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Homeland Security

The White House, President George W. Bush

National Strategy for Combating Terrorism

September 2006

Institutionalizing Our Strategy for Long-term Success

The War on Terror will be a long war. Yet we have mobilized to win other long wars, and we can and will win this one. During the Cold War we created an array of domestic and international institutions and enduring partnerships to defeat the threat of communism. Today, we require similar transformational structures to carry forward the fight against terror and to help ensure our ultimate success:

  • Establish and maintain international standards of accountability. States that have sovereign rights also have sovereign responsibilities, including the responsibility to combat terrorism. The international community has developed a compelling body of international obligations relating to counterterrorism. Twelve universal conventions and protocols in force against terrorism have been developed under the auspices of the United Nations as well as various U.N. Security Council Resolutions related to combating terror. These include UNSCR 1373, which imposes binding obligations on all states to suppress and prevent terrorist financing, improve their border controls, enhance information sharing and law enforcement cooperation, suppress the recruitment of terrorists, and deny them sanctuary.

    The Group of Eight (G-8) along with other multilateral and regional bodies also have been instrumental in developing landmark counterterrorism standards and best practices that have been adopted by international standard-setting organizations. But our obligations are not static. We will collaborate with our partners to update and tailor international obligations to meet the evolving nature of the terrorist enemies and threats we face. We also will work to ensure that each country is both willing and able to meet its counterterrorist responsibilities. Finally, we will not just continually monitor whether we and the community of nations are meeting these standards but will evaluate if we are achieving results both individually and collectively.
  • Strengthen coalitions and partnerships. Since September 11, most of our important successes against al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations have been made possible through effective partnerships. Continued success depends on the actions of a powerful coalition of nations maintaining a united front against terror. Multilateral groups such as the International Maritime Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization, as well as regional organizations such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Organization of American States, NATO, the European Union, the African Union, and the Association of South East Asia Nations, among others, are essential elements of this front.

    We will ensure that such international cooperation is an enduring feature of the long war we will fight. We will continue to leverage the comparative advantage of these institutions and organizations – drawing on what each does best in counterterrorism, from setting standards to developing regional strategies to providing forums for training and education. Indeed, a significant part of this effort includes expanding partnership capacity.  We are building the capacity of foreign partners in all areas of counterterrorism activities, including strengthening their ability to conduct law enforcement, intelligence, and military counterterrorism operations. Through the provision of training, equipment, and other assistance, the United States, along with a coalition of willing and able states and organizations, will enhance the ability of partners across the globe to attack and defeat terrorists, deny them funding and freedom of movement, secure their critical infrastructures, and deny terrorists access to WMD and safehavens. Ultimately, it will be essential for our partners to come together to facilitate appropriate international, regional, and local solutions to the challenges of terrorism.
  • Enhance government architecture and interagency collaboration. In the aftermath of September 11, we have enhanced our counterterrorism architecture and interagency collaboration by setting clear national priorities and transforming the government to achieve those priorities. We have established the Department of Homeland Security, bringing under one authority 22 Federal entities with vital roles to play in preventing terrorist attacks within the Homeland, reducing America’s vulnerability to terrorism, and minimizing the damage and facilitating the recovery from attacks that do occur. We have reorganized the Intelligence Community. The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) was created to better integrate the efforts of the Community into a more unified, coordinated, and effective whole. The DNI also launched a new Open Source Center to coordinate open source intelligence and ensure this information is integrated into Intelligence Community products.

    In addition, a National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) was established to serve as a multi-agency center analyzing and integrating all intelligence pertaining to terrorism, including threats to U.S. interests at home and abroad. NCTC also is responsible for developing, implementing, and assessing the effectiveness of strategic operational planning efforts to achieve counterterrorism objectives. We similarly established a National Counterproliferation Center to manage and coordinate planning and activities in those areas.

    The transformation extends to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which, with the help of legislation such as the USA PATRIOT Act, is now more fully integrated with the Intelligence Community, has refocused its efforts on preventing terrorism, and has been provided important tools to pursue this mission. CIA also has transformed to fulfill its role to provide overall direction for and coordination of overseas human intelligence operations of Intelligence Community elements. In addition, the Department of the Treasury created the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence to arm ourselves for the long term with the intelligence and tools to undercut the financial underpinnings of terrorism around the world.

    The Department of Defense also is preparing to meet a wider range of asymmetric challenges by restructuring its capabilities, rearranging its global posture, and adapting its forces to be better positioned to fight the War on Terror. This includes significantly expanding Special Operations Forces, increasing the capabilities of its general purpose forces to conduct irregular warfare operations, and initiating the largest rearrangement of its global force posture since the end of World War II.

    The Department of State is implementing a new framework for foreign assistance to establish more integrated and coherent strategic direction and tactical plans to meet our current and long-term challenges, including terrorism. The State Department also is repositioning its domestic and overseas staff to better promote America’s policies and interests and have more direct local and regional impact. This transformational diplomacy positions State to work with partners around the world to build and sustain democratic, well-governed states that will respond to the needs of their people and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system.

    We will sustain the transformation already under way in these and other departments and agencies. Moreover, we will continue to build and strengthen a unified team across the counterterrorism community, and a key component of this effort will be fostering “jointness.” Where practicable, we will increase interagency and intergovernmental assignments for personnel in counterterrorism-related positions. This will help to break down organizational stovepipes and advance the exchange of ideas and practices for more effective counterterrorism efforts.
  • Foster intellectual and human capital. To better prepare ourselves for a generational struggle against terrorism and the extremist ideologies fueling it, we will create an expert community of counterterrorism professionals. We will continue to establish more systematic programs for the development and education of current professionals in counterterrorism-related fields. We will substantively expand our existing programs with curricula that includes not only training in counterterrorism policies, plans and planning, strategies, and legal authorities, but continuing education in appropriate area studies, religious philosophies, and languages. We also will ensure that personnel throughout all levels of government and in all fields related to combating terror are invited to participate.

    Yet such development and education programs must not be restricted to current counterterrorism personnel. We will support multidisciplinary studies throughout our educational system to build a knowledgeable pool of counterterrorism recruits for the future. The recent National Security Language Initiative is an essential step forward. It will help to expand U.S. foreign language education beginning in early childhood and continuing throughout formal schooling and into the workforce. Our efforts to foster intellectual and human capital also will extend beyond our borders – to academic and non-governmental forums with our international partners to discuss and enhance our knowledge about the critical counterterrorism challenges we confront.

    In the War on Terror, there is also a need for all elements of our Nation – from Federal, State, and local governments to the private sector to local communities and individual citizens – to help create and share responsibilities in a Culture of Preparedness. This Culture of Preparedness, which applies to all catastrophes and all hazards, natural or man-made, rests on four principles: a shared acknowledgement of the certainty of future catastrophes and that creating a prepared Nation will be a continuing challenge; the importance of initiative and accountability at all levels of society; the role of citizen and community preparedness; and finally, the roles of each level of government and the private sector in creating a prepared Nation. Built upon a foundation of partnerships, common goals, and shared responsibility, the creation of a Culture of Preparedness will be among our most profound and enduring transformations in the broader effort to protect and defend the Homeland.


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