A congressionally mandated study released Wednesday found that the U.S. national security system is outdated and needs major restructuring.
The 93-page preliminary report (PDF) from the Project on National Security Reform shows how the federal government’s national security apparatus, which is still largely geared toward a Cold War mentality, has failed to work together to combat terrorism, rogue states, natural disasters and other modern threats.
The report cites bureaucratic infighting, short-term crisis management rather than long-term planning, fast turnover of political appointees in top national security positions, and partisan politics in Congress as some of the major problems preventing the government from responding appropriately to threats.
Project member Thomas Pickering, a former Deputy Secretary of State and ambassador to the United Nations, said national security is not a partisan issue, and that the report’s findings will be valuable for the next administration.
“Our national security system is broken and needs fixing,” Pickering said. “Agencies need to cooperate rather than compete with each other as they work to protect the United States from a broad range of new dangers never imagined when the National Security Act of 1947 was signed into law.”
Government bureaucracies are quite unaccustomed to working together. Agencies are structured as stovepipes, which send information up and down a chain of command, but provide little means to share information between agencies. Whenever they do try to work together, the joint operations are almost always plagued by infighting as well as trouble actually sharing needed information.
The Project on National Security Reform is a non-partisan organization, partly funded by Congress, made up of former government officials with national security expertise. The project is scheduled to release its final report in October, including a list of recommendations for fixing the problems.
“Our study deals with issues vital to the protection of every American family,” said PNSR executive director James R. Locher III. “How will America respond to another major terrorist attack, even a nuclear one? How will we deal with future natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina at home and conflicts abroad? The way our national security system is structured plays an enormous role in the answers to these questions.”
John McLaughlin, the former deputy CIA director and a member of the group, told CNN, “The key message is that we have many impressive capabilities in national security — and they work well individually — but today’s complex problems require more integrated effort and agility than the current system can deliver.”
The report barely mentions the post-9/11 reforms already undertaken, including the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the office of the director of national intelligence and the National Counterterrorism Center.
Locher said those changes are still works in progress and represent individual components of the overall national security system. This study, he said, focuses on the role of the highest level of government, the executive branch and Congress, where changes are needed to provide the strategic direction and management necessary for an integrated national security system. — CNN
I wish you good luck in restructuring the entire national security apparatus of the federal government. Such a restructuring promises to be even larger than that which created the Department of Homeland Security, a bureaucracy still having trouble getting its act together, even within the department, five years after it was created. It will take even longer for the rest of the agencies involved in national security to get their act together, even after they get restructured.
Meanwhile, there are threats out there to be dealt with. Perhaps we should consider dismantling the federal government’s security stovepipes and doing security ourselves. We just might get it done faster and cheaper and more effectively.