The Success of the Bin Laden Mission: Special Forces in an Interagency Collaboration Environment
Congratulations to the Administration and the special operations forces who conducted the operation!
The United States has the world’s finest special operations forces, and we offer them heartfelt congratulations for a job well done. For background on special operations forces and associated issues, see Tucker and Lamb: U.S. Special Operations Forces (Columbia University Press, 2007).
Others deserve appreciation as well.
The operation was enabled by all-source intelligence fusion from a truly collaborative effort across multiple U.S. government organizations. The Organizational Performance Team at the Center for Strategic Research has focused attention on the attributes of effective interagency national security teams since 2009. (See PRISM, Vol 2, No. 1).
Using a 40 variable analytic framework, Dr. Christopher Lamb and Evan Munsing conducted two thorough case studies on effective interagency collaboration - with a special focus on intelligence sharing. One case study analyzed the success of the Joint Interagency Task Force - South (JIATF-South) which is a forthcoming publication. A second case study explained the emergence of high-performing high-value target teams in Iraq and was released on March 18, 2011 (see "Secret Weapon").
The integration of multi-agency intelligence and special operations is an organizational triumph for the U.S. national security system.
Like the 2006 elimination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Al-Qaeda’s vicious leader in Iraq, a window of opportunity has opened for building on this success in Afghanistan counterinsurgency operations. Doing so will require unity of effort among the disparate U.S. organizations and coalition forces in Afghanistan and subordinating special operations to counterinsurgency strategy (see "Unity of Effort in Afghanistan").
The Bin Laden operation benefited from the interagency team approach the United States used to such good effect in JIATF-South and Iraq. The United States needs to make greater use of what General Stanley McChrystal has called “collaborative warfare.”
Another recent publication from the Organizational Performance Team at CSR explains the need to create a new strategic capability - similar to JIATF-South and the high-value target teams - at the level of strategic decision makers in Washington, D.C. (See "A Model for National Security Integration.")
In the days ahead, as the Nation celebrates this victory won by the intrepid members of the special operations forces, we should also remember the organizational reforms, both long-standing and more recent, that made the success possible.
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