Project on National Security Reform - Vol. 2: Case Studies Working Group Report
Authored by Dr. Richard Weitz.
The case studies in this volume confirm the conclusions of other PNSR analyses that the performance of the U.S. national security apparatus in inconsistent. Although some cases illustrate relatively clear, integrated strategy development, unified policy implementation, and coherent tactical planning, coordination, and execution; others depict flawed, divided, contradictory, and sometimes nonexistent strategy promulgation and enactment. Similarly, the U.S. national security system can provide resources efficiently, but it also can do so inadequately and tardily. Flawed responses recur in issue areas as diverse as biodefense, public diplomacy, and military intervention. They also occur across many presidential administrations, from the onset of the Cold War to the present day. The piecemeal organizational reforms enacted to date have not fostered improved policy outcomes or decisionmaking, while capability building, especially in the civilian national security agencies, remains less than optimal.
The Project on National Security Reform (PNSR) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, public interest organization working to revitalize the American government by transforming the national security system. Since the current national security system was developed in 1947, the world has changed. PNSR’s sole focus is to help government transition its national security system to this new world. We need an institution that looks at opportunities as much as threats, plays to America’s strengths, preserves its national values, and helps fulfill its promise to its people and the world as a leading force for good.
In support of PNSR’s research and analysis, the Project tasked the Case Studies Working Group (CSWG) to assess a series of events and developments that would shed light on the past performance of the U.S. Government (USG) in mitigating, preparing for, responding to, and recovering from national security challenges. The CSWG accordingly commissioned a diverse range of “major” and “mini” case studies to examine significant national security issues and incidents that involved multiple USG agencies and departments. This retrospective analysis seeks to discern the strengths and weaknesses of the U.S. national security process, so as to better inform efforts to reform the current system.
The case study collection is not entirely random nor entirely planned. The potential cases for analysis are effectively infinite. The CSWG, following PNSR leadership guidance, solicited several specific studies that addressed issues and historical events considered essential in any examination of the U.S. national security system (e.g., the U.S. intervention in Somalia and the planning for the Iraq War, which can be found in PNSR Case Study Volume I; the Iran-Contra Affair, which appears in these pages; and others yet to be published). The working group also sought cases on national security matters that covered lesser-known events, episodes not entailing the use of force, and those to which the authors brought unique insights based on past scholarship or government service. The outcome of a proposed case was not considered in the selection process. Successful, failed, or mixed results are equally valuable in analyzing the national security process.
The working group also strove to cover issues that have affected different administrations because they reflected enduring national security challenges (e.g., managing crises with China, analysis of U.S. counterterror capacity building programs, etc.). Although the majority of cases focus on the post-Cold War security environment, the CSWG sought to include studies of events that occurred during each presidential administration since 1947. Despite tremendous changes in the international environment as well as the structure and capabilities of the USG, many of these past episodes yield rich analytical insights for contemporary U.S. national security reform.
The cases investigate a range of national security issues, including responses to immediate-, medium-, and long-term challenges as well as organizational restructuring and program management. All the studies explicitly note why the particular case is important to PNSR. Furthermore, all major case study authors approach their investigations through the analytic lens of four guiding questions:
1. Did the USG generally act in an ad hoc manner or did it develop effective strategies to integrate its national security resources?
2. How well did the agencies/departments work together to implement these ad hoc or integrated strategies?
3. What variables explain the strengths and weaknesses of the response?
4. What diplomatic, financial, and other achievements and costs resulted from these successes and failures?
The cases also attempt to assess the extent to which certain organizational variables influenced the strengths and weaknesses of the government response. These explanatory variables break down into three classifications: decisionmaking structures and processes, civilian national security organizational cultures, and baseline capabilities and resources.
The case studies in this volume confirm the conclusions of other PNSR analyses that the performance of the U.S. national security apparatus is inconsistent. Although some cases illustrate relatively clear, integrated strategy development, unified policy implementation, and coherent tactical planning, coordination, and execution, others depict flawed, divided, contradictory, and sometimes nonexistent strategy promulgation and enactment. Similarly, the U.S. national security system can provide resources efficiently, but it also can do so inadequately and tardily. Flawed responses recur in issue areas as diverse as biodefense, public diplomacy, and military intervention. They also occur across many presidential administrations, from the onset of the Cold War to the present day. The piecemeal organizational reforms enacted to date have not fostered improved policy outcomes or decisionmaking, while capability building, especially in the civilian national security agencies, remains less than optimal.
While instances of successful government responses demonstrate that the USG can, under certain circumstances, generate relatively efficient and effective policy responses. The infrequent achievement of such outcomes points to underlying flaws in national security policy development and implementation processes. From the perspective of addressing immediate-, medium-, and long-term national security issues, the cases support the finding that the current U.S. national security system too rarely achieves systematic, integrated policy, and unity of purpose. Even when sound strategies are created, coordinated implementation and favorable outcomes are not guaranteed. Often, success is ephemeral, as positive short-term impacts of U.S. actions are rarely harnessed to yield long-term benefits. Given the high potential costs of failure in a world characterized by weapons of mass destruction proliferation and catastrophic terrorism, the cases as a whole reveal dangerous flaws in the current U.S. national security system that require urgent correction.
James R. Locher III
Part I: Organizing the National Security Apparatus
Chapter 1. The Vice President and Foreign Policy: From “The Most Insignificant Office” to Gore as Russian Czar
Chapter 2. The Iran-Contra Affair
Part II: Mitigating and Managing Unconventional Threat
Chapter 3. Progress of “Biodefense Strategy for the 21st Century”: – A Five-Year Evaluation
Chapter 4. Failures at the Nexus of Health and Homeland Security: The 2007 Andrew Speaker Case
Elin Gursky and Sweta Batni
Chapter 5. Counterterror Failure: The Fadlallah Assassination Attempt
Richard J. Chasdi
Part III: Dealing with the New World Disorder
Chapter 6. The Asian Financial Crisis: Managing Complex Threats to Global Economic Stability
Rozlyn C. Engel
Chapter 7. The Banality of the Interagency: U.S. Inaction in the Rwanda Genocide
Dylan Lee Lehrke
Chapter 8. The Crisis in U.S. Public Diplomacy: The Demise of the U.S. Information Agency
Nicholas J. Cull and Juliana Geran Pilon
Part IV: Leveraging and Supporting Allies
Chapter 9. U.S. Interagency Efforts to Combat International Terrorism Through Foreign Capacity Building Programs
Michael B. Kraft and Celina B. Realuyo
Chapter 10. U.S. Decisionmaking Regarding East Timor, 1999
Chapter 11. The Interagency, Eisenhower, and the House of Saud
Christine R. Gilbert
Chapter 12. Conclusion
Appendix: Volume II Case Study Summaries
About the Contributors
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