reality of Latin America, where the majority of people struggle for survival. They live in shacks lacking clean, running water or electricity. When their children become ill, there are no health clinics or hospitals to which to take them. When their children want to learn, there are no schools to which to send them. They see their children die before their time. Out of this reality comes the Latin American soldiers who learn combat skills at Ft. Benning – all paid for by the US taxpayers.

Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera has said that the SOA has nothing to apologize for. I disagree. Hundreds of graduates have been involved in thousands of deaths and disappearances. In El Salvador, SOA graduates assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero and raped and murdered four US churchwomen, two of whom were my friends. They shot and killed six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter, and massacred more than 900 unarmed peasants in a small mountain town called El Mozote. Among the SOA's more than 60,000 graduates are dictators Manuel Noriega of Panama, Rios Montt of Guatemala, and Hugo Banzer Suarez of Bolivia

The Pentagon claims that human rights abuses by SOA graduates are in the past. Unfortunately, they are not. They are a grave and significant part of the present. Guatemalan human rights champion Bishop Juan Gerardi was murdered in 1998. SOA graduate and former head of Guatemala's D-2 Intelligence Unit, Col. Lima Estrada has been charged with his murder. In Colombia, kidnapping and killings of unarmed civilians have been attributed to SOA graduates by the United Nations and international human rights organizations. More than 19,000 people were killed or disappeared during Rios Montt’s eighteen month reign of terror in the early 1980’s. He is currently the president of the Guatemalan Congress.

Historically, the civil institutions in Latin America have been weak and the militaries strong. The militaries have often prohibited free and fair elections, opposed an independent judiciary, and violated the human rights of those whose opinions differ from theirs. If we in the United States are serious about teaching democracy and respecting human rights in Latin America, then we should send soldiers to civilian institutions, where they will learn that the military must be subordinate to civilians. We cannot teach democracy through the barrel of a gun.

It is not for those who killed, tortured and raped to say "Let’s move on." We do not see recent events as "closure". True closure will only happen when the truth is told, the wrong is acknowledged, and those responsible for the crimes are held accountable. Only then can healing begin. Let the healing begin by closing the new-named school.

Fr. Roy Bourgeois, is a Vietnam veteran and a Catholic priest. He lived and worked in Latin America as a Maryknoll Missioner, for many years. He is the founder and co-director of SOA Watch.

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