This article argues that growing civilian direction of the defense sector should generate three consequences: greater interoperability of the armed forces, a stronger emphasis on operations outside the national territory (here called externalism), and better defense-diplomacy coordination. An original investigation of the makeup of the drafting committees of three of Brazil’s national security strategy documents since the mid-1990s shows that varying rates of civilian participation in defense policymaking generate an impact on defense policy directives commensurate with theoretical expectations. Defense policy implementation, however, has found varying degrees of success. Using new and systematic quantitative data, this study demonstrates that interoperability has made progress, defense-diplomacy coordination is at an intermediate stage, and externalism, albeit not a failure, is still far from a success. Externalism’s performance is a consequence of rising crime, deficient police forces, the pragmatism of civilian elites, and public support for law-and-order military missions.