USA — Flournoy Calls for Better Interagency Cooperation

WASHINGTON, June 11, 2010 — The Defense Depart­ment has made progress in address­ing the chal­lenges of the world today, but huge prob­lems remain and the depart­ment must do much more to face the dan­gers the nation con­fronts, the under­sec­re­tary of defense for pol­i­cy said yes­ter­day.

Michele Flournoy spoke to the Cen­ter for a New Amer­i­can Strat­e­gy, a think-tank she once presided over. The world is still dan­ger­ous, she not­ed, and the tools the Unit­ed States can use are out­dat­ed.

“To put it blunt­ly, we’re try­ing to face 21st cen­tu­ry threats with nation­al secu­ri­ty process­es and tools that were designed for the Cold War — and with a bureau­cra­cy that some­times seems to have been designed for the Byzan­tine Empire, which, you will recall, didn’t end well,” Flournoy said. “We’re still too often rigid when we need to be flex­i­ble, clum­sy when we need to be agile, slow when we need to be fast, focused on indi­vid­ual agency equi­ties when we need to be focused on the broad­er whole of gov­ern­ment mis­sion.” Build­ing inter­na­tion­al coop­er­a­tion is a must, and the admin­is­tra­tion has worked hard to rebuild trust with allies and friends around the globe, she said.

Inter­a­gency coop­er­a­tion is also tremen­dous­ly impor­tant, Flournoy said. Almost nine years of war proved to defense offi­cials the need for civil­ian agen­cies in a “whole-of-gov­ern­ment” approach to the prob­lems con­fronting the world.

“The inter­a­gency com­mu­ni­ty is begin­ning to grap­ple with tough chal­lenges,” she said.

The State Depart­ment, the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty and the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty are exam­in­ing how to bet­ter work togeth­er with each oth­er and with the Defense Depart­ment. “If we as a gov­ern­ment can’t get bet­ter at link­ing ends, ways and means, we will not ade­quate­ly posi­tion the Unit­ed States to pro­tect and advance our nation­al inter­ests in the face of a very chal­leng­ing 21st cen­tu­ry secu­ri­ty and eco­nom­ic envi­ron­ment,” Flournoy said.

The Defense Depart­ment must look to reform itself, too, she said. Defense lead­ers are work­ing to embrace the lessons of the war. The cen­tral les­son being intel­li­gent adver­saries will seek to con­front U.S. weak­ness­es, not Amer­i­can strengths.

“U.S. forces in this cen­tu­ry will need to pre­vail against a wide range of chal­lenges: from insur­gen­cies and state fail­ure, to region­al pow­ers seek­ing to deny U.S. access to crit­i­cal regions, to the ever-expand­ing ‘hybrid’ pos­si­bil­i­ties in between,” she said. “We will need the agili­ty of a David, not the clum­si­ness of a Goliath.”

All moves are to make the mil­i­tary more ver­sa­tile across the range of pos­si­ble con­flicts.

“For far too long we assumed that, for exam­ple, coun­terin­sur­gency, coun­tert­er­ror­ism, build­ing secu­ri­ty capac­i­ty and sta­bil­i­ty oper­a­tions were ‘less­er includ­ed’ cas­es — sub­sets of the canon­i­cal con­tin­gen­cies that dom­i­nat­ed our defense plan­ning,” Flournoy said. “As long as we planned for con­ven­tion­al war­fare, so the argu­ment went, we could suc­ceed in these oth­er oper­a­tions.”

That is patent­ly not true, she said, and what’s more the point is not to assume that future con­flicts will look just like cur­rent con­flicts.

“Future con­flicts and threats may take many shapes,” she said. “Yet we can’t pre­pare simul­ta­ne­ous­ly and ful­ly for every pos­si­ble con­tin­gency — so we need to focus on flex­i­bil­i­ty and agili­ty, on cre­at­ing a force that is pre­pared for the most like­ly threats, and can adapt quick­ly to the unpre­dictable.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)