“Indonesian Defense University aims to prepare military and civilian leaders to address national defense and global strategic challenges through comprehensive multi-disciplinary educational programs, professional exchanges, research and outreach in developing a broader security perspective”

The need to enshrine democratic reform practices that has taken root in Indonesia over the past 10 years has required the Indonesian armed forces, Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI) to maintain its commitment to reform, to transform itself into a professional and modern military force. Such changes were evident in how the TNI has performed in recent years under the leadership of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, which included a new and more humane security approach in areas of conflict such as Aceh and Papua; its leading role in humanitarian relief operations particularly in disaster stricken regions like Aceh, Nias, and Yogyakarta, as well as its credible participation in peacekeeping missions abroad under the UN banner such as in Lebanon.

Clearly there are further steps required for the TNI to undertake to sustain its reform efforts.  In January 2008 the Department of Defense, with the support of President Yudhoyono and the Cabinet, identified, as a critical area of security sector reform policy, the need to upgrade the overall human resource capabilities of the TNI by enhancing the quality of our military education with the long-term aim of transforming the TNI’s military culture. In the past military education was often viewed in a narrow sense. Combat or operational expertise were viewed as paramount and placed at top of the hierarchy of skills necessary for officers to undertake their duties. In today’s global environment, military officers are required to have new perspectives and disciplines to broaden their understanding of a fluid international and security environment where change is an ever-present reality.

To achieve this, therefore together with the TNI and through a good collaboration with the Ministry of Education, the Department of Defense developed a comprehensive and integrated plan on the establishment of a defense-related university. After a series of consultations and feasibility studies, the long-awaited Indonesian Defense University (IDU) came to reality. On March 11, 2009, President Yudhoyono himself officially inaugurated the new university at the State Palace, which was attended by cabinet ministers, ambassadors and defense attachés, flag officers from the three services, students and faculties from a number of prominent universities from Aceh to Papua, as well as representatives from various NGOs and media groups. We wanted to highlight the critical importance of having such an institution, that defense and national security could not be left to the military alone, and that it should be in the interest of all elements of civil society. On this occasion President Yudhoyono also launched the first International Seminar organized by IDU. This event was intended to bring together the perspectives of academic community and policymakers on the relevance of IDU for a 21st century national security strategy in addition to other socialization purposes.

The University is expected to provide a world-class education for future leaders of the country with an increased focus on strategic defense and security issues. Of critical importance, to facilitate better democratic civil-military relations, IDU will include candidates from non-military backgrounds drawing in elements of civil society and facilitating enhanced understanding and collaboration between two critical players that have for so much of Indonesia’s post independence history has had an adversarial relationship.

I have been quite fortunate to be part in the IDU working team, where I could effectively contribute, especially in the planning process, by utilizing my personal experience as a student of a Strategic Studies program at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. To gain insights that would later allow us to enrich the quality of our future university as well as to build up a good international rapport, we paid a number of study visits overseas to institutions that have strong focus on defense and strategic issues, such as the National Defense University (NDU) in Washington DC, US, the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University, as well as the SAFTI Military Institute, Singapore. In addition, our team has also initiated talks with other parties such as the Cranfield University, UK and the Giessen University, Germany. The response that we received was highly encouraging. We also played an active role in establishing good communications with key individuals from these institutes in the process of facilitating positive commitments for future cooperation between their institutes and our IDU.

Not unexpectedly, however, the development of IDU met a number of challenges. The first challenge was how to make IDU a hub for all defense-related studies, which would require a significant reorganization of the existing military educational centers, such as SESKO-TNI (TNI Joint Staff College) and Sekolah Strategi Perang Semesta (School of Total Defense Studies). The other major challenge was the limitation on the budget support. To establish a high quality educational system would require significant investment for recruiting good faculty members as well as getting adequate infrastructures such as the IT systems, books and other academic resources. But we also fully understood that the limited resources must be proportionally allocated for the whole spectrum of defense-related requirements, from the operational and maintenance programs, to modernization of weapon system, to military pay and healthcare.

Establishing communications with various institutions and defense-related academic think tanks and universities was absolutely critical. Particularly important in this regard was the need to source for logistics and human resources to start-up the IDU considering the acute shortages of such resources in Indonesia. Through good relationships with partner institutions and other country governments, we were able to negotiate several technical assistance programs, which help a great deal in terms of designing a relevant curriculum, making available certain international faculty as well as funding assistance for key infrastructures.

In terms of overcoming the challenges associated with the reorganization of military educational institutions, the IDU working team was required to assist in negotiations explaining the merits of the initiative with various interest groups including those who had initially resisted the idea. More importantly, each agency had to be socialized into understanding the benefits of being part of the IDU structure. We also conduct a series of workshops to get buy-in and support from the larger domestic academic community and other elements of civil society.


Torch represents knowledge, as a fundamental structure of the integrity of the country. Shield features an instrument of defense. Globe symbolizes the global security arena. Red and white color signifies the Indonesian flag. Swords stand for weaponry, one of the components of war, which is used as the last resort. Paddy and cotton visualize justice and prosperity, as the ultimate goals of the nation.

The Indonesian Defense University is founded on three basic tenets: identity, nationalism, and integrity. These are the values to be instilled in the future students of the university.


The first tenet, identity, refers to the basic values of Indonesian identity as summed up in the national ideology, Pancasila. The cornerstone of Pancasila lies in social justice, which also reflects the national goals as envisioned by our founding fathers. Social justice can be seen not only as an end in itself but also as the means by which growth and development of the nation ought to be achieved. In a sense, prosperity of the nation could only be achieved through sustainable development, and social justice is the key to sustainability. Through growth with social justice, it is hoped that the potentials for frictions within the diverse society and various ethnic groups that make up the social fabric of Indonesia or any other social challenges could be addressed, which in turns result in better security conditions and stability in the provinces throughout the country. In short, social cohesiveness breeds stability and peace. In this regard, both the military and civilian components share equal responsibilities in promoting social justice. Such conceptual understanding of our national identity clearly affects the thinking in our defense strategy formulation and approach. It is therefore essential that future students of IDU have clear understanding of our national identity.

Second, nationalism refers to the sense of belonging to one nation, Indonesia. That Indonesia is one of the few nations that have had to fight for their independence gives great sense of pride to all Indonesians. The Indonesian Defense Force (TNI) was established from a myriad group of student movements, guerilla militias and irregulars representing diverse ethnic, religious and local identities preceding the proclamation of Indonesian independence on August 17, 1945. These disparate forces were imbued with the fighting ethos that defined latter day Indonesian defense policy of “total people’s warfare” and subsequently “total defense and security”. Nationalism was, and continues today, to be the defining basis of the TNI’s world-view. The unity of the people and our national defense forces are seen as key elements to winning our national independence and in overcoming various challenge throughout our nation’s history. This also holds true in times of great difficulties such as those posed by natural disasters. The TNI often becomes the first on the line to work with and lead the local community in disaster relief efforts. It is with this heightened sense of nationalism that future leaders of the nation are expected to undertake their study at IDU and prevail over the challenges that will confront the nation ahead.

Third, integrity could have two meanings: at the individual level, it refers to steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code; and at the national level, it refers to the awareness as a responsible member of the community of nations. In today’s environment of globalization and interdependence, Indonesia has an active role to play in the efforts to preserve and promote international peace. To this end, our country has always maintained adherence to its “bebas-aktif” (independent and proactive) foreign policy. In addition, the increasingly complex global environment brings new and multidimensional challenges to all nation-states alike such as in the case of terrorism and other non-traditional security issues. The ever-fluid geopolitical conditions particularly in the Asia-Pacific region also enter into our geostrategic calculations and pose their own strategic challenges. These are some of the wide range of elements that students of IDU must strive to understand better while maintaining their own individual integrity.

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