The William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies is a trusted agent uniquely positioned to convene the leading network of security and defense practitioners in the Americas in ways that promote dialogue, encourage strategic thinking, and facilitate shared solutions to contemporary challenges, including governance, transnational threats, cybersecurity, climate security, and the rule of law and human rights protection. By offering executive-level education, producing cutting-edge research, and promoting cohesion among alumni, the Perry Center distinguishes itself as the premier forum for supporting countries in the Western Hemisphere to build more effective and accountable security and defense institutions.
The Perry Center supports the community of security and defense professionals in the Americas to pursue collaborative approaches to mutual opportunities and challenges. Through academics, research, and outreach, including ministerial-level consulting, we advance sustainable institutional capacity, strengthen the rule of law and democracy, and promote greater understanding of US policy throughout the Western Hemisphere.
Capable security and defense sectors across the Americas that embody democratic values and embrace positive civil-military relations.
The William J. Perry Center, originally known as the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies (CHDS), was born out of the first Defense Ministerial of the Americas (DMA) in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1995, a conference established by then-US Secretary of Defense William J. Perry to convene defense ministers from around the hemisphere to discuss shared defense and security issues. At the inaugural assembly, participating officials expressed two concerns: the need to strengthen ties between civilian and military officials in hemispheric defense ministries and the need to increase the number of qualified civilian professionals trained to deal with defense issues. In response to these quandaries, during the second DMA held in Bariloche, Argentina, in 1996, Secretary Perry proposed creating a regional center dedicated to training civilian defense officials and conducting educational activities to bring military and civilian leaders together to discuss important defense and security challenges. Driven by the consensus that mutual security was dependent on the stability of democratic states, as well as transparency and accountability in the defense and security sectors, participating officials agreed that only through openness, the free exchange of ideas, and greater trust could a more stable hemispheric and global security environment be achieved.
Between 1996 and September 1997, preparatory work for what became CHDS was conducted by a team from the US Department of Defense and the National Defense University which included consultation with regional stakeholders such as the defense ministries and civilian academics. Inaugurated on 17 September 1997, CHDS opened its doors. The following day, the Center’s first event kicked off: a 2-day Hemispheric Conference on Education and Defense. Its first director, COL (ret.) John Cope, and two faculty members officially reported for duty in December. CHDS conducted its first three-week course, the Defense Planning and Resource Management Courses in March 1998. The Center also conducted the first of many in-region seminars in Bolivia that year.
On April 2, 2013, the Center officially became known as the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies (The Perry Center) in commemoration of its founder, the 19th Secretary of Defense, Dr. William J. Perry. In June 2014, the Office of the Secretary of Defense appointed Mr. Mark Wilkins as Director. In collaboration with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Mr. Wilkins initiated a strategic reassessment of the Center’s mission and goals that culminated in a new set of priorities for the future, including support for the Department of Defense’s Defense Institution Building (DIB) initiative. The Center’s current director, Dr. Paul Angelo, began his tenure in June 2022. In 2024, the Spanish translation of the Center’s name changed to “Centro de Estudios de Defensa Hemisférica William J. Perry” to align with the English version more closely.
Recognizing the need for stronger government institutions and more proficient civilian and military defense leadership in Central America, the Center will act as a catalyst to incubate, enhance and sustain transparent and capable defense and security governance institutions that encourage democratic values, rule of law, and good governance–as well as promote key defense strategic interests and secure security cooperation investments. The Center will accomplish this mission by building institutional capacity through the development of professional ministry-level officials, promoting civilian control of the military, and, with the support of stakeholders, developing and facilitating the implementation of national defense strategies and policies.
Twenty-seven years later, the Center continues to evolve, using education, outreach, strategic communications, and research to achieve an expanded mission of bolstering partner capacity and strengthening trust, mutual understanding of US and regional defense and international security policy issues, and regional collaboration in order to ensure a more stable and secure hemisphere.
Celebrating 25 Years
The William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies commemorated twenty-five years with an anniversary and award ceremony on September 22, 2022. Joined by special dignitaries – including Mr. Daniel P. Erikson, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Western Hemisphere; Lieutenant General Andrew A. Croft, Military Deputy Commander of US Southern Command; and COL (ret.) John Cope, who stood up the Center in 1997 – three hundred guests from twenty-six countries gathered in person and virtually to celebrate the Center’s achievements, its founder and namesake William J. Perry, and all who have advanced the Center’s mission, including faculty, staff, partners, and alumni – i.e., “La Familia Perry.”
In 2022 the Perry Center celebrates 25 years empowering security and defense professionals in the Americas, 25 years building trust with individuals and institutions committed to making the Americas safer and stronger, 25 years convening practitioners in an environment of intellectual openness and exchange, and 25 years championing democratic values and the meaningful integration of civilians, women, and interagency partners into security and defense activities.
Since its creation in 1997, the Center has engaged more than 30,000 participants in more than 1,700 forums. These forums include long-form resident courses, tailored in-region seminars, workshops, webinars, and ministerial-level consulting. The Center’s active alumni network is more than 7,000 strong and growing. With partners and alumni in 47 countries, the Center’s strength lies in its ability to convene dedicated professionals and to create opportunities for strategic dialogue and collaboration.
Dr. Paul J. Angelo, Director of the Perry Center, thanked the Center’s many partners for 25 years of collaboration that has advanced sustainable institutional capacity, strengthened the rule of law and democracy, and improved civil-military relations across the Americas. “We look forward to building on the momentum we have created together in the days and years to come,” he said.
2022 Perry Awards
At the event, the William J. Perry Award for Excellence in Security and Defense Education was presented to two individuals and one institution in recognition of significant and sustained contributions to advancing security and defense education in the Americas. The 2022 awardees were General (ret.) Raul Oswaldo Jarrin Roman, former Minister of Defense of Ecuador; Commodore Errington Ricardo Shurland, Chief of Staff of Barbados Defence Force; and the National Defense College of Honduras.
Former US Secretary of Defense William J. Perry extended personal congratulatory notes to the awardees, read by Dr. Angelo. To General Jarrin and Commodore Shurland, Secretary Perry wrote, “I applaud your commitment to the vision of preparing the next generation to achieve the goals of peace, prosperity, and cooperation that we in this hemisphere hold dear.” To Colonel Sergio Portillo, as Director representing the National Defense College of Honduras, he wrote, “Please convey my sincere congratulations to the entire community-faculty, staff, and students. It is institutions such as yours that will carry our work and aspirations forward into the future-long past the life of any individual.”
“While I am unable to attend in person,” he continued, “my congratulations and gratitude for your accomplishments to date are genuine and know that I will be enthusiastically cheering you on to continued success from California-now and into the future.”
Looking to the Future
To conclude the ceremony, Dr. Angelo relayed Secretary Perry’s congratulations to the Center on its many achievements in advancing the themes of focus at its founding: defense transparency and confidence building, defense cooperation, and the role of the armed forces in twenty-first century democracies. “I congratulate you on your 25th anniversary. But – there is more to do. So, enjoy the well-deserved celebration but forge ahead to even greater achievements in the next 25,” Dr. Angelo read adding, “We have our marching orders. The rest is up to us.”
From Our Partners
“Happy 25th anniversary, Perry Center. You’ve been keeping Secretary William Perry’s vision of a shared hemispheric community alive for the past two and a half decades. May you continue to make that vision a reality today, tomorrow, and for decades to come.” – General Laura J. Richardson, Commander of US Southern Command
“The work we have done individually and collectively [to advance hemispheric defense cooperation] inspires and paves the way for the next generation of defense and security leaders. I know Secretary Perry would be very proud of everything his Center has achieved.” – Daniel P. Erikson, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Western Hemisphere
“For the past 25 years, the Perry Center has been an amazing partner, embedding the Williamsburg Principles into its executive-level education, cutting-edge research, and exceptional programming. The Center is key in convening military and civilian partners across the region…and remains a cutting-edge, innovative, and essential institution in creating a more peaceful and prosperous shared neighborhood. – Lieutenant General Andrew A. Croft, Military Deputy Commander of US Southern Command
“Congratulations to you and the Perry Center team on a quarter-century of cultivating networks of policymakers and practitioners with whom DoD can pursue collaborative approaches to hemispheric security. The Perry Center has an admirable track record of convening experts and stakeholders to solve the thorniest regional and global challenges, and your programs are essential to the Department’s efforts to promote effective and accountable security and defense institutions in the Americas. I am excited to hear about your plans to further these efforts in the years ahead.” – James A. Hursch, Director of US Defense Security Cooperation Agency
“There are international organizations of great transcendence and influence in our region, such as the Perry Center, which has allowed us to consolidate the civil-military relationship to strengthen our institutions, and to achieve, in addition to strengthening, a way to promote and help democratic development in the region…I have felt deeply privileged to be a student of the Perry Center and later a professor for several years. And today, even more so when I receive an award in the 25 fruitful years of the Perry Center.” – General (ret.) Raul Oswaldo Jarrin Roman, former Minister of Defense of Ecuador
“The Perry Center is widely accepted as a leader in advancing hemispheric security and is known as a creditable, respected, and dependable institution that combines academia with real world security practitioners to look at the myriad of security challenges that we all face. The high-level engagements with presidents and ministers in defense and security matters, the innovative research, and the national level strategy documents such as defense white papers, national security policies and strategies, and also implementation plans, bear testimony to the excellent contribution that you have made to citizen security in the Americas in the last quarter century. I take this opportunity to congratulate the Perry Center on their 25th anniversary and salute you on the scholarship and advocacy in matters relating to defense and security.” – Commodore Errington Ricardo Shurland, Chief of Staff of Barbados Defence Force
Authorized under 10 USC § 342, the DoD Regional Centers for Security Studies (RCs) are international venues for bilateral and multilateral research, communication, exchange of ideas, and training involving US and foreign military, civilian, and nongovernmental participants, utilizing their unique academic forums to build strong, sustainable international networks of security leaders. RCs are unique among institutional capacity building (ICB) providers, as they target a primarily multilateral, inter-ministerial, senior-level audience.
The RCs support the National Defense Strategy objective of strengthening alliances and attracting new partners by: (1) Offering executive-development strategic-security studies, research and outreach in rigorous outreach programs that foster long-term collaborative relationships; (2) Developing and sustaining relationships and communities of interest among security practitioners and national security establishments, especially in defense, throughout the region; and (3) Enhancing enduring partnerships among the nations of the region.
While RCs support a range of policy priorities directed by the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and Geographic Combatant Commands (GCCs), and requests from foreign partners, they prioritize three functional areas, in accordance with their statutory mandate: territorial and maritime security, transnational and asymmetric threats, and defense sector governance.
Advises the Secretary of Defense on RC policies and activities, and coordinates with the Geographic Combatant Commanders (GCCs) on RC policies and activities. Provides guidance, direction, and oversight for the RCs. On an annual basis, reviews program plan and structure of each RC in order to determine whether each RC is appropriately aligned with the strategic priorities of the DoD and GCCs, making any necessary revisions to better align activities. Serves as the RC directors’ senior rating official, in consultation with the lead GCC, and designates an appropriate regional ASD to serve as the first-line rating official for each RC director.
Coordinates OUSD(P) direction and oversight of the RCs.
Establish associated policy and procedures, as necessary, including assigning specific areas of focus and country assignments for each RC.
Provide guidance to the RC directors on matters within their functional areas through the ASD(SPC).
RCs coordinate with relevant GCCs to develop innovative and creative programs relevant to their AORs to support implementation of the defense strategy, in general, and geographic CCMD theater campaign objectives, specifically. GCCs serve as advocates for the RCs in engagements with military counterparts and ministries of defense within the GCC’s AOR.
As Executive Agent, provides programming, budgeting and financial management of the resources to support the operation of the centers; provides civilian personnel to staff, including military and civilian human resources services, support and personnel management.
Develop and implement activities in accordance with guidance from the USD(P), in coordination with the appropriate ASD, lead GCC, and other GCCs as applicable, and within administrative and resource guidance from the Director, DSCA.
* Framework text obtained from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA)