Friday, December 5, 2008

Major Player, Not Pentagon's Poor Relation

This is what PNSR says on its introduction to its case studies released last September:

“The simple truth is that the world for which the national security system was designed in 1947 no longer exists. Today’s challenges require better integration of expertise and capabilities from across the government. The current national security system cannot provide this. Instead, departments and agencies are often working against one another, the White House is unable to make timely and well-informed decisions, and there is an overreliance on military force. The costs in lives, money, and standing in the world have been tremendous. Future security of the nation is at risk.”

The Project on National Security Reform (PNSR) is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization working to modernize and improve the U.S. national security system to better protect the American people against 21st century dangers. The project is located within the Center for the Study of the Presidency.

Led by a 24-member Guiding Coalition that includes former senior federal officials with extensive national security experience, PNSR in July 2008 issued its Preliminary Findings report, which identifies numerous problems plaguing the current national security system. Initiated in September 2006, with 13 working groups PNSR prepared 100 case studies of interagency operations since 1947, analyzed 20 major constitutional and legal issues, and rigorously studied the system’s organizational problems, their causes, and their consequences. More than 300 national security experts from think tanks, universities, federal agencies, law firms and corporations are contributing to the PNSR study.

I have previously written about the PNSR preliminary report in relation to the leadership agenda here. The State Department makes a substantial appearance in the case studies. Chapter 1 of the case studies, Opting for War: An Analysis of the Decision to Invade Iraq was written by Joseph J. Collins, a retired Army colonel who is currently a Professor at the National War College. From 2001 to 2004, he served as the first Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Stability Operations. He was active in the initial planning for the humanitarian aspects of Operation Iraqi Freedom and in all phases of the war in Afghanistan.

In it, Colonel Collins writes that “the personnel strength of State and USAID is clearly inadequate to meet their expanded roles in the war on terror. These critical assets should be expanded by adding permanent personnel, developing reserves, and through further use of contractors and retirees.”

And he made the following point:

[…] for the State Department and USAID to become more operational, they must be better funded across the board. Today, State and USAID spend (on all of their functions, including security assistance) less than one-tenth of what the Pentagon does on its many missions. There are less than 8,000 Foreign Service officers in both State and USAID, combined. With this small force, our diplomats and development specialists have to cover their extensive Washington headquarters, as well as over 120 countries and 265 diplomatic and consular locations. The systematic under-funding of State and USAID is the single greatest impediment to the effective planning and execution of developmental assistance, reconstruction, and stabilization. State cannot be equipped only with good ideas while Defense has all the money and most of the deployable assets. This is a prescription for an unbalanced national security policy, one where State Department will not be a mature player or it will savage its worldwide diplomatic activities to keep up with operations in conflict areas.

If we want to fix planning and execution for complex contingencies, we must fund State and USAID as major players and not poor relations of the Pentagon. At a minimum, over the next five years, the Foreign Service personnel strength of State and USAID should be raised by fifty percent and the entire budget of the State Department and USAID should be doubled, across the board. Priorities for new spending should be given to public diplomacy, stabilization and reconstruction activities, and development assistance focused on preventing state failure. The transfer of monies from defense to state should be loosened, but we may well need to spend more money on defense and foreign operations at the same time. Foggy Bottom should not rely on drawing down money appropriated to the Pentagon. Congress too will have to play its part and get over its allergies to funding non-military operations overseas and to the creation of peacetime contingency funds at State.

The entire case studies which is about 600 pages in all is quite an interesting read. Chapter 6 is on Somalia, a problem that continues to fester, Chapter 7 on Interagency Paralysis (which of course, no longer happens), and there are entries on emerging powers and the whole-of-government approach including the CORDS program in Vietnam and something on transformation. This thing almost reads like a novel and a history lesson rolled into one.

The PNSR final report by the way, came out early this week. The 800-plus page report makes recommendations to Congress and the next president to help solve the problems of our outdated national security system. The project expects to prepare draft presidential directives and a new National Security Act to replace many of the provisions of the one enacted in 1947. Since PNSR is funded and supported by Congress (and foundations and corporations) and has conducted what is hailed as one of the most comprehensive studies of the U.S. national security system in American history, the chances of its proposals gaining support in Congress and the next administration is probably quite real. Report and links below:

Related Post: The State Department and the Leadership Agenda

Related Items: PNSR Recommendations: Forging A New Shield-- Full Report (December 2008)

PNSR Recommendations: Forging A New Shield-- Executive Summary (December 2008)

Case Studies Vol. 1 (September 2008) 648 pages

Preliminary Findings Report (July 2008)

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