Legislation targeted at reforming national security 


Rep. Geoff Davis, R-Ky.
Member, House Ways and Means Committee

From my time in the Army to serving our nation in Congress, I have become increasingly concerned about the structural and cultural limitations on our ability as a nation to conduct national security interagency operations.

A successfully integrated interagency process will empower the U.S. to more effectively deploy our non-military instruments of power abroad. In turn, this ability will allow the U.S. to more effectively fulfill our goals abroad while reserving the use of potentially lethal military force as a last resort.

The bottom line is that our country’s national security interagency process is hamstrung and broken.

There are many impediments to effective interagency operations. These problems are independent of personalities, policies and presidential administrations. The interagency system was devised over 60 years ago for a different era, when national security was primarily a function of military capabilities wielded by one department in overseas missions.

At the time, major combat operations and nuclear deterrence were the principal focus of U.S. national security strategy. This system required only limited coordination of activities between vertically structured military and civilian departments and agencies.

Today, national security involves a much wider array of issues that can only be addressed with a broader set of capabilities that are highly synchronized and carefully calibrated.

Unfortunately, many federal agencies are not conscious of, or prepared to act in, their national security roles. Indeed many departments and agencies do not understand these roles.

Some do not believe that they even have a role in the national security process.

Additionally, organizational cultures produce few incentives for staff to participate in national security missions. There are also disparate departmental approaches to deployments and risk management.

A specific example of these interrelated problems occurred during the early days of the U.S. occupation of Iraq when the reluctance of departments and agencies to contribute personnel to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), because of the above factors, caused the CPA to operate throughout its tenure with approximately two-thirds of its required personnel.

Further, there is little or nothing to govern the relationships between agencies in the conduct of national security interagency operations.

Unlike U.S. joint military operations, interagency operations are not governed by standard concepts and procedures.

For example, during the 1994 invasion of Haiti, the lack of standard interagency concepts and procedures caused many departments and agencies to not even be aware other departments and agencies had arrived in the country.

Without standard concepts and procedures, interagency operations tend to be very ad hoc in nature. For example, Ambassador Paul Bremer, head of the CPA in post-war Iraq, believed he reported to the president, through the secretary of defense, and did not want to be bogged down with ‘the interagency process.

CPA staff was ordered not to respond to requests for information from other departments or agencies. State Department employees detailed to the CPA conducted backchannel communications via personal Hotmail accounts and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice’s senior deputies checked the CPA web site every day to see what new orders Ambassador Bremer had issued.

Such ad hoc arrangements are enormously inefficient and liable to produce erratic outcomes.

Reform of the national security interagency process is a daunting challenge. As a first step, Rep. Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and I introduced legislation to address the "human" element that to a large degree is at the heart of reform.

This legislation is the Interagency National Security Professional Education, Administration, and Development (INSPEAD) System Act of 2010 (H.R. 6249).

One of the many impediments to effective national security interagency operations is the lack of personnel across the agencies of the federal government with the qualifications to effectively participate in the planning and execution of these operations.

This is particularly true in agencies whose day-to-day principal focus is not national security.

To address this shortfall, the INSPEAD Act would provide education, training and interagency assignments to select personnel across the federal government. The objective would be to develop "Interagency National Security Professionals" in various agencies.

These personnel, in addition to their regular day-to-day duties, would participate, as required, in the planning and execution of national security interagency operations.

The end result will be that these personnel, while continuing to perform their day-to-day functions, will be able to participate in the planning and execution of national security interagency operations when the need arises.

For more information on the INSPEAD Act, visit my Web site at http://geoffdavis.house.gov/Legislation/nsreform.htm.

There are many things that have to change for our nation to have an effective national security interagency process.

However, the place to start is with people – people throughout the government who will be incentivized and professionally developed to be fully qualified national security professionals.