DOD Welcomes the State Department’s International Exchange Visitors

Source: DoD (

For decades, the Defense Department and State Department have partnered on the professional exchange program known as the International Visitor Leadership Program, which brings current and emerging foreign leaders to the United States to engage with federal, state and local government agencies, as well as the private sector and non-government organizations. The best-in-class program offers many participants their first opportunity to experience the U.S.

“IVLP delivers tremendous value for U.S. foreign policy. Each program reflects participants’ professional interests and supports U.S. foreign policy goals,” Michael Pignatello, State Department foreign service officer and liaison to DOD, said. ”IVLP participants take away new connections, resources, and ideas for addressing challenges at home. Participants also gain a deeper understanding of the American people and our nation’s diversity.” 

U.S. diplomats abroad nominate and select program participants, he said, noting that these diplomats are well-positioned to identify the up-and-coming leaders and young professionals best suited for the program. Several in-person program visits with DOD have already taken place this year and more are planned.  

IVLP, which focuses on a wide variety of topics from national security to workforce health and more, is designed to foster connections with international participants and their U.S. counterparts. Hundreds of participants engage with DOD each year. 

Countering Gender-Based Violence

Earlier this year DOD experts on gender violence briefed Egyptian social welfare officials virtually on strategies and best practices for countering gender violence, female genital mutilation, child marriage as well as how to support victims. The Egyptian participants expressed appreciation for the opportunity to engage in this detailed discussion with DOD experts working to end gender violence.  

Andra Tharp, senior prevention advisor for the DOD’s Office of Force Resiliency and Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, described how DOD “takes a health-oriented prevention approach to combating gender violence. DOD pairs policy with norms, behaviors and skills development to help the DOD workforce form healthier relationships.”


Cynthia Dyer, senior advisor for DOD’s Office of Force Resiliency, who also served on the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military, noted that gender-based violence is one of the key barriers to women’s empowerment and full participation in economic and social life in Egypt.   

The discussion also touched on the importance of engaging men in discussions of gender-based violence.   

“Empowering young men is vital to ensuring women’s full participation,” Dyer said, complimenting one Egyptian participant’s decision to conduct outreach to young men, encouraging them to reject negative gender stereotypes.   

Another participant described efforts to prevent female genital mutilation and referenced Egypt’s efforts to train both female and male advocates against this practice so they’re “smart and armed with information at an early age.”   

The department’s programs are unique: Every victim in the DOD system is given an independent attorney, so that there are three attorneys at every hearing — the prosecutor, the defense attorney and the victim’s attorney. Also, DOD provides an advocate for each victim and is building leadership competencies against gender violence, including engaging men to become allies.

Dyer said the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military was established with broad latitude to give new recommendations for how DOD can do a better job of creating specialized prosecutors, improving victim assistance programs, and prioritizing and addressing sexual harassment issues before they worsen or escalate into violence.  

Tharp noted that DOD is using data to help identify approaches to stop problematic behaviors and is measuring the impact of these efforts over time.   

“DOD’s engagement on this program for Egypt is just one example of how IVLP creates new connections with partners around the world to address issues that matter to our communities,” Pignatello said.  

Visitors from Portugal met virtually to discuss insect research with the U.S. Navy Entomology Center for Excellence in Jacksonville, Florida, which they visited in FY17 during an in-person IVLP visit. This engagement allowed scientists from University of Lisbon’s new entomological research facility to brief U.S. counterparts about the latest developments in Portugal’s research in this field.

DOD policy leaders briefed a virtual IVLP group from African, European, and Western Hemisphere nations who examined the process and key players in formulating, articulating and implementing foreign policy in the U.S. federal system; reviewed U.S. foreign policy priorities and trends in U.S. international relations; explored the domestic political and economic forces that influence U.S. foreign policy decisions; and discussed how social media is transforming the practice and formation of foreign policy.

Visitors from Spain attended an in-person meeting at the Pentagon to discuss U.S.-Europe security issues and transatlantic relations. The seven-member group included officials, researchers and journalists. During their U.S. visit, the participants engaged with experts on other topics such as counterterrorism, trans-boundary environmental policy issues, and global trade trends that frame positions in U.S. foreign policy.

Seven Portuguese engineers and researchers visited Washington and other cities in- person to build stronger relations between U.S. and Portugal aerospace experts. At the Pentagon, the experts met with Space Force representatives to discuss Portugal’s plans to construct a satellite launch site on the Azorean island of Santa Maria.

For more information about the International Visitor Leadership Program, please visit the IVLP website or the IVLP on Facebook, Twitter and  Instagram.