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Whole-of-Government Is the Sexiest Bureaucratic Change of All

Remember all that stuff about taking a “whole of government” approach to national security? The stuff that would get the burden of national security off the backs of soldiers and marines and spread it to diplomats and development workers and legal experts? Good. Then don’t miss Karen DeYoung’s story in The Washington Post yesterday about how President Obama’s national security adviser, Gen. James Jones, plans to expand the National Security Council. Here’s the key quote from the whole-of-government perspective:

“The whole concept of what constitutes the membership of the national security community — which, historically has been, let’s face it, the Defense Department, the NSC itself and a little bit of the State Department, to the exclusion perhaps of the Energy Department, Commerce Department and Treasury, all the law enforcement agencies, the Drug Enforcement Administration, all of those things — especially in the moment we’re currently in, has got to embrace a broader membership,” he said.

Those who talk about how the interagency coordination process broke down in Iraq or Afghanistan can take heart by this. One of the things that advocates of a more balanced civilian-military burden-sharing posture point to is a lack of NSC-level attention to the problem. It took, for instance, nearly six years of war in Afghanistan and four in Iraq before former President George W. Bush appointed a so-called ‘war czar’ to coordinate the implementation of cross-agency programs. (Obama asked that czar, Gen. Doug Lute, to stay on for awhile.)

Expanding the range of consideration for who contributes to national security is a key component of this. In Mosul in 2007, I saw overworked U.S. Agency for International Development contractors trying with very little help to sort out a provincial Iraqi government’s budgeting and legal systems. Don’t even ask about the absent agriculture experts. Considering that success in counterinsurgency requires addressing the concerns of a population for justice and prosperity — not just security — these are critical shortages. They won’t be solved just by having the agriculture secretary sit in on national security meetings: it’s not as if the department has a cadre of agronimists ready to deploy and embed with military units. But without that first step, the United States is never going to get beyond platitudes about how global development contributes to global security.

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