Air Force Negotiation Center of Excellence conducts EU, NATO training

  • Published
  • By Jodi Jordan
  • Air Force Culture and Language Center
"You don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate," reads the sign on the door of the Air Force Negotiation Center of Excellence, part of Air University's Spaatz Center for Officer Education, here.

As the NCE director, Dr. Stef Eisen is the Air Force's authority on negotiation. He recently teamed with the Air Force General Counsel Office Dispute Resolution Division to bring a one-day course on the negotiations skill set to an international audience at the first-ever European Union/NATO Negotiations Training event in Brussels, Belgium, in October.

The event was hosted by the Air Force General Counsel's International Law Division and is the latest in a series of collaborations between AU, NCE and the General Counsel office.

"(The General Counsel office) saw the need for the Air Force to have a corporate, enterprise-wide perspective on negotiation," said Lynda O'Sullivan, the Air Force deputy general counsel for dispute resolution. "We partnered with Air University to create the NCE in 2005. We wanted the NCE to be part of Air University to underscore the importance of negotiation skills across all functional areas and career fields."

Eisen and the NCE team provide education, training and research in negotiation and conflict resolution for a variety of Air Force and Department of Defense audiences. In addition to supporting AU's Air War College and Air Command and Staff College through Master's-level electives and core curricula instruction here, the NCE team supports and teaches at the Air Adviser's Course and the Pentagon Action Officer Course as well as the Navy's predeployment training for Maritime Civil Affairs and Stability Teams.

It was the positive reaction to NCE training at the Pentagon Action Officer Course that led to the request for Eisen to travel to Brussels, O'Sullivan said.

"Dr. Eisen's course on negotiations for Pentagon Action Officers is very popular, and it always 'sells out' quickly," she said.

After hearing positive feedback from peers who had attended the course, Al Klein, an Air Force associate general counsel in Brussels with NATO, began coordination to bring NCE negotiations training to his colleagues.

"We all negotiate every day, but as an American community in Brussels, negotiations can be even more critical," he said. "I wanted to attend the training myself, and I wanted our partners to be able to attend as well. We opened up the training only not to people from the U.S. military delegation to NATO, but also the U.S. Mission to the European Union, the Office of Defense Coordination/Brussels-Luxembourg and even some international partners. It was a very diverse population of students."

During the two, one-day executive-level seminars, more than 20 top-level decision makers from EU and NATO staffs participated in discussions and exercises designed to hone their negotiating ability. Each seminar examined negotiating strategies, decision-making, conflict management and the cross-cultural challenges presented when negotiating in the EU and NATO environments.

Event attendees left with overwhelmingly positive feedback for the course, said Klein, who included himself among those who benefited from the training.

"We all negotiate every day, so what I learned about different negotiation styles and how to conduct negotiations has already been helpful," he said. "Most importantly, I learned that negotiation can't be a pick-up game. You have to prepare."

Dr. Octavia Froto, a senior adviser in EU affairs, was one of the participants. She cited the unique nature of the training, which she characterized as "critical" in the international environment.

"The quality of the course, the level of information provided and the amazing quality of the invited speakers ... made it one of the most worthwhile professional experiences in my whole career," Froto said. "It is amazing how crucial the need for this sort of training is, especially when people are assigned to professional environments like Brussels EU and NATO."

Negotiation skills are important tools for military leaders, especially in the current global environment, Eisen said. Education and training in the skill can help prepare military leaders to address the challenges presented by this environment and help them achieve mission success.

"In today's context, military leaders work in an inherently joint, coalition, host nation, and/or civilian agency environment. This means military leaders are often charged with mission success working with people they have no direct authority over," he said. "Successfully accomplishing the mission in this environment demands the ability to collaborate and influence, in short, the ability to negotiate."

To learn more about the Negotiation Center of Excellence, visit or call 334-953-7729. The site features education, training and research on negotiation, including specific information to help military members prepare for deployment.

The NCE is an embedded center in the Air Force Culture and Language Center. For more information on the AFCLC, visit