The 1947 National Security Act was notable for the sweeping changes it put into effect post WWII. In creating the Department of Defense, splitting out the USAF as a separate service, establishing the National Security Council and the CIA, it put into place the necessary organizations, agencies and services to conduct a prolonged campaign against the Soviet Union. With the end of the Cold War there has been no shortage of individuals and organizations calling for an overhaul of the Act usually coming in the wake of a catastrophic or signatory event (Desert One, 9/11, etc.). And on the cusp of a new administration with a changed international landscape with a host of security challenges overseas and at home, comes another push, albeit one that is a bit different in constitution and charter.

Language in the 2008 defense authorization required a study of the national security interagency system by an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organization. That study is complete and has been forwarded by the Project on National Security Reform ( earlier this month to the Bush Administration, and, we presume, to the Obama transition committee. The full 800+ pg report may be downloaded here or a shorter, 33pg executive summary here.

(more below the fold)

Not surprisingly, the report states upfront that the national security of the US is fundamentally at risk, due in no small part to bureaucratic aging, increasing misalignment of the national security system with a rapidly changing global security environment (read: “we’re still thinking in Cold War terms”). Four aspects of this new environment are cited as the foundation for what follows:

  • A multitude of challenges from a variety of sources (e.g., rising state powers, rogue regime proliferators, etc.) threaten the integrity of the state system itself, with unknown and largely unknowable consequences for US security;
  • We do not know which of today’ challenges is more likely to emerge and which may pose the greatest peril, thereby constituting a greater planning problem set than we faced during the Cold War;
  • Globalism, particularly in science and technology pursuits, compounds the problem significantly and pushes the level of participation down to even the smallest groups;
  • Interdependence makes it impossible for any single nation to go it alone in facing the full challenge of today’s security challenges.

This in turn drives the objectives of a new national security:

  • Security from aggression by shaping the strategic environment, anticipating and preventing threats, responding to attacks by defeating enemies, recover from the effect of attacks and being able to sustain the costs of defense in this endeavor;
  • Maintain security against massive societal disruption as a result of natural changes and forces;
  • Maintain security against failure of major national infrastructure systems through robust and resilient capacities and investment in rapid recovery.

The list of recommendations is lengthy, but highlights include wholesale change at the top to include a new Presidential Security Council that replaces both the National and Homeland Security Councils and would include international economic and energy policies in its expanded portfolio; creation of a Director for National Security within the Executive Office of the President; consolidate within Department of State, all those functions now assigned to other departments and agencies that fall within the core competencies of DoS; creation of interagency teams (as opposed spearheading by one-off lead agencies or lead individuals – so called “czars”) to shift management of issues away from the PSC; preparation of six-year budget projections derived from the National Security Planning Guidance and creation of an integrated national security budget; creation of a National Security Professional Corps (NSPC) in order to “create a cadre of national security professional specifically trained for interagency assignments.” There is more, much more and at the heart of it is a charge for the next administration to roll all this up in a new National Security Act.

Many of the other proposals out there are tinkering on the margins – this report goes straight for the center of mass and with an incoming administration whose mantra was (is) change, it just might fit the ticket for the kind of sweeping reform they are looking for. 

The question is – is it the right kind of reform?

Posted by SteelJaw in Foreign Policy, Homeland Security

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