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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 How can we ensure these basic principles with such an outdated government structure, the largest component of which is our national security system?From domestic natural disasters to foreign policy, from the economy to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.

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