About The Perry Center

OUR MISSION

The Perry Center is a US Department of Defense institution for defense and security studies in the western hemisphere. Through courses, seminars, outreach, strategic dialogue, and focused research in support of policy objectives, the Perry Center works with senior civilian and military officials from the Americas to build strong, sustainable networks of security and defense leaders and institutions. In so doing, the Perry Center promotes greater understanding of US policy, mutually supportive approaches to security challenges, and improved, sustainable institutional capacity.


DMA Logo

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-U.S. 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 U.S. 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.

Abraham Lincoln Hall

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.

Eighteen 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.


In 2017, the Perry Center celebrates its twentieth anniversary: 20 years of empowering security and defense professionals in the Americas. For two decades, the Perry Center has educated policymakers, practitioners, and academics from throughout the Americas in the security and defense sectors to maintain the Americas a zone of peace. Over 12,000 students have passed through these doors, many of whom have gone on to lead the most prestigious defense and security institutions in their respective countries as ministers, senior policymakers, and military commanders. Perry Center graduates and partner institutions have developed and implemented national-level security strategies, promoted policies to institutionalize respect for human rights, and authored academic research that informs public policy decisions. Moreover, they comprise many of the women defense professionals who are shattering glass ceilings in defense establishments throughout the Americas. We are proud of the achievements our graduates and partner institutions, and look forward to continue this dynamic collaboration in the future.


Want to share your experience about the Perry Center? Please send your, pictures, and/or anecdotes to chdswebmaster@gc.ndu.edu. If you’d like to send us a video, just upload it to YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook and share the link with us!

EGAEE LetterBG Elvis Almonte, Director of EGAEE congratulates us for our 20 years. PoemUruguayan alumnus Janio Paiva Delgado composed a poem for our anniversary.
Poem2004 – Asunción, Paraguay
One of our first large-scale in-region courses
PoemPlaque presented to the William J. Perry Center by the Ms. Silvia de Leon, Coordinator for Guatemala’s Technical Secretariat of the National Security Council in recognition of the Center’s 20th Anniversary.