Public policy and defence studies

Catherine Hoeffler

This chapter introduces some of the key issues pertaining to the links between public policy analysis and Defence Studies. These have shown an ambiguous relationship. On the one hand, defence has always been considered as a very specific, if not unique, policy. This exceptionality has justified the reluctance of applying normalized theories and methods to it by some scholars. Also, because of its “international” dimension, defence has often quickly been associated with the discipline of International Relations. On the other hand, others have argued that notwithstanding certain methodological difficulties, defence should be analysed through public policy analysis’ tools because of its defining characteristics. Defence constitutes one of the core regal competences through which the nation-state has developed and consolidated itself since the 18th century: albeit its specificities, defence is therefore a public policy which can and should be interrogated as such, that is in relation not only to international relations but also in connection with domestic factors. As a branch of political science, public policy analysis has provided scholars with relevant theoretical frameworks and methodological tools to address questions relating to policymaking, its actors, processes, and consequences.

After a brief summary of how public policy analysis has historically been used in Defence Studies, this chapter will develop some of the traditional as well as more recent questions at their intersection. After that, it will discuss the methodological issues facing researchers in this field, and most notably the question of dealing with secrecy and confidential data.

Introduction: Public policy and Defence Studies, Je t’aime moi non plus

Public Policy1   and Defence Studies have entertained an ambiguous relationship. On the one hand, defence  has always  been considered  as a very specific if not unique policy (Boëne 1990; Deschaux-Beaume 2011; Deschaux-Dutard  2018). This  sup- posed  exceptionality  has justified  some  reluctance  to employ  similar theories and methods just like the ones used for “civilian”  policies. Also, because of its interna- tional  dimension, defence has often  quickly  been associated with the discipline  of International  Relations  (IR), and Foreign  Policy  Analysis  (Hudson  2005;  Kaarbo 2015). These two factors can explain why, overall,  it seems fair to say that Public Policy  has not investigated defence policies very much. This is especially true when compared to the large number of publications on some other policies: think of how much  attention  has  been  devoted   to the  welfare state  and  its  various  policies (Esping-Andersen  1998; Morel  et  al. 2012;  Pierson  1996;  Thelen  2014). On  the other hand,  notwithstanding   certain methodological   difficulties  (Carreiras  and Castro 2014; Soeters et al. 2014), defence is a fascinating policy to analyse through Public  Policy because  of its defining  characteristics (Irondelle  2008; Joana 2012; Vennesson  2000).  Defence constitutes  one  of  the  core  sovereign  competences through  which  Western  nation-states have  developed  and consolidated   since  the 18th century: it is therefore  of crucial importance to understand such policies  at the core  of  a historically  embedded  (and potentially  temporary)  form of  political organization  and their evolutions.

Scholars have debated whether defence policy  is as specific as often  assumed: In other words, the question has been whether “normal” scientific approaches could be applied to it and if so, which one (with competing accounts from IR, Public Policy, or sociology).  This debate is particularly visible in the case of the European Union and the integration  of national Member  States’ defence  policies.  An originally Realist- based  consensus took for granted  that defence  policy,  because it belongs to high politics, would not be integrated, or at least not as much as other  civilian,  mostly economic  policies. This conventional  wisdom  has been challenged  in many ways, which we will explore later. But this debate is not settled yet. In a book analysing how the EU has encroached upon core state powers (Genschel and Jachtenfuchs 2013), the three authors dealing (albeit from partly different angles) with the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)  do not agree on whether or not the EU has gained authority in this policy (Menon  2013; Mérand  and Angers 2013; Weiss 2013). While they explain why according to them their findings do not contradict each other, it seems to the reader that they actually do, but for very good reasons: they position themselves differently  with regard as to how “exceptional”  a policy  defence is from the outset and how it therefore can be expected to remain so in the process. In con- trast with the others, Anand Menon  holds that despite all the nitty gritty of institu- tional reforms emphasized by other  authors as evidence  of an increased EU’s role, states leave no room for the EU in this field. In other words, while some see changes, he does  not (Menon 2013): depending  on  one’s core  theoretical  assumptions, the CSDP’s glass is half-full,  or half empty.

This debate cannot and should not have a definite conclusion, for the pros and cons of applying standard public policy approaches may well vary from case to case and over time. As a branch of political science, Public Policy  has provided  scholars with relevant theoretical frameworks and methodological  tools to address questions relating to policymaking,  its actors, processes, and consequences. But what are the key areas where public policy  can contribute to a better understanding of defence? What does it mean, methodologically,  to study  defence  through  a public  policy approach? This chapter  will first present some  of the traditional  as well  as more recent studies where public policy’s approaches have been usefully applied to defence. After that, it will discuss the methodological  issues facing  researchers in this field, most notably the  question  of  dealing  with confidentiality   and  the  researcher’s fieldwork.

Public Policy contributions to Defence Studies

Because it is not a homogenous field, Public Policy offers a variety of theoretical and methodological  approaches. This variety is reflected in how scholars have investigated defence policy. This section first proposes a reading of Public Policy contributions to Defence   Studies  organized   around  the  policy cycle’s  main stages  (Jones  1984). Despite  the criticism the policy  cycle has drawn (Harguindeguy  2014), it is here  a heuristic device to cluster questions together. These subsections bring together scho- larship that does not originate solely from Public Policy, but that relies on questions and concepts developed by this field. I will then go on considering how Public Policy has contributed  to the study of policy internationalization and international coop- eration, with a special focus on the European Union  and NATO. This section con- cludes with a focus on certain types of actors beyond national executive branches, such as parliaments  or bureaucrats.

Setting the agenda: when does defence matter?

Agenda  setting has constituted one of the most advanced  research agenda in Public Policy (Baumgartner and Jones 1991; Birkland 2016; Rochefort  and Cobb 1994). The aim of this literature  is to understand why, i.e. under which conditions, a problem  is constructed, emerges and is eventually put on the political agenda. It brings nuances to the conventional wisdom according to which, to put it in a nutshell, governments deal with problems  because they just “matter”  or matter more than others: the fact that governments  deal with certain  problems  rather  than others cannot  be captured  by functional logics alone. The nature of the problem at stake (more or less appealing  to the public, more or less useful to political actors), institutional features (number of veto points,  federal v. central  government,  for instance),   as  much  as  various   actors’ preferences and strategies (the media and media coverage, public opinion, political entrepreneurs) constitute different explanatory factors to analyse why certain problems make it onto the political  agenda while others remain unanswered. These questions have been applied to defence policy at both national (McDonald  2013) and interna- tional/European (Dijkstra 2012a; Vanhoonacker and Pomorska 2013) levels.

Who governs if not the Commander in Chief?

Dahl’s famous “Who governs?” (Dahl  2005) is a core question of Public Policy. Based on sociological  accounts of decision-making and of organizations (Allison and Zelikow 1999; Cohen et al. 1972), Public Policy accounts of defence policies have much focused on the institutional logics shaping decisions. Historically  this has come as a critique against the conventional wisdom according to which the elite at the top of the execu- tive branch holds a monopoly over this policy (domaine réservé) and that they are able to lead rationally. In this respect, studies about the influence of specific politicians have mostly shown that these leaders, while being visible and vocal, appear much less influ- ential than institutional and bureaucratic factors in the shaping of national defence policies (Allison and Zelikow  1999; Missiroli  2007; Williams  2004). Yet, leadership studies are not to be discarded (Beckett and Gooch  1981; Starr 1980); they have seen a revived level of interest, with scholars showing how under comparable conditions lea- ders’ personal characteristics matter (Dyson  2006; Howorth  2011; Irondelle 2011). This literature  has mostly  been qualitative  in nature and focusing on the micro-level  of individuals and their behaviour. They rely mostly on interviews, archives, and the press, such as important  newspapers (the New York Times, the Financial Times, Le Monde, die Zeit) or specialized media outlets and blogs (Defense News, Janes, etc).

Notwithstanding  the importance of these studies, much work  has been done to de- centre theories from  these “grands hommes”  for a number of (good) epistemological and theoretical  reasons. This shift has also been accompanied  by a pluralization of methodologies,  with the development  of quantitative  approaches imported  in large parts by comparative  politics’  input. Disputing  the idea that political  parties share a consensus  over issues related  to high politics,  many  scholars from Public Policy’s, Comparative  Politics’  and IR’s ranks have investigated  the role of party politics in national and European defence policies (Hofmann  2017, 2013; Wagner  et al. 2017). These can be either qualitative (Hofmann)  or quantitative (Rathbun and Wagner  et al.). Another  important question has been the role of public opinion’s support to gov- ernments’ choices in matters of defence, at national and international levels (Brummer 2007; Höse 2007; Schoen 2008). Jason Reifler  et al. compare for instance three com- peting theoretical models to explain British public opinion regarding the use of force in Libya and Afghanistan (Reifler et al. 2014). Catarina P. Thomson  analyses the ups and downs of executives’  approval,  based on public support for economic and military coercion and on executives’ (in)consistency (Thomson  2016).


Implementation  is another important  research agenda of Public Policy (Elmore 1979; Pressman and Wildavsky  1984; Sabatier and Mazmanian  1980; Sabatier 1986; Spillane et al. 2002).  Implementation   studies explain  how public  policies  are implemented, which very often account for explaining why policies profoundly  change from their original  design up until their application  at the local level by “street-level bureau- crats”  (Lipsky  1983). These questions can either be theory-driven or policy-oriented (meaning targeting practical action): explaining why and how policies “deviate”  in their implementation  is a valuable knowledge for policymakers  seeking to enhance policy efficiency. Many  studies have  investigated  defence  policy from an  imple- mentation  perspective (Eckhard  and Dijkstra  2017; Juncos 2009; Merlingen   and Ostrauskaite  2010; Morillas  2011; Smith 2016; Strikwerda 2018; Whitman  1998). Key issues are how  military  operations  are implemented  on the ground,  to better capture  military efficiency  and the  possible  flaws  in  the  decision-making.   For instance, the analysis of privatization  process of the former Defence Evaluation and Research Agency  into Qinetiq  gives a  better understanding of its implications  for the quality of defence R&D.

The internationalization  of national defence policies: the case of the European Union

The internationalization of public policies has been an important research agenda since the 1980s. Globalization  and regional integration have been two dynamics affecting how policies are made, by whom and with what impact. The development of European integration in defence has first occurred through the institutionalization of cooperation among EU Member States, then through the creation and strengthening of proper EU- institutions (intergovernmental  and supranational).  These dynamics have constituted an important field of research at the intersection between European integration theories and IR, with contributions of Public Policy and Comparative Politics (Bickerton et al. 2011; Howorth  2014; Howorth  and Menon  1997; Hurrell and Menon  1996; Kempin and Mawdsley  2013; Mérand 2008). Debates evolved around the concept of Europea- nization, defined as the  processes of (a) construction  (b) diffusion and (c) institutionalization of formal and informal   rules,  procedures,  policy paradigms,  styles,  ‘ways  of doing  things’  and shared beliefs and norms which are first defined  and con- solidated in the making of the EU public policy  and politics and then incor- porated in the logic of domestic  discourse, identities, political  structures and public policies.(Radaelli  2002, p. 110)

Some  scholars have found  profound  traces of Europeanization of national  defence policies (Britz 2010; Dover 2007; Eriksson  2006; Gross  2007; Irondelle  2003; Rieker 2006), whereas others have doubted the importance  of such dynamics (Olsen  2011), going sometimes as far as arguing that some policies display a process of de-Europea- nization (Hellmann  et al. 2005; Wagner 2005).

An emphasis on certain types of actors: beyond national executives

Parallel to these themes, numerous studies focus on the role of specific actors through- out the policy process. In the case of defence, public policy scholarship has emphasized the importance of other actors over the executive branch.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, defence policy is not the monopoly of the head of the executive branch and her advisers. Some have inquired the role of parliaments at national  and European  levels (Béraud-Sudreau et al. 2015; Cutler and Von  Lingen 2003; Deschaux-Dutard  2017; Fonck  et al. 2019; Lord 2011; Martin  and Rozenberg 2014; Peters et al. 2010; Riddervold  and Rosén 2016; Rosén 2015). Other studies have underlined the unexpected influence of bureaucrats over international cooperation  and national policies. This is especially clear in the case of the EU and its bureaucracy: Both the Commission (Blauberger and Weiss 2013; Lavallée  2011; Mörth  2000; Rid- dervold 2016; Riddervold  and Rosén 2016) and the European External Action  Service (Adler-Nissen  2014; Furness 2013; Vanhoonacker  and Pomorska  2013) have proved more influential  than  state-centred  accounts  had expected.  This  influence  of EU bureaucrats can run through from  agenda setting to implementation  phases of CSDP (Dijkstra  2012b, 2012a; Eckhard and Dijkstra 2017). Others have worked on the role of the industry in the shaping of either national or European defence policies (Bitzinger 2008; Oikonomou  2012).

Methodologies and methodological challenges

Public Policy  studies focusing on defence policies display a variety of methodologies, which this  chapter  cannot  comprehensively   account  for. This variety is  partly attributable to the heterogeneity of the Public Policy field itself, stretched between its policy-oriented and its more critical poles (and their dedicated methodologies).  This chapter first considers the methodological  variety in studies dealing with one of the Public Policy’s core themes identified above. It then discusses some  methodological challenges.

Towards methodological plurality

Much of the scholarship devoted  to defence policies has adopted  qualitative  meth- ods. A great deal of Public Policy  scholarship has developed theoretical approaches centred on discourse analysis of some forms  (Béland  2009; Schmidt and Radaelli 2004).  This also  holds  true  for studies focused  on  defence  policy.  This focus  on discourse analysis has many roots. First, the fields of IR (Katzenstein 1996; Wendt 1999)  and Public Policy (Hall 1993; Jobert and Muller  1987; Sabatier 1998) both went  through  their  ideational  turn. Ideational  factors  (ideas,  representations, dis- courses,  etc) are  considered  to play a distinctive  (yet possibly complementary  of material ones) role in interpreting  or explaining  policy  changes. But the focus on discourses also finds its origin  in the scarcity of “hard” data,  which  is especially true in the defence  realm.  Given  that there is less quantitative  data,  less access to fieldwork,  the researcher finds him/herself much more  dependent  on the very dis- courses produced by the institution itself and its actors. Paradoxically  enough, in a policy domain where (national)  interests are often taken for granted as the main (if not only) explanatory  factor,  research is mostly dependent on discourses and sense- making. This point and the challenges it raises will be discussed later  in this sec- tion. Discourses are gathered through the analysis of general and specialized media (press, blogs), parliamentary records, official  speeches, grey literature (reports, either for dissemination or not) and by semi-structured interviews.

Jolyon Howorth  has early on adopted such an approach for his research on CSDP:

Ideas, though not unconnected to interests, can take on a life of their own. The aim of this article  is to scrutinize the policy-making  process in order to under- stand the connection  between  interests, ideas and discourse in the construction of yet another security narrative emerging in 1998/99 – European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) – which many were led to believe posed a challenge to the apparently  triumphal  NATO  narrative of the mod-1990s.  This study con- centrates on the role in this process of three countries – Britain, France, and to a lesser extent, Germany  – not only because they are the main security players in Europe,  but  also because  they offer strikingly  contrasting  pictures of the metamorphosis of a policy community, of the seminal role of ideas, and of the importance of appropriate political discourse. (Howorth  2004, p. 212)

Embedded  in the  same  theoretical   framework   of  discursive   institutionalism, Antoine  Rayroux  shows how  military  cooperation  (in the European Union  Force (EUFOR) Chad operation) between two countries with diverging  interests (France and Ireland)  was made possible  by ambiguities  in  the  discourses developed   by national defence policies (Rayroux  2014). This author shows how discursive and institutional variables interact to explain the evolution  of national defence policies and potential international cooperation. In  a comparable  direction,  many other authors study the framing  of defence policies  (Blauberger and Weiss  2013; Kur- owska  2009; Mörth 2000). Discourses and ideational  factors’  relevance  is yet not to be taken  for granted,  but to be  assessed on a case-by-case  basis and can be combined  rather than opposed  to other factors (Meyer and Strickmann 2011). In some epistemologies  and methodologies,    discourses  constitute  an  explanatory factor per se.  In others,  they can  be  used  as a tool to reconstruct  processes of policy  change and identify factors within them, for instance by using process tra- cing. Beyond a simple description of events, the method of process tracing allows to identify  the  mechanisms of change (Bennett  and Checkel  2014; Bezes  et  al. 2018;  Mahoney 2012).  Bastien  Irondelle   used    process-tracing  to explain  the French  President  Chirac’s decisive  role  in the reform  that ended conscription  in French armed forces (Irondelle  2011). His book was a prime example of excellent inductive research, based on very rich empirical material (Irondelle  2011, pp. 28–29), which allowed  him to reconstruct the decision-making  process in a very con- vincing manner.

Beyond  the analysis of institutional documents (the “grey literature”) and of the press, many  studies rely on  the conduct  of semi-structured interviews  (Deschaux- Beaume 2012; Hoeffler  2012; Hofmann 2013). The number of interviews used and/or referred to in published articles in academic journals varies a lot, from a dozen to more than 100. The acceptable number of interviews depends on the status given to the interviews, which is defined by an article’s epistemology and theoretical approach and by what  journal  is targeted.  Whereas  positivist  journals  may require a high number of interviews and some data on the interviewees, post-positivist journals may accept  interviews  as performing   an  illustrative  rather  than  explanatory  function. Other  qualitative  methods  adopted  can  range  from archival  work (Cohen  1999; Deschaux-Beaume 2011) to participant observation or even participation  as (semi-) insiders (Pajon  2005; Schmitt 2015).

Quantitative methods have a long history in comparative politics and IR when it comes to investigating peace and war dynamics (Doyle and Sambanis 2000; Soeters et al. 2014; Wimmer  et al. 2009). They are also on the rise in studies pertaining  to defence policies. This is particularly  visible  in studies that focus on party  politics and public opinion’s influence on  defence policies  (Wagner et al 2017).  Political parties’ manifestos have constituted a fruitful source of data through the Manifesto Project2  supported by the German Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB) and the  Deutsche  Foschungsgemeinschaft  (DFG)  (Volkens  et  al. 2018). Party manifestos have been used by some quantitative studies analysing the parties’ impact on defence policies (Herbel  2017) along with other qualitative studies (Hof- mann 2013). Other studies rely on the Chapel Hill Expert Survey3 (CHES):  Wagner et al. use this survey  to map political  parties’ positions on military missions on a left-right axis (Wagner et al. 2017). Regarding public opinion analysis, many studies focusing on Europe make use of the Eurobarometers (Brummer 2007; Schoen 2008) or other national surveys (Mader  2017). Qualitative  analysis of media coverage is complemented  with quantitative  research focusing  on social  media  (Gupta and Brooks 2013; Simon et al. 2014).

Innovative  methodologies  have also been applied to the analysis of defence policy, with attempts at combining in new ways qualitative and quantitative methodologies. De Vreese et al. use survey-embedded experiments to analyse how the framing the EU’s common foreign and security policy on public support, in order to analyse the various frames  the elite and media  use (De Vreese and Kandyla  2009). A current research project on CSDP led by Harald Schoen (University of Mannheim) focuses on the elite- public opinion  nexus in CSDP and involves mixed methodologies,  i.e. mass surveys, elite interviews and media analysis.4

Specific and not so specific methodological challenges

Doing  research on defence policy entails a few methodological  challenges. Some have already been  discussed elsewhere  recently  (Carreiras  2006; Soeters  et al. 2014; Deschaux-Dutard  2018), which allows me to focus on a few that seem of particular importance. I argue that these challenges are not necessarily unique: they can be com- pared to the ones encountered by studies focusing on policies with high levels of con- fidentiality,  linked to security  concerns  and/or big economic  interests (think of big business, such as pharmaceuticals  and mining  industries).  Moreover  they may epito- mize difficulties that research in social sciences is increasingly  encountering.  As such, they may be interesting to consider for scholars that are not working on defence  as well. This subsection  considers  two sets  of questions: first,  the various  impacts  of secrecy and confidentiality  at different levels in the research process when  studying defence as a public policy; second, the researcher’s relationship to her fieldwork and the questions that arise from it.

Confidentiality and research: public policy approaches caught in the crossfire of conflicting methodological demands

Quite  a large number  of publications  deal with the  impact  of secrecy  and con- fidentiality on doing research in security and defence domains. Many  focus on how to access information  and how to get and conduct interviews (Boumaza and Campana 2007; Cohen  and Arieli 2011;  Cohen 1999;  Deschaux-Beaume   2012;  Garcia and Hoeffler  2015; Lancaster 2017). The difficulty can be of various intensities and natures, considering that it can stem from administrative hurdles or from the dangers of doing research in conflict zones. Obstacles to do “normal” fieldwork can be so important on some topics or in some areas that some scholars interrogate the very limits of research. Ahram explains how the Iraqi regime’s opacity has made fieldwork almost impossible, which had led researchers to look for alternatives (Ahram 2013). Difficulties to analyse war “on the ground”, from Vietnam to Mali, can be included here. This is crucial because difficulties to access fieldwork  define the borders of knowledge production, i.e. what areas, topics, historical periods, etc. scientists do publish about. Needless to say that this has tremendous political  consequences too.

Next to the question of access, what  is at stake is the nature and quality  of the accessible data.  Interviewees  may give  erroneous information,  be it because  they flat-out lie, because they make  unintentional  mistakes, or because  this is just how they experienced a given  situation. These  biases could  be even stronger in policy domains combining  an explosive mix, i.e. being characterised by high stakes (poli- tical, economic,  symbolic,  etc)  and  by high levels  of confidentiality,  for formal- institutional  reasons  (institutional  authorizations  required)  or informal-symbolic (professional cultures of secrecy) ones. This may prevent the researcher from trust- ing information  gathered through interviews. Another  methodological  issue would lie  in  the sampling  problem.  Overall,  snowballing  strategies’  lack of randomness (selection bias) and the low number of interviews lead positivist, mostly quantitative approaches to mistrust interviews  as a reliable source of data. In defence,  this pro- blem is magnified  by the unpredictability of elite interviewing: not only can they be harder to get, but they are few in absolute numbers, they may not be recordable, and information  triangulation may not be possible. This does not mean that inter- views are useless or to be discarded. They can serve different purposes, from getting information, to triangulating  sources and to making  sense of processes and “facts” obtained elsewhere (Garcia  and Hoeffler 2015; Mosley  2013). Interviews may well be the most appropriate  source of empirical material in those very policies marked by formal and informal  forms  of confidentiality. Methodological   challenges may rather  arise when  it comes  to designing and implementing  comparative  research projects (Deschaux-Beaume 2011; Hoeffler  2013, 2008).

Last, but  not least, confidentiality  also impacts  how to use empirical   material, mostly interviews, in writing  and publishing research (Kaiser  2009; Lancaster  2017; Lilleker  2003). Researchers have come up with different “technical” solutions to use these sources without  compromising  in any way their interviewees’  identity and thus without harming the trust interviewing  relies on and necessitates. While  doing  inter- views in defence  used to be seen  as  very specific given  its high(er)  confidentiality requirements, it could be argued that this specificity is waning. The emergence or rise (depending on countries) of codes of ethics and stricter procedural  rules for interviews, for all advantages they entail, also represent a new administrative hurdle for research- ers to overcome, irrelevant from the policy’s characteristics at stake. They impact both the authorization  process by which the researcher can contact potential interviewees and how data are handled afterwards, for in most cases data storage is now required to be anonymous and safe for “civilian” policies as well.

Qualitative  research based on interviews finds itself caught in the crossfire of conflicting demands between increasing replicability requirements and open access on the one hand,5  and measures pertaining  to cyber-criminality  and the protection  of data privacy:  this used to particularly  affect  security and defence policies  but does now touch policies across the board.

A researcher’s relationship to fieldwork: power, autonomy and safety

I consider here three questions that seem of particular importance for a public policy researcher. First, one needs to consider how power affects research on defence policy. While it is widely acknowledged that interviewing entails a power relationship (Cham- boredon et al. 1994; Cohen 1999; Lancaster 2017), gendering this power relationship is not yet sufficiently achieved in Public Policy approaches to defence, in sharp contrast to other academic fields (Arendell  1997; Enloe 2014; Margaret  Fonow  and Cook 2005; Mazur  and Pollack 2009; Shepherd 2010; Tickner 1992). Thinking and acting upon the gender dimension may be obviously  important when female scholars interview male defence-elites, but it is just as important  in other situations. However  gender cannot be considered in isolation from other characteristics: it should be thought of as working in relation to other  dimensions such as race and class (Chowdhry   and Nair 2004). Power  is performed  through gender and gender is (re)produced  through power.  The knowledge produced by interviews  is thus not immune of these gendered,  racialized power relations (Carreiras and Alexandre 2013).

Second, the researcher’s independence  is of paramount importance. This has been captured  as the insider/outsider question  (Deschaux-Beaume 2011): how to be suffi- ciently close to the military institution in order to get information, yet not too close so as to not be biased in any way? This is a trade-off  between access and indepen- dence that many researchers face at some point. This concern is obviously  also true for other policies as well. But a difference lies in the fact that in some policies more than in others, state institutions have an interest in (and an historically acknowledged habit of) shaping the academic discourse and/or in using it in self-legitimizing strate- gies. Shaping  the academic  discourse does  not need to take the ultimate  form of censorship: concealing  information  or cherry picking  what information  to reveal, selecting the researcher’s interlocutors, requiring formal  authorization  prior to pub- lication, financing only certain research projects (by framing the acceptable concepts, cases, etc.), or demanding a “give and take” exchange of information with defence services, among  others, can, voluntarily  or not, influence research. Engaging  in a more or less institutionalized  relationship  with the defence establishment has down- sides and advantages,  which the researcher should be aware  of, especially when it entails financial aspects (Monjardet  1997). While  becoming an insider may improve fieldwork opportunities, it also increases the risk of being influenced by the institution under scrutiny and of participating in a dilution of the frontier between the academic and military spheres.

Last, and in relation to the second point,  doing  research on defence policy can entail  security  risks, for the researcher, her home  institution  and the interviewees. Fieldwork  can be dangerous, especially in dynamic,  unstable political  contexts of non-democratic regimes: the murder of an Italian PhD student in Egypt, the arrest of some others on suspicion of treason or spying activities are sadly here to remind us of it (Glasius  2018). These  cases have  triggered  more  discussion about  our  research practices and obligations  (Knott,2019;  Wackenhut 2018), but they have also led to a strengthening   of  fieldwork rules  by many universities,  supported   by national ministries of Foreign Affairs. While these may improve  researchers’ safety, they also represent a securitization of research for some (Peter and Strazzari 2017). This latter dimension  has potential  important  methodological   consequences for research  on defence policies, in non-democratic but also in democratic regimes. The researcher’s physical safety  becomes  dependent on bureaucratic criteria beyond  her reach (for instance, the definitions of situations of risk, that may differ),  and that can be influ- enced by other (political)  considerations. This is not to say that safety is not a legit- imate concern:   but   researchers  should   be   aware of  how  bureaucratic  safety requirements  may influence fieldwork  in the future, from the definition  of what is feasible up to what is publishable. For instance, in France, the Direction  for Military Intelligence  signed a partnership with the National  Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), the long-standing public state-funded research institution in France in June 2018.6 This sparked much controversy over the scientific independence’s meaning and concrete dimensions: will research be as free when some objects, some concepts and definitions  are  preferred  and encouraged  over  others by the  MoD? How can  a researcher be credible and reliable towards her sources when her home organization supports  and promotes  such transfer  of knowledge  towards  military  institutions? Such questions are of paramount importance not only for the quality of research, but also for its very possibility and for the researcher’s safety.


Public policy has contributed to Defence Studies by providing scholars tools to analyze defence  policies,  their actors and processes. This chapter  has explored  agenda-setting approaches, decision-making  theories, and implementation  studies, and how  they have been  applied  to defence policy.  Moreover,   public policy scholars have  engaged  in exploring  international  military  cooperation   through  concepts  such as policy inter- nationalization or integration. In the case of the European Union, a large literature on the CSDP  has brought together scholars from public policy and IR in discussions about the  Europeanization  of national  policies.  Methodologically,   these contributions are manifold:  while many analyses are qualitative  and based on interviews,  an increasing number of scholars explore national or international defence policies with quantitative or mixed methodologies. Analysing defence through a public policy approach does not go without methodological  challenges though. This chapter has engaged with two of them: how confidentiality  impacts  various  stages of research,  from getting  access to inter- viewees to publication; the relationship of the researcher to his/her fieldwork in front of new or renewed obstacles.


1  Public Policy in this chapter designates the field of political science that focuses on the analysis of governments’  actions (and absence thereof),  including many stages such as agenda-setting, decision-making, implementation, and evaluation (Cairney  2012; Howlett  et al. 2009; King- don 2011; Sabatier 2007). According  to Ribemont et al. 2018, “Studying  public policy  is essentially a question of how a society tries to solve its own problems. What is called ‘public policy’  can indeed be described as all the means, formal and informal, that a society develops to deal with the problems that can weaken its coherence and functioning.  […] The ‘public’ response  to these problems  means  that  these problems  are  dealt with collectively,  often through the action of the State: facing difficulty  to find solutions, society gradually  equips itself with ‘public  policies’,  that is to say, rules, funding,  specialized  personnel,  programs, indicators, always more sophisticated, allowing  it to come with ways of dealing with these problems” (Ribemont et al. 2018, p. 5). Public Policy with capital letters refers to the scientific field; without capital letters, it means the object, i.e. a state policy.

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SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and International Relations in addition to a Master's degree in International Security Studies. Alongside this, I have a passion for web development. During my studies, I acquired a strong understanding of fundamental political concepts and theories in international relations, security studies, and strategic studies.

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