What is the civilian role in civil-military relations? In the United States, the military is legally subordinate to civilian control. This subordination is a fundamental element of military professionalism, and includes following orders, remaining nonpartisan, recognizing the President as Commander in Chief, and submitting to the oversight of the Congress. In practice, the focus on military subordination supplies few specifics about civilian choices and behaviors. What responsibilities do civilian leaders have as superiors in the chain of command? How distinct are the things that motivate and shape civilians in the defense sector? Friend holds a BA in Government from Smith College and an MA in International Studies from SIS.
Alice Friends’s research tests the idea that military preferences for defense policy choices inform civilian preferences to a far greater degree than the traditional American civil-military relations literature thinks is either empirically possible or normatively wise. Using the development of special operations, unmanned systems, and cyber capabilities as case studies, she examines civilian preference as the dependent variable and suppose that military preference is an independent variable sufficient to determine the value on civilian choice. In so doing, she tests the assumption in the civil-military relations literature that instances of civil-military preference convergence represent civilian dominance over policymaking and thus am also questioning how we tend to measure whether civilian preferences “prevail.”
Friend is currently a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Prior to starting her doctoral studies, she worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense in a variety of positions, including as Special Assistant to the Undersecretary for Policy and as Principal Director for African Affairs. Her policy work covers a range of national security issues, including U.S. counterterrorism policy in Africa, security assistance to fragile states, and defense posture.