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Stephen Hadley on the U.S. response to the Arab Awakening

August 19, 2011

Former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post about the need for the United States to do its best to ensure the post-revolutionary transitions in the Arab Awakening succeed. He writes,

The role for the U.S. government is to help organize a “comprehensive approach” by our nation and others, bringing together and coordinating the disparate efforts.

This comprehensive approach would include Arab States, international organizations, major international companies, and NGOs. Hadley continues,

But first the U.S. government needs to organize itself.

PNSR has found that major policy initiatives are the most effective when organized around an empowered interagency team. Hadley proposes,

The president needs to appoint an empowered official reporting to him (or to the president through the secretary of state) to work full time on this effort. This official must create a small interagency team to coordinate all relevant U.S. government agencies in a unified approach. Even more important, this official must reach out to and encourage action by the various nongovernmental entities whose contribution will probably be even more critical to this effort.

Hadley experienced the major changes in Europe during the fall of the Soviet Union, and was a part of the leadership that lead the Bush Administration through arresting the escalating violence in Iraq. The administration should take heed of his experience, and not allow its Middle East policy to fall into bureaucratic drift.

The Power of Both

May 27, 2011

One of our senior associates, Christopher Holshek, wrote this for the Huffington Post:

It’s no secret that success is greatest in synergy. Most of us can recall how Sesame Street taught us the importance of neighborhood cooperation. The Wisdom of Crowds took this to a much higher collective level, explaining more scientifically what we understand intuitively. We Americans like to think we are a country of rugged individualists and great leaders — and, indeed, we are to some extent more than other societies. Yet, our true genius is when we invoke “enlightened self-interest” and engage the panoply of our diversity when taking on divisive socioeconomic issues or finding our place in the world. Our best moments are when we do the right things rightly through a balance of necessity and choice, for pragmatic as well as idealistic reasons. Perhaps we are arriving at another such time.

Some are saying that the death of Osama bin Laden may be providing that opportunity, bringing the country more together. Others, like David Brooks in The New York Times, contend that cooperation is more evolutionary than episodic, intertwined with competition: “We have an incentive to work in teams, even against our short-term self-interest because cohesive groups thrive.” By collaborating, we are better able to compete — as groups more than as individuals.

Signs of more comprehensive and collaborative approaches to more collective problems have been proliferating for some time. The Obama administration has been talking up “national competitiveness” as its primary interest. Its now year-old National Security Strategy “… calls for a comprehensive range of national actions, and a broad conception of what constitutes our national security.” Influenced by the Project on National Security Reform, it emphasizes its foundation as economic, social, and moral, and looks to “… tap the ingenuity outside government through strategic partnerships with the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, foundations, and community-based organizations.”

Nothing new here. Public-private collaboration has long been trademark of the way America operates, when it operates best. From the Transcontinental Railroad to the internet, there are scores of examples of “private roles for public goals,” as John Donahue and Richard Zeckhauser recently pointed out in the National Journal: “From de Tocqueville’s day to the present, Americans’ knack for cobbling together pragmatic alliances has often served to offset our weak suit of formal government.” The Central Park Conservancy, Prescription Drug User Fee Act, charter schools, federal job training policy and the Coast Guard’s approach to port security are more recent cases. Though not always appropriate (or appropriately done), as with some defense and security contracting, public-private collaboration nevertheless “… unleashes the unpredictable resourcefulness of an entrepreneurial people to improvise fresh, flexible solutions,” while it “… deploys America’s diverse palette of productive potential — public and private, for-profit and nonprofit, employee and volunteer — to the pursuit of the common good.”

This is as true abroad as it is at home. Our foreign aid may at last be changing from being dominated by “threat reduction” and rather in line with peace and prosperity on a more human and pragmatic level, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Global Development Alliance and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, transforming foreign aid from a handout to a hand, with far greater return on investment and creating opportunities for more trade and less aid.

As the world becomes more humanized as well as globalized, some are taking the public-private nexus up the collaborative ladder beyond “whole of government” and “whole of nation” to “whole of world.” In addition to the likes of Bono, George Clooney, Angelina Jolie and Sean Penn lending star power to relief efforts, in an unprecedented initiative, major corporations — including American Airlines, Kellogg’s, Cisco, Yahoo, Symantec, Big Y Food, Air Products, Pacific Gas & Electric, Genetech, VSP Vision Care, McAfee, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Cargill and True Blue Inclusion — are joining a United Nations campaign to promote diversity and inclusion at workplaces at the grass roots level, in honor of the UN World Day for Cultural Diversity (for more, go to the Facebook page, “Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion”).

As Jean-Christoph Bas, senior advisor for Strategic Development and Partnerships at the UN Alliance of Civilizations, points out: “As business has gone global over the past few decades, its role in spreading values has gained importance… The corporate sector has been at the forefront in thinking about diversity, because it is vital to their business. There is obviously a transfer of experience that can be organized by doing public-private partnerships.”

Now on an international as well as national scale, corporate social responsibility is less a marketing gimmick than intrinsic to the bottom line. Even overseas, where foreign aid has implications in a much broader national security context than before 9/11, socioeconomic development is as much a business opportunity as it is a foreign policy challenge — finding The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid is as much about creating the ground floor as it is getting in on it. That’s why simply cutting the foreign aid budget can actually do more long-term harm than short-term good. Consider that Africa and Latin America, while major recipients of foreign assistance, are also among the fastest growing regions in a global economy in which the U.S. wishes to find greater export markets and help generate jobs.

Collaborative governance has new impetus for two reasons. First is the interconnected complexity of many problems — and opportunities, involving the core interests and vitality of both sectors, from powering the economy while creating new and environmentally-friendly energy technologies, providing efficient and effective health care for all while reducing costs, refurbishing and reinventing infrastructure, reforming public schools to produce better quality labor, reforming immigration, and so on. What goes around comes around, especially at the state level, where the market place is also the tax base. The effectiveness of the government in generating “a spacious commonwealth” is now as much in the interest of the private sector as is the private sector’s ability to foster wider spread prosperity and economic opportunity is for the government.

The second has to do with resources. Because of the scope and scale of increasingly intertwined socioeconomic issues, neither the public nor private sector has the wherewithal to tackle them alone. For generations, Americans could afford inefficient, redundant and segregated solutions to everything from national security to health care and education. It’s not only that these solution sets no longer work; it’s more that the resources at our disposal, in the face of these exponentially larger challenges, are increasingly scarce. Just look at the deficit. The era of cheap energy and cheap capital is coming rapidly to an end. Both sectors have to adapt a new business model that involves less profligacy and more strategy — politicians can’t just throw taxpayer money at problems, creating one program after another, and then say they fixed it; and overpaid CEOs can’t placate shareholders by just laying off workers and then call that “creative management.”

Roles are being re-defined. Collaboration implies a different, but not necessarily diminished, responsibility for government and a greater public service function for businesses. As Donahue and Zeckhauser suggest, “the public leaders responsible for orchestrating collaboration must be open-minded but tough-minded, steadfast about goals but flexible on means, at once pragmatic and principled. Ensuring that people in both sectors have the smarts, skills and soul to get the best and avoid the worst from collaboration is a big national challenge.” The same is true for companies that are also members of communities. The key word is “partnership”.

Perhaps we can also finally discard our 19th century adversarial labor-management relationship. In Germany, for instance, as part of the “co-determination” scheme, union members sit on the board of directors and profit-sharing is more commonplace. Think that isn’t a good idea? Then get rid of your Mercedes, BMW, VW or Audi. (Similar collaboration in Japan and Korea, by the way.)

The 19th century idea that may, in fact, be more appropriate is the Law of Comparative Advantage. There are some things the private sector does well and ought to be left to do, while there are some things the government is best responsible for. But going beyond that, there are more and more things they do better together. As part of a “comprehensive engagement” strategy abroad, through its greater agility, adaptability, teaming and multisourcing of talent-to-task, the private sector can function as an agent of change, introducing market forces and commercial enterprises as stabilizing and mitigating factors to broadly-defined areas like conflict prevention and other security-related activities featuring heavier economic development content. And the less money we have to spend on guns is more money we have to spend on butter. Moreover, collaborative development efforts internationalize, legitimize and globalize a whole effort whose power far exceeds the sum of its parts.

Whether at home or abroad, the public-private debate shouldn’t be about how much but how. And whether America continues to maintain its greatness by reinventing itself depends on whether Americans can, with characteristic gumption and common sense, come together to apply the grandest of ideals — e pluribus unum. It’s not either/or, but both.

The Real False Sense of Security

May 19, 2011

One of our senior associates, Christopher Holshek, wrote this for the Huffington Post:

In the wake of the celebrations and commemorations over the death of the personification of what America has perceived to be the most palpable threat to its national security since September 11, 2001, we are likewise taking an appropriate moment to think about what this all means now and where we go from here. All well and good, but perhaps in all the discussion we have more of an opportunity than we may at first realize, and for longer than we think.

Of course, Americans would be sadly mistaken in assuming a false sense of security over the death of Osama bin Laden in terms of terrorism and unfinished business in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a friend put it, “it’s a bit like the crowd going wild because you got a three-pointer at the buzzer to go on top, but then realize that it’s only the end of the first half”. The end of bin Laden does not spell the end of terrorism, even though it could mean the end of Al Qaeda. Still, we can now at least place a war named against an age-old tactic fully in the rear-view mirror and think in more realistic terms about our security interests.

Indeed, there is an opportunity for the Obama administration, with the removal of this symbol of nemesis, coincidental to the re-assignment of Gen. David Petreaus — the architect of U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan — to the CIA, to seriously scale down our military commitment in Central Asia as well as our defense budget overall, and find the ever-elusive “decent interval” there. The flow of events may now be creating the conditions to expand our political and military room to maneuver on the Asian landmass and ultimately reorient U.S. foreign-policy priorities.

There may also be a chance to put our relations with Pakistan on a more balanced footing. For a while, at least, there will be finger-pointing and high political tension. But the rout of Al Qaeda in Pakistan is removing a serious point of tension and political fixation for both sides, creating room for a more open dialogue about other things. As I pointed out to a friend of mine in Islamabad, America’s interests with regard to Pakistan are complex and, to some extent, self-contradictory. The same is true when it comes to Pakistan for Americans. So, if Americans and Pakistanis truly want a better working relationship, they could start by giving each other a little more benefit of the doubt. To channel Disraeli, we may be neither friends nor enemies, but we certainly still have some common interests.

The most promising development in Pakistan appears to be a galvanizing public discussion about the one institution that has hardly come under scrutiny and yet has had a virtual veto on governance in Pakistan since its independence — the military. Perhaps the American removal of bin Laden is inadvertently leading to more serious civil governance and democratization in Pakistan. It’s up to them more than us.

What is up to us, in sheathing some of our own swords, is taking advantage of an even greater opportunity for America to change permanently how it is viewed around the world, by starting first with how we view ourselves.

Which brings us back to 9/11 and what we should have learned from it in the first place.

On that day, when national security became globalized and other than something “over there”, I noted to the Army civil affairs team I was then leading: “The world has come to America; now America must come to the world”. I meant, however, with an open hand and not a clenched fist. Instead, our national security reflex response was to go out like cowboys and cavalry looking for Indians, with some disastrously costly results. Driven by the military-industrial complex, we applied the most expedient and familiar form of power we know, only to find out that we now find ourselves in a strategic environment in which soft power and diplomacy and development are really more efficacious.

That is because, while national security writ large had not only become more globalized by 9/11, it had also become more humanized. Outside Iraq and Afghanistan, with which Washington has largely been obsessed for nearly a decade, in places like Africa that represent the bulk of security and development challenges around the world, “human security” and civil society challenges such as poverty and food security, rule-of-law and justice, governance, economic development and job creation, and public health contextualize the security problem. Human security is about individuals and communities, empowered by global interconnectivity and the 24/7 media — terrorists as much as protest organizers.

Our still predominant national security paradigm is more about security through the prism of protecting the state rather than the individual, and heavily weighted towards hard power. We would still rather launch a precision-guided bomb from a drone controlled by some computer jockey 12 times zones away than drink three cups of tea, then wonder why those people hate an America with no human face, ceding the “information space” to our enemies who live there.

It took us nearly ten years to kill Osama bin Laden in large part because our intelligence community, which like our military has been more predisposed to gadgetry, has had to painstakingly build the complex network of personal relationships and win trust for our special forces to get even get close enough for a shot.

In truth, by September 11th, our national security model was already out of synch. Many of the same conditions that led to the strategic intelligence failure of 9/11 in the first place, our difficulty in “winning the peace” in Iraq and Afghanistan, our difficulty in exploiting opportunities such as those occurring in the Arab world, and perhaps most of all our retarded capacity to prevent future conflicts, persist to this moment.

As James Locher III, executive director of the Project on National Security Reform, pointed out to Connecticut residents about the perils of our outdated national security machinery as the news broke out, the raid by the SEALS in Abbottabad was a dramatic example of the efficacy of a U.S. new security model — but this retail exception is not the wholesale rule.

“We have always been able to win ugly by throwing money at a problem, but that is no longer the case. We have lost our margin for error and we are headed for a decade of austerity, when even great programs are being killed. The times call for a national security system that is effective, efficient, participatory and agile. Unfortunately, we don’t have it. We have the opposite of that — a system that is archaic, designed 63 years ago, that still clings to Cold War concepts. How can we secure our children’s future with our grandparents’ government?”

As we did nearly 10 years ago, we have an opportunity to overhaul what Col. Mark Mykleby calls the “national strategic narrative” and secure the blessing of liberty in ways, for ourselves and our posterity, that resemble more of what we’re about than what we’re afraid of. If we’re not careful, the real sense of false security may not be in believing the threat of terrorism is a thing of the past, but in believing that the ways and means with which we have traditionally sought collective protection, in great part leading to 9/11 in the first place, can still do so in the future — and that we can still somehow afford that.

And that we still have the time to fix it later than sooner.

The bin Laden operation: how the national security system should work

May 4, 2011

On 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time Sunday afternoon, an elite U.S. special operations forces unit infiltrated a 3000-square-foot compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, confronted and killed Osama Bin Laden, and captured a “motherlode” of intelligence material about Al Qaeda’s network.

This was a demonstration of how the national security system should work.

The special operations forces that conducted this operation are themselves a product of Congressional reforms from the late 1980s. Legislation offered by Senator Sam Nunn and Senator William Cohen and supported by many others passed into law and created the U.S. Special Operations Command. As a result, the United States has the world’s finest special operations forces.

The operation on Sunday was enabled by all-source intelligence fusion, a truly collaborative effort across multiple U.S. government organizations. The integration of multi-agency intelligence and special operations is an organizational triumph for the U.S. national security system. However, as a recent study from National Defense University warns, it is a capability that needs to be institutionalized. If it is not, then the impact of the victory may pass away quickly.

In 2006, special operations forces supported by an interagency team succeeded in eliminating Al-Qaeda’s leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Fortunately, U.S. forces were able to build on this success and expand the use of interagency teams in Iraq. In the process, the United States learned how to conduct what General Stanley McChrystal has called, “collaborative warfare.”

PNSR has recommended interagency teams and explained the necessity to institutionalize this capability. The National Defense University researchers argued in their study of special operations forces and interagency teams that this combined capability constituted an organizational secret weapon that helped dramatically turn around the war in Iraq. If the same capability can be brought to bear on other problems around the world, there is reason to hope for success in those areas as well.

However, even at this high point of success, high value target teams cannot be the sole solution to America’s security challenges. Stay tuned.

Whither “whole of government?”

March 10, 2011

Some first-rate commentators have questioned the “whole of government” ethos we are well-known for espousing. Gordon Adams at the Stimson Center says,

Seems there are too many agencies, too many programs, too many “turfs,” to do a coherent “whole of government” approach to intervention or foreign policy decisions in general.

Instead, why not bolster the capabilities – at USAID, the State Department – we always say we’re lacking?

There’s no doubt we need to do this. The State Department and USAID are underfunded and ill-equipped for their basic missions, and have been for quite some time. Meanwhile, the Department of Defense has more lawyers/musicians than diplomats in the State Department. Its budget takes up half our discretionary spending. Everyone knows DoD is the aircraft carrier in the lake in any policy debate or interagency meeting.

The main argument goes: if we strengthen the State Department and USAID, maybe these agencies can do more things, and take on DoD in the policy process. Then we’ll get more diplomacy and development and push back the militarization of foreign policy.

Of course, there are more reasons. Whole of government is a term that arose from the last decade of war where the United States had to “stabilize” and “reconstruct” countries at great human and financial cost. Whole of government doesn’t really work when the only way to keep all the departments and agencies working together is through NSC coordination, which even then is still anarchy without close Presidential direction. Whole of government works when you have a small government and everyone knows each other, such as in Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Australia, but the U.S. government is too big.

The answer is “drop the whole-of-government fetish and figure out a sensible structure with clear strategic, budget, and reporting lines of authority.”

Put that way, these arguments are right. When you’ve experienced the despair of interagency meetings, whole of government doesn’t look so great.

However, there is some confusion over what whole of government means and what it is about. In 2008, we saw whole of government as “an approach that fosters government-wide collaboration on purpose, actions, and results in a coherent, combined application of available resources to achieve the desired objective or end state.”

(Note that whole of government isn’t tied to stabilization and reconstruction operations. Whether you’re working on counternarcotics, counterterrorism, climate change, energy security, U.S. strategy toward China, you can use a whole of government approach.)

There is a lot about whole of government that is good in all this messiness. Most importantly, the challenges the United States faces today defy any attempt to put them under one agency. If you have one agency working on one issue, it will face constraints. Even worse, the problem will change so that whatever that agency is doing, its effectiveness will diminish, and the problem will grow in some other way. This is why we advocate for the whole of government approach. You can’t solve contemporary problems without it.

What about all these problems with whole of government described by Gordon Adams and Todd Moss?

What they’ve described are the systemic impediments to the whole of government approach.

One major problem, which they’ve pinpointed, is that the only place to really do whole of government on big policy issues is the NSC. Of course, this is not going to work. It’s overwhelmed, it has no real authority, it’s thin on staff, it’s dominated by department and agency turf battles.

This is why we don’t advocate doing it all through the NSC. In fact, we were worried when the Obama Administration put all these new departments and agencies on the NSC without other systemic changes that would help it handle these new players.

We advocate that the NSC delegate the day-to-day work, year-to-year budget details, and so forth, of national security issues to empowered interagency teams. Empowered: co-located, the best people, given real authority, possesses resources, and wields prestige. We’re talking about Holbrooke-style teams respected up and down, from the PRT to the President, and widely, in State, DoD, ODNI, Agriculture, DHS, wherever. It’s about addressing the underlying causes of turf wars, inertia, and bureaucracy. This is real whole-of- government.  In addition, this frees up the NSC to work on matters of national strategy – stuff they should be doing now but are too overwhelmed to do.

What about size? Is the U.S. government too big to do these things? With around 2.5 million people in the major national security institutions, and more than 4 million people in the U.S. federal government’s departments and agencies, it may very well be that it is too big. IBM has about 400,000 employees. General Electric has about 304,000. Cisco Systems has about 65,000. (All are larger than the State Department. At least we know the State Department is not too big to fix.) Google has about 23,000 employees. The UK Civil Service is about 530,000 strong.

People often say size and bureaucracy go together, but the companies listed above are some of the largest companies in the world, known as the most innovative companies in the world, and are talking about things like the Globally Integrated Enterprise, more than making box-and-wire diagrams pleasing to the eye, but exploring things like networks and non-hierarchical structures. They’ve also had decades to grow to their size today. Several of them had to go through wrenching changes to become the kind of organizations they are today. From rigid industrial age bureaucracies to the information age innovation engines they are now. Size might not matter so much. It may not be that eternal impediment to the U.S. government doing whole of government right.

To finish up, should we strengthen State and USAID? Yes. But today’s problems – their complexity, the pace of change – provide even more reason for a collaborative and agile whole of government approach. Without it, expect more incoherence, crossed-wires, and sprawl, and problems that State, USAID, DoD, or any other department or agency cannot solve on its own. Let’s not confuse the clunky whole of government approach in today’s system for what we aspire – empowered and agile teams. We need that powerful whole of government approach to deal with the challenges of our time.

Note: Todd Moss comments on “whole of government” again, here, along with some keen observations about where aid and development need to go: outcomes-based budgeting, private-public approaches, moving toward transnational aid and development issues, moving into more sectors (all of which call for an even greater whole of government approach).

The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review highlights many themes prevalent in PNSR publications

March 3, 2011

“The scope and nature of the challenges facing the United States have evolved substantially over the past decade, with issues becoming more interconnected and solutions requiring ever greater cooperation.” (Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review)

Since 2006, the Project on National Security Reform has studied the issues affecting our national security, and highlighted ways in which our system could improve and better serve our nation and the American people. The simple question, “How can we do better?” has led the Project to produce numerous studies and publications, most notably the groundbreaking works, Forging a New Shield and Turning Ideas Into Action. In these reports, PNSR analyzes the problems within our current system and recommends several courses of action to affect change.

Secretary of State Clinton, too, has asked the question, “How can we do better?” driving the inaugural Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) in order to address the unique challenges of a globalized world through diplomacy and development. The QDDR presents several themes that are prevalent in PNSR verbiage as well, reinforcing the ideas that will ultimately make our nation better and more secure.  Several of these overlapping themes are highlighted below.


“…Our civilian capabilities have largely been ad hoc and poorly integrated with those of other federal agencies and partner nations.”

“…Agencies and departments have their own mandates and objectives, which makes coordination all the more important.”

“[We will] leverage the experience and expertise of other agencies with the skills to advance U.S. objectives…”

“In partnership with other agencies, we will…fundamentally change our management approach by turning to the expertise of other federal agencies where appropriate…. This will help all federal agencies build lasting relationships with foreign counterparts…”

“[We will] adopt a whole-of-government approach that integrates the skills of other federal agencies—and, where appropriate, state and local governments—in the design and implementation of security- and justice-sector assistance efforts.”

After thorough study of the U.S. national security system, PNSR concluded that one of the most prevalent problems we face is our inability to leverage and integrate all instruments of national power. We lack a single approach that can facilitate government-wide collaboration to address national issues. We must better integrate the stovepipes that continually hamper communication and cross-flow between government departments and agencies. The QDDR lays out specific goals of reaching out to other agencies in order to better address national security issues.


“[We will] embrace 21st Century Statecraft to connect the private and civic sectors with our foreign policy work by bringing new resources and partners to the table; better using connection technologies and expanding, facilitating, and streamlining our public-private partnership process.”

“To execute this vision of a unified effort…we will…draw on expertise across and outside the U.S. government…that will let us work with experts outside the U.S. government and quickly deploy them to the field.”

Going beyond improved interagency collaboration will prove vital as we address tangential asymmetric threats to our nation.  Government alone cannot solve the expanding array of issues today. Our nation must mobilize the broader range of its capabilities, including those of civil society and the private sector, to confront growing challenges.  This whole-of-nation concept is addressed in the PNSR report, The Power of the People: Building an Integrated National Security Professional System for the 21st Century.

Focus on National Missions and Outcomes

“In the past, we have judged our efforts on inputs rather than outcomes—on dollars spent rather than results delivered. The QDDR shifts this mind-set at every level. It details specific reforms in personnel, procurement, and planning that will allow us to work smarter to advance our nation’s interests and values.”

In Forging a New Shield, PNSR laid out how “we must adopt new approaches to national security system design focused on national missions and outcomes, emphasizing integrated effort, collaboration, and agility.” The QDDR also addresses the need to shift the focus from departmental strengths and goals to national missions and desired outcomes. By moving to an outcome-based model through improved interagency collaboration and whole-of-nation engagement, we will reap the rewards of a more effective and efficient system.

Aligning Strategy and Resources

“To maximize our impact, we need a planning and budgeting process that allows for sound policy decisions. The QDDR sets forth such a process. It includes the right stakeholders and allows longer-term planning that aligns priorities and resources to produce results.”

[We will]:

• “Establish a new Bureau for Energy Resources to unite our diplomatic and programmatic efforts.”

• “Improve the management of foreign assistance resources by ensuring that funding is linked to performance and strategic plans, that principles of aid effectiveness are put into practice, and that various foreign assistance funds are integrated.”

• “Establish multi-year strategic plans for State and USAID that reflect priorities and guide resource requests and decisions.”

• “Work with the National Security Staff and our interagency partners toward a national security budgeting process that would allow policymakers and lawmakers to see the whole of our national security priorities.”

A key component in a more efficient system is the ability to align strategic goals with resources. Forging a New Shield outlines the need to link resources to goals through national security mission analysis and mission budgeting. Turning Ideas Into Action echoes this need by recommending national security planning guidance and the creation of an integrated national security budget. Linking resources to goals through national security mission-based analysis and budgeting is an important step toward more efficient government.

Chief of Mission Preparation and Empowerment

“We will give our Chiefs of Mission the tools they need to oversee the work of all U.S. government agencies working in their host country, essentially serving as the Chief Executive Officer of a multi-agency mission. We will enhance their training, empower them to contribute to the evaluation of all personnel who serve at their posts, and engage them more fully in policymaking in Washington.”

“In partnership with other agencies, we will…prioritize interagency experience and talents as criteria for choosing and training Chiefs of Mission and Deputy Chiefs of Mission. We will also expand their interagency training.”

“To achieve our goals all…must work together. That is only possible if the Chief of Mission is empowered to direct and supervise these efforts.”

“In partnership with other agencies, we will…empower and hold accountable Chiefs of Mission as Chief Executive Officers of interagency missions.”

Realizing that Chiefs of Mission are on the front lines of diplomacy in locations abroad, the QDDR rightly devotes a significant amount of attention to properly choosing, equipping, training, and empowering these diplomats. In a study completed for PNSR, Robert Oakley and Michael Casey, Jr. discussed this and other issues relating to country teams. (“The Country Team: Reconstructing America’s First Line of Engagement,” Joint Force Quarterly, 4th Quarter, 2007) PNSR has also highlighted the need for Chief of Mission empowerment, writing, “the de facto authority of the chief of mission within U.S. embassies is too limited to ensure even tactical integration.” (Forging a New Shield) In this same publication, PNSR also addresses the human capital aspect, stressing adequate preparation of diplomats and other national security professionals through alignment of “personnel incentives, personnel preparation, and organizational culture with strategic objectives.”  PNSR’s latest publication, The Power of the People, presents a comprehensive look at the government initiative to develop people with the proper skills, knowledge, and experience for working collaboratively on national security issues that cut across departments and agencies.

The QDDR – Direct Applications to Reform

Two problems currently facing our national security system (Forging a New Shield):

• The system is grossly imbalanced. It supports strong departmental capabilities at the expense of integrating mechanisms.

• Resources allocated to departments and agencies are shaped by their narrowly defined core mandates rather than broader national missions.

Building Blocks of Reform (Turning Ideas Into Action):

• New approaches based on national missions and outcomes to include a process that achieves overall integrated effort, collaboration, and agility.

• Aligned strategy and resources that link resources to goals through national security mission-based analysis and budgeting.

• Human capital aligning personnel incentives, leader development, personnel preparation, and organizational culture with strategic objectives.

Recommended Next Steps for Secretary of State (Turning Ideas Into Action):

• Adopt integrated end-to-end management of global civilian affairs as the principal role of the Department of State

• Transform the structure, processes, culture, and staff capabilities of the Department of State to enable it to perform integrated end-to-end management of global civilian affairs.

• Prescribe mandatory training, including training in team dynamics and conflict resolution, for each person to be assigned to a U.S. embassy staff.

• Include as a key performance evaluation measure the ability of a chief of mission to institutionalize an integrated whole-of-government approach by the mission.

The QDDR makes great strides in addressing improvements to our nation’s diplomatic and development structure. A renewed priority of the State Department and USAID to work in the inter-agency realm to solve problems that span across the spectrum is a positive step forward. Even before the QDDR was released, we heard Secretary Clinton expressing the need for an integrated budget that addressed national missions. Finally, the roles and authorities of the Chiefs of Mission themselves provide a unique case study in human capital and interagency teaming. PNSR is pleased to see the Department of State take a lead role in paving the way towards a better diplomatic and development component of our nation’s instruments of power.  Perhaps the greater national security system can model not only the reform mindset put forth in the QDDR, but also its imperative for change.

The seeds of a unified national security budget

February 16, 2011

The budget released on Monday changed little in the way of big numbers to tackle the national debt, but the Obama administration made a few small steps in unified approaches to national security budgeting that, if continued and expanded in future budgets, could greatly improve the way we resource national security and the government.

The Problem

Most decisions about cuts and increases are made on isolated programs. For example, the U.S. spends an overall amount for programs like the Human Rights and Democracy Fund, which provides resources to the National Endowment for Democracy, which builds democracy in Egypt. There is also the Middle East Partnership Initiative managed by State.

This is a shot in the dark, not to mention it bumps up against other U.S. government players in the country — diplomats, troops, intelligence officers, and others. While the National Security Strategy might make a vague statement about U.S. support for human rights, the government often does not articulate strategy in a way that allows it to execute budgets with precision and that comes together in an integrated plan on the ground.

Thus, the confusion and surprise when Egypt exploded in anti-Mubarak demonstrations.

If we do not know what is going on even though we have a program for it, how can we possibly be spending our money well?

But this is how budgets come together, including this one, except a few areas, from which we will use three examples: the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget, the Global Security Contingency Fund, and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC).

Overseas Contingency Operations

With OCO, the administration put cash for military, USAID, and State operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in one fund. The concern of the civilian agencies’ inability to provide their share of resources has been a perennial problem, and this is the right approach to solving it. However, the military still receives about $118 billion of the $126 billion.

Also, this is more of a political strategy to ensure the civilian agencies get better funding, rather than a part of an integrated plan. As operations in Iraq and Afghanistan continue, the U.S. will need to ensure the OCO budget becomes better aligned with a strategy that will still be subject to change. And as civilian agencies take the lead in Iraq, they will need to take on a larger proportion of the budget.

Global Security Contingency Fund

The Global Security Contingency Fund is the next step for the 1207 and 1210 accounts – funds that the Department of Defense can transfer to the State Department for reconstruction, security, and stabilization assistance to foreign countries. This new fund will be a pool of $50 million, and will require the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State to make a joint decision in using these funds. It will also include authority to reprogram $450 million if needed.

This fund comes during a State Department reorganization spurred by the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review that changes the Coordinator for Stabilization and Reconstruction into the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations.

The amount remains small relative to its potential effectiveness, and the planning and authorities to make it work are labyrinthine. However, the Global Security Contingency Fund is an important step in providing an integrated and flexible budget for conflict prevention — an economical ounce of prevention, rather than an expensive pound of cure.

National Counterterrorism Center

The budget also mentioned, “[t]he Administration will continue to integrated mission-based budgeting in the counterterrorism area… and will work with the NCTC, the IC, and relevant Departments, such as Defense, State, and Homeland Security, to direct resources in support of counterterrorism implementation objectives. The Administration will also introduce more outcome measures and program evaluations in this area to help improve program effectiveness.” This is much needed.

With the expansion of the intelligence community after 9/11 that the Washington Post documented in its Top Secret America pieces, the government needs to instill discipline in resourcing counterterrorism and needs to ensure everything is aligned with a long-term counterterrorism strategy. However, much like the Director of National Intelligence, NCTC still faces many problems with authorities, resources, and its relationships with other departments and agencies. Regardless, mission-based budgeting will help bring focus to  counterterrorism.

Budgeting in the Future

These three examples are small steps in the budget, that if expanded in the next, could bring greater efficiency and effectiveness to the government. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has declared she wants to have a unified national security budget. State Policy Planning Director Anne Marie-Slaughter has said the Administration will work toward this in the next two years. The seeds of that unified national security budget are in this one, with the integration of diplomacy, defense, and development in the OCO budget, the flexibility of the Global Security Contingency Fund, and the mission-focus of the National Counterterrorism Center.

There are many opportunities to adopt these approaches to issues such as cybersecurity, counterproliferation, food security, energy security, global health, and space. And given the need to strengthen the foundations of our national power and prosperity, we can use these approaches for competitiveness, innovation, trade, and education. We can reduce spending with these new efficiencies, contributing significantly to lowering the national debt. We can transcend the extreme short-term incentives and political gridlock that allow our problems to fester and grow.

We would align our budgets with strategy rather than tactics – the basis of any endeavor to “win the future.”

How Egypt shows what’s wrong with the U.S. government, and how to fix it

February 9, 2011

President Barack Obama talks on the phone with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in the Oval Office, Jan. 28, 2011. Vice President Joe Biden listens at left, and the President’s National Security team confer in the background. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.)

When the U.S. government responds to a crisis, the eyes of the world look to the moment the President appears before television to explain what the United States will do next. What the world does not see is the hundreds of diplomats, intelligence officers, staffers, troops, and officials working hard to make sure the response is right. They will collect information, pass it around, meet on it, and write memos and check boxes on those memos until a policy, hopefully, comes into shape.

They do this in a bureaucracy built over the last half-century, the foundations of its structure set by the National Security Act of 1947. Unfortunately, in the last couple of weeks, this structure has led to the United States being days behind the events on the ground in a situation that has moved astonishingly fast. And although it is easy to blame the current administration, the fact is they are working in an outmoded system.

In the first days of the demonstrations, Secretary Clinton remarked, “Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.” Vice President Biden asserted that President Mubarak was not a dictator. While protestors demanded that President Mubarak step down, the first time President Obama spoke it seemed he heard that the Egyptians would be happy with only promises of reforms.

As the demonstrations dragged on, the situation became more violent and the U.S. gave more reasons for the protestors – the future of Egypt – to distrust and even hate America. Yet, people reading their Twitter feeds or watching Al Jazeera English could see clearly that these demonstrations overturned a decades-old policy toward Egypt, and that the U.S. government’s responses did not match the magnitude of the crisis.

A crisis is a challenge to your strategy, in which you decide to stick to it or change it. In this case, officials had to reexamine assumptions held an entire career. For the United States, the National Security Council is where the center of this thinking is done. It is where the President gathers his National Security Advisor, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and other senior officials.

All these officials are extremely busy. They just finished a summit meeting with the Chinese. They worked hard on negotiating New START. They dealt with North Korea over the holidays. They have to reexamine assumptions held their entire careers on a policy that will have profound effects on the most challenging region in the world in a three-hour meeting.

A crisis does not appear from nowhere. It is years in the making. Preferably, years beforehand you would draw up scenarios and think through the decisions so that when it happens, you know what to look for, everyone knows the plays, and you can respond quickly. Although you can find contingency plans and scenarios in the Pentagon and other places, none of this is done where it matters – the center of making foreign policy: the NSC (although the Bush Administration had started this in its last years). Neither is this done in embassies, where the foreign policy first-responders are located.

What happens when you are blindsided? You scramble. You are paralyzed while waiting for the leadership to chart a course. In this situation, you waste valuable time and you are extremely vulnerable. A crisis that tests every strategic assumption forces leadership to micromanage the situation, because the agencies can’t respond using any available playbook. Yet, the U.S. allows this to happen repeatedly, putting its government personnel and civilians at risk. Yet, experts outside the U.S. government had been calling for a serious reexamination of policy toward Egypt for years.

The National Security Council did not have a serious meeting until a Saturday morning four days after the protests began. The next Monday, when an outside expert they brought in said, “Please tell me you have contingencies in case Mubarak’s regime collapses,” an NSC staffer admitted they did not. It was not until Tuesday, after Ambassador Frank Wisner’s meeting with Mubarak, that the Obama Administration had shifted its tone to demanding Mubarak to go and began to examine seriously the steps to manage a changeover in the Egyptian government.

The administration then ratified the New START treaty and held an ambassadors conference at the State Department.

Snowstorms blanket the East Coast.

The demonstrations start to ebb. The administration softens its tone. Wisner makes a statement supporting Mubarak from which the State Department frantically retracts.

Then the demonstrations flair up when a freed Egyptian Google executive gives a television interview. The U.S. strikes a forceful tone again.

The best thing a strategist can do is address the underlying issues early so the crisis does not erupt. This is perhaps the most difficult part of American policymaking. U.S. policy is determined by habit more than strategy. Only a few issues, at the top of the President’s agenda, can be well managed. Engagement with the Muslim world, which was a priority at the beginning, slipped behind in this administration to habit. It took the toppling of a government at the pillar of U.S. strategy in the Middle East to force real change.

What other issues are building to a crisis? Cybersecurity? Food security? What natural disaster will we face? What will be the BP oil spill of 2011? Can we afford to continue reacting the same way? The status quo will not do.

Here are three things that would change the way we play the game:

A serious strategy process that incorporates foresight tools, so leaders can think, plan, and act several steps ahead, beyond the daily inbox. Instead of crises that drag the government to and fro, the U.S. can make major policy decisions early.

Use empowered teams – mini-NSCs of area and functional experts with real decision-making authority devoted to a single issue 24/7, rather than layers of overworked and unfocused committees full of generalists that slow down decisions. Holbrooke led a team like this in the Kosovo War. He tried with Afghanistan, but the policy structure constrained him. Such teams would ensure the U.S. government speaks with one voice and acts with a clear goal.

Budget for the strategy rather than the tactics. The U.S. budgets for programs like the Human Rights and Democracy Fund, which provides grants to the National Endowment for Democracy, which builds democracy in Egypt. This program works on the ground with the military, the CIA, development projects, and diplomats who have to carry out their own technical programs decided in separate budgets. Funding for these programs all flow from some nebulous process in Washington at department headquarters.

Instead, why not create a team and place it in the middle of shaping and funding the technical programs?

These solutions are not difficult to implement if done gradually. Although not ideal, they could even be implemented one at a time. The important thing is to start now. The government has done the best with what it has, and it is not enough.

Systemic Failure: Inside the U.S. government during a revolution in the Middle East

January 27, 2011

Daniel Yergin, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991) 179-180.

During most of 1978 senior officials of the Carter Administration had been distracted and preoccupied by other momentous and demanding developments: the Camp David peace accords with Egypt and Israel, strategic arms negotiations with the Soviets, normalization of relations with China. American policy had been based on the premise that Iran was a reliable ally and would be the Big Pillar in the region.  Out of deference to the Shah and because of the desire not to anger him, American officials had kept their distance from the various opponents of his regime, which meant that they lacked channels of communication to the emerging opposition.  There was not even any reporting to Washington on what the Ayatollah was actually saying on those by-now famous tapes.  Some in Washington insisted that the unrest in Iran was a secret, Soviet-orchestrated plot.  And, as always, there was the same question: What could the United States government do, whatever the case? Only a few American officials thought that the Iranian military could withstand the persistence of nationwide strikes and the defection of religiously minded soldiers.  Indeed, the last few months of 1978 saw a fierce bureaucratic battle over policy waged in Washington. How to bolster the Shah or assure continuity to a friendly successor regime? How to support the Shah without being so committed as to assure an antagonistic relationship with his successors, should he fall? How to disengage, if disengagement were required, without undermining the Shah, in case he could survive politically? Indecision and vacillation in Washington resulted in contradictory signals to Iran: The Shah should hang tough, the Shah should abdicate, military force should be used, human rights must be observed, the military should stage a coup, the military should stand aside, a regency should be established. “The United States never sent a clear, consistent signal,” one senior official recalled. “Instead of oscillating back and forth between one course of action and the other and never deciding, we would have done better to have flipped a coin and then stuck to a policy.” The cacophony from the United States certainly confused the Shah and his senior officials, undermined their calculations, and drastically weakened their resolve.  And no one in Washington knew how sick the Shah was…

So great was the lack of coherence that one senior official, who had been involved in every Middle Eastern crisis since the early 1960s, noted the “extraordinary” fact that the “first systematic meeting” at a high level on Iran was not convened until early November – very late in the day.  On November 9, William Sullivan, the American ambassador in Tehran, finally confronted the unpleasant realities in a dramatic message to Washington entitled “Thinking the Unthinkable.” Perhaps the Shah would not be able to survive after all, he said; the United States should begin to consider contingencies and alternatives.  But in Washington, where the bureaucratic battles continued to rage, there was no meaningful reaction, save that President Carter sent hand-written notes to his Secretary of State, National Security Advisor, Secretary of Defense, and Director of Central Intelligence to ask why he had not been previously informed of the situation inside Iran.  Ambassador Sullivan, meanwhile, came to the conclusion that the United States faced the situation in Iran “with no policy whatsoever.”

Winning The Future Requires National Security Transformation

January 26, 2011

By James R. Locher III, President and CEO

Like many Americans, I tuned in to watch the State of the Union Address last night. And beforehand, like most, I had several thoughts and anticipations on topics President Obama would choose to address. As the president and CEO of the Project on National Security Reform, I was pleased to see so many corresponding themes between the President’s vision for America and ways in which PNSR can help to advance America toward that vision.

The President was absolutely right, “the world has changed,” and we must change with it.  On many levels, this has already occurred. Individuals all over the nation have adapted to the changing pace and order of the current times. However, to make this change on a larger scale – the scale of government – will require much more effort and coordination…and undoubtedly, government transformation.

At PNSR, we often describe transformation with words like “innovation” and “reinvention”. Last night, the President chose these words as well.

He eloquently laid out the task ahead, and challenged us all with comments like:

“The future is ours to win.  But to get there, we can’t just stand still,” and

“That’s what Americans have done for over 200 years: reinvented ourselves.”

In my opinion, the single most telling excerpt from the State of the Union Address, was the following:

“We shouldn’t just give our people a government that’s more affordable. We should give them a government that’s more competent and more efficient. We can’t win the future with a government of the past.”

Our Declaration of Independence states, “governments are instituted among men to ensure these rights” (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness). How can we ensure these basic principles with such an outdated government structure, the largest component of which is our national security system?From domestic natural disasters to foreign policy, from the economy to education, and from terrorism to national infrastructure, these are all parts of our national security. Government transformation starts with transformation of our national security system.

I believe the way ahead is straightforward. We need effective strategic management, prioritized investment, a unifying culture, adaptive structures, and comprehensive accountability and oversight. An improved national security system would equip our nation and government to manage and overcome the complex and interconnected security challenges of the 21st century.

The president has provided a more detailed vision for transforming the national security system in the National Security Strategy with twelve organizational goals paralleling PNSR’s recommendations. PNSR has developed the specific steps that are necessary. What is needed now is the political will to make these difficult but imperative changes. It must be bipartisan campaign with both branches having important roles. The president will need to put action behind last night’s words. PNSR and others are ready to help with bold intellectual, political, and implementation ideas. We can’t win the future without transforming the national security system.