On September 12, the 2014 Washington Security and Defense Seminar (WSDS) wrapped up a week of intensive discussion on global and regional security and defense issues. The course, designed to educate members of the diplomatic corps from Latin American and Caribbean nations on the functions of the US government and, in particular, on how security and defense policy is developed, was attended by almost 60 military and civilian officials. Participants included a number of general officers and ambassadors. The course touched on important issues such as US foreign policy, foreign development assistance, interagency coordination, the role of the Departments of Defense and State, US defense policy, the US budget process, congressional oversight, and the role of non-government organizations in policy development.
The course coincided with the major defense policy announcement by President Barack Obama on September 10 on an escalation of the defense strategy in northern Iraq and Syria against the radical forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The announcement generated an energetic discussion on whole-of-government efforts to counter transnational threats. It also highlighted the distinct roles of the executive and legislative branches in the formation of defense policy in the United States, as the president and congress will work together to approve and carry out operations against ISIS.