“Virtually all serious observers of national security affairs now recognize the current structure of the national security system militates against unified problem-solving when the problem is a multiagency issue. The question is what to do about it.”
Counter-proliferation, counterinsurgency, food security, energy policy – all examples of complex and multifaceted issues that increasingly dominate America’s security priorities and starkly highlight the chronic limitations of the U.S. national security structure. The Project on National Security Reform and others stress the critical need for a Goldwater-Nichols Act of national security to take on the colossal and outdated bureaucracy built around the security challenges of the post WWII period.
In a recent report released by the Institute for National Strategic Studies, Christopher Lamb and Edward Marks take on one facet by proposing a solution to the bureaucratic ‘stovepiping’ that hinders security missions requiring multi-agency approaches, such as counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan or WMD proliferation. They pinpoint the inability of the President to delegate executive authority as the crux of the problem. For example, while czars have been used as a way to coordinate across departments, they are not given the resources or authority to execute their missions – and become what Lamb and Marks describe as ‘cajolers-in-chief’. This is also evident in the role of Special Envoys, PRTs, and lead agencies. Described as a tension between ‘unity of command’ and ‘unity of effort,’ they argue the solution can be modeled after the Chief of Mission (COM) approach where executive authority is delegated to resident country Ambassadors.
They succinctly describe what such a structure would look like: as ‘mission managers’ with presumptive Presidential authority, individuals would have expanded legal, operational and resource authority to carry out specific missions that clearly (and intrinsically) cut across departments and agencies. Senate approval and legislation codifying integration powers would give Congressional legitimacy, and require mission managers to make their case to Congress for funding. In addressing the most obvious obstacle –turf wars between departments – the role of the President would be paramount to ensure respect and proper use of authority by the different departments. Mission managers could achieve the kind of interagency cooperation that has previously failed with the ability to “oversee the management of the problem ‘end to end’, from policy and strategy to planning and execution.”
The idea of mission managers is worthy of further discussion and analysis in the larger dialogue on creating a more nimble and effective 21st century national security infrastructure. However, while based on an existing ‘best practice’ of interagency cooperation, it would still be a drastic departure from the current approach. Inevitably, it would face resistance from the established organizational cultures. Where the greatest obstacle lies – as Lamb and Marks point out– is making national security reform a political possibility.
‘Chief of Mission Authority as Model for National Security Integration’ can be found in pdf form here.