Research event

Overseer or protector: Understanding the roles of defense agencies

Stephen Saideman, Centre Research Fellow and Paterson Chair in International Affairs at Carleton University, presents his research on the varying roles played by defence agencies among the world’s democracies. This event is part of the International Security Research Colloquium hosted by the Centre for International Security. 

This project aims to understand the varying roles defence agencies—Ministries and Departments of Defense—may have and to understand the pattern of variation among the world’s democracies.  The conventional understanding in the civil-military relations literature is that the civilians in the standard department or ministry of defense are responsible for helping their country’s leadership to oversee the armed forces.  However, there may be more variation in this role conception than commonly understood.  It may be the case that the defense agency sees its role as protecting the military from unwanted civilian interference.  An alternative in between these two extremes is for the civilians to consider their role as supporting their armed forces.  The larger project from which this paper is drawn compares fifteen democracies from across the world—East Asia, South Pacific, North and South America, and Europe—including older and younger democracies facing higher and lower degrees of external threats. 


  • Stephen Saideman is a Research Fellow at the Centre for International Security and holds the Paterson Chair in International Affairs at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs and is the Director of the Canadian Defence and Security Network.  He has written four books: The Ties That Divide: Ethnic Politics, Foreign Policy and International Conflict; For Kin or Country: Xenophobia, Nationalism and War (with R. William Ayres); NATO in Afghanistan: Fighting Together, Fighting Alone (with David Auerswald); and Adapting in the Dust: Lessons Learned from Canada’s War in Afghanistan, as well as articles and chapters on nationalism, ethnic conflict, civil war, alliance dynamics, and civil-military relations.  Prof. Saideman has received fellowships from the Council on Foreign Relations and the Social Sciences Research Council as well as a Research Award from the Humboldt Foundation. The first placed him on the Bosnia desk of the Strategic Planning and Policy Directorate of US Joint Staff for a year, the second facilitated research in Japan, and the third gave him an opportunity to spend two winter/springs at the Hertie School.  He taught previously at the University of Vermont, Texas Tech University, and at McGill University. He writes online including at his own site ( He has won awards for teaching, for mentoring other faculty, for public engagement, and for his blogging on international studies. His social media address is @smsaideman, and he co-hosts the Battle Rhythm podcast.