Scores on a scale of 15
Military Professionalism

The armed forces maintain a strong sense of cohesiveness, emphasizing adherence to procedure and the chain of command and building on loyalty to the military institution and its stake as a principal partner in the ruling political order. Professional credentials are important at junior and mid-level officer ranks, but personal and political loyalty become more important at later stages in their careers. The high premium placed on maintaining the ruling political order and on securing loyalty impedes military reforms and innovation that could enhance operational effectiveness.

The military justice system is well-defined and insulates the armed forces from civilian oversight, but is vulnerable to manipulation to serve the political purposes of the president or senior military commanders. The military education system produces professional and technical competence, but is counterbalanced by the importance of political and personal connections for career advancement. The armed forces project the appearance of a professional military, but doctrinal rigidity, discouragement of initiative, and a lack of realistic training mean that their actual capability is below potential.

Low Efficiency
Q1. What weighs more heavily in shaping the organization and operational capability of the national armed forces: professional assessment of defense needs or political factors?

Defense planning and force development are done entirely by the military, with oversight and involvement by the president. The process draws on professional competences, but is heavily influenced by political considerations, and lacks the institutional checks and balances and professional inputs from civilian sectors that could help identify and meet emerging threats and needs. There is no evidence that defense reviews are conducted, although in 2014 the National Defense Council was assigned responsibility to determine force structure and size, future development, training, and preparedness.

The design and management of military capabilities is not beholden to partisan politics, but procurement decisions often reflect the military’s parochial interests instead of efficiency, such as procuring advanced weapons systems without adequate training or capacity for maintenance. Command and control are governed by professional rules and procedures, and follow objective criteria, especially at junior and mid-level ranks, but promotion to senior ranks is more dependent on demonstration of loyalty to superiors and the president.

The constitution prohibits the formation of military or paramilitary forces other than those authorized by the state, and none have appeared. The lack of a joint chiefs of staff, coupled with the subservience of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and minister of defense to presidential control, demonstrate that loyalty considerations outweigh objective defense needs in determining the chain of command. Human resources development is heavily shaped by adherence to rigid institutional structures and demonstration of conformity, and initiative and innovation rarely serve career advancement. The armed forces generally welcome foreign military assistance and technical training, but strongly resist advice in other aspects of defense affairs.

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Low Efficiency
Q2. How well bound is the military by a professional ethic?

The armed forces have a strong corporate identity and a high level of institutional cohesion, and have remained dependable in the face of major challenges and upheavals. But this derives heavily from their stake as a partner in the ruling political order and from the premium placed on cultivating and rewarding political and personal loyalty, weakening the importance of professional merit in determining command appointments.

The armed forces generally obey orders once issued by the president, and do not prioritize legal norms, including when confronting unarmed citizens, unless they see it in their political interest to do so. Personal and clique loyalties based on graduating class and branch of service influence appointments, but the formal military hierarchy is observed. Intergenerational tensions may occur between junior and mid-level officers on the one hand, and senior officers at the rank of colonel and above on the other, partly over substantial differences in material perquisites, and partly over the perception that the loyalty principle among the senior officer corps undermines professional and operational readiness.

Military personnel tend to regard civilian government counterparts as incompetent, or even corrupt, reinforcing their reluctance to accept civilian authority. Nonetheless, officers of all ranks regard their conditions of service as better than those of civil servants of equivalent rank or seniority. Foreign military assistance programs do little to promote professionalism, political impartiality, or acceptance of civilian oversight and involvement in defense affairs in the armed forces.

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Intermediate Efficiency
Q3. How well-defined, regulated, and transparent is the military justice system?

The military and civilian justice systems are formally separate, but the former encroaches considerably on the latter’s areas of jurisdiction. In addition to trying civilians accused of political opposition, civilians involved in criminal acts or even accidents on or near military-owned facilities that are open to the general public—including gas stations, highways, clubs and sports centers, malls, and civilian-purpose construction sites—are brought before military courts. Military personnel may only be prosecuted in civilian courts on charges arising after their retirement from service, but the Ministry of Defense determines unilaterally whether officers accused of financial offenses are to be tried in military or civilian courts. The president may deem select senior generals to be in active duty for life, effectively exempting them from standing trial in civilian courts.


Judicial review in the military justice system is weak, as political direction from the president influences the charges that may be brought against active-duty and retired military personnel, as well as the outcomes of trials. This is also evident in the failure to hold the armed forces accountable for loss of civilian life or property due to improper enforcement of rules of engagement. The armed forces act in line with informal expectations about how they should conduct themselves ethically, and command authority is fairly robust, but they also exhibit a strong sense of legal immunity and superiority to civilians.

Generally, the rank and file privilege conformity to the chain of command over ethical norms. Legal controls on military behavior and the ethics of warfare are taught in military schools and incorporated into military regulations, but are not monitored or enforced clearly through the chain of command. The armed forces aspire to emulate professional militaries worldwide in terms of acquiring equipment and capability, but not of commitment to international humanitarian law. Training in international humanitarian law and the ethics of warfare is nominal, and taught only to mid-level and senior officers. Any emphasis on human rights or legal codes of conduct by providers of foreign military assistance is regarded as a formality, and has no visible effect on socializing ethical norms among the Egyptian military.

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Low Efficiency
Q4. Is military education conducive to professional development and performance and to stable civil-military relations?

Military education is effective in instilling institutional cohesion and a corporate identity in the armed forces. Entry to military schools is mainly based on ability, but informal ties play a part; applicants from lower-income backgrounds and suspected Islamists are barred, and Copts are under-represented. Officers see a positive correlation between military education and career advancement, but also recognize that political and personal connections or family ties are necessary to reach command echelons. The armed forces invest in higher education for officers, but it is unclear what human capital these officers retain.

Civilian academics deliver lectures on an individual basis, but are not involved in course design, and the input of civilian academic institutions is minimal or nonexistent. The military curriculum does not inculcate civilian values and respect for civilian authority. Civilians and officers attend joint national defense courses at the Nasser Higher Military Academy, but this is mainly to socialize military norms, beliefs, and political views among civilians. Officers assigned to military economic enterprises receive some business training, and the military education system provides technical, scientific, and engineering skills that may be useful for personnel contributing to the national economy after returning to civilian life, but this is not integral to curriculum design at commissioned and noncommissioned ranks.

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Intermediate Efficiency
Military Professionalism
Efficiency Levels
Q1 - Military Competences
Q2 - Corporate Ethic
Q3 - Military Justice
Q4 - Military Education