By Admiral James G. Stavridis, USN
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Pulling the Oar Together
The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize....
With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings and successes.
—George Washington, 1796
Farewell Address to the People of the United States
The nations of the Americas have always been linked through the accident of geography. President John F. Kennedy, in addressing Latin American diplomats and Members of Congress at a White House reception nearly 50 years ago, commented: "Our continents are bound together by a common history . . . our nations are the product of a common struggle . . . and our peoples share a common heritage." This, of course, is undeniably true; however, never have our linkages been as vital or as complex as they are today. With exponential advances in technology and strong natural connections, our societies are bound together inexorably, across the full spectrum of human contact. From migration and demographic changes, to a record level of commercial interaction and interdependence, to shared transnational security challenges, our countries’ futures are tightly intertwined.
During my tenure at U.S. Southern Command, we concentrated on the strengths of this hemisphere of enormous diversity, beauty, and potential, while also seeking effective solutions to the complex and transnational security challenges shared throughout the Americas. At the same time, we understood that the realization of our hemisphere’s long-term security, stability, and prosperity will only come through addressing—collectively—the underlying conditions of poverty, inequality, and corruption that affect vast portions of the region today.
Nevertheless, despite this growing interdependence, many claim the United States as a whole does not pay enough attention to Latin America and the Caribbean. Pointing specifically to the emergence of sharply anti-U.S. rhetoric emanating from several capitals in South America, some say the region is drifting away from us. Recent respected polls have indicated a decline in Latin America’s positive opinion of the United States. Additionally, despite the shift in the political climate of the United States and notwithstanding the vast interaction we have with the region, many credible observers continue to counsel that the United States must pay more attention to this vitally important part of the world—and I could not agree more. To counter these perceptions and to facilitate an environment of cooperation, we need to better coordinate and communicate what we are already doing in the region, as well as to adapt, refocus, and innovatively increase our overall attention.
Focusing the spotlight inward as well, another important lesson we have learned is that our domestic partners—governmental and nongovernmental, public and private, state, local, and tribal levels of government—have never been as essential to our national security as they are now. None of us can take cooperation for granted, nor can we assume any longer that one department, one branch, or one level of government can go it alone in the face of myriad challenges or threats. We must renew our friendships, alliances, and partnerships while we work together to obtain a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of this new security environment. Additionally, we must update our rules and practices of cooperation to reflect the new challenges confronting us.
Internally and externally, we and our partner nations, agencies, organizations, and governments must work together routinely in peacetime, or we will be unable to work together in crises or contingencies. We will be unable to collectively deter threats to our common peace. We will be unable to create a cooperative security for our shared home.
To contend with the complex, multifaceted, and intricate strategic environment of the 21st century, U.S. Southern Command recently reorganized around a new strategic outlook that aims to better connect and partner inside the United States and throughout the region. Our new vision and organizational structure include employing a more holistic and integrated approach to national and international cooperation to better serve the security interests of the United States and those of our partners in this hemisphere. And as detailed previously, our new strategy involves understanding and harnessing the tremendous linkages we share with Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Three D’s
There is little doubt that the United States has learned a great deal from the difficulties of its own recent past—the tragic events of 9/11, the death and destruction left in Katrina’s wake, the challenges of Iraq and Afghanistan, and even our economic woes here at home. But we are a nation of courage, opportunity, and possibility, and this nation has mobilized to confront myriad threats and challenges, delivering valiant efforts to accomplish Herculean tasks. In the arena of interagency cooperation, however, our achievements thus far are eclipsed by the magnitude of the tasks before us. There is much more work still to be done.
Though we have made substantial headway, both doctrinally and organizationally, toward building a bridge to a new era of national security—a bridge that spans the preexisting gaps and connects the previously isolated islands of excellence—we have not been able to complete the journey. In fact, we’ve only just begun.
The recent rise in the level of national rhetoric reflecting this thinking, recognizing both the distance traveled thus far, as well as emphasizing the distance yet to go, is centered on taking a three-dimensional view of our nation’s ability to serve as a force for good on the global stage. This new "3-D" paradigm of national power—development, diplomacy, and defense — will serve as the pillars, deeply rooted in the bedrock of our national values, upon which we will build the bridge to the future. Within the Executive Branch, there has been a renewed focus on enabling and empowering all the elements of our nation’s capabilities, but particular attention has been paid to reconciling the mutually and necessarily codependent roles of development, diplomacy, and defense.
Starting with President Obama’s Inaugural Address, followed by Vice President Biden’s speech in Munich one week later, and reinforced by Secretary of State Clinton’s remarks at the Asia Society on February 13, 2009, the resounding theme has been unanimous: "The United States is committed to a new era of diplomacy and development in which we will use smart power to work with historic allies and emerging nations to find regional and global solutions to common global problems."1
The Department of Defense (DOD) has been forward-leaning in this regard for some time. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen have both repeatedly called for a "dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security," insisting that "success will be less a matter of imposing one’s will and more a function of shaping the behavior of friends, adversaries, and most importantly, the people in between."2
The halls of Congress also resonate with the sound of interagency cooperation and collaboration, as legislators strongly advocate revitalizing our civilian instruments of foreign policy. Chairman Ike Skelton and Representatives Howard Berman and Nita Lowey introduced legislation to create an interagency policy board. Representatives Jim Cooper and Mac Thornberry have written and thought extensively about this. Congress funded an important study led by Jim Locher, one of the architects of the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986. The Lugar-Biden bill first passed in 2004 was the catalyst that created the Office of the Coordinator for Stability and Reconstruction at the State Department (S/CRS), which was ultimately enacted as part of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act to much success.
Last year, 6 months of hearings on Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) led to a detailed House Armed Services Committee report which, among other things, changed the rules on how military officers can earn joint credit. This wise legislation allows military officers to now receive joint credit for interagency work with the State Department or the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), as well as serving on a PRT or Military Transition Team. Those experiences are vital to the military’s collective knowledge base, and rewarding our officers for seeking to earn those skills and familiarity is of equal importance.
Additionally, legislation was enacted to grant the Defense Department global authority to train and equip allies using DOD rather than State Department funds. This authorization, which places such activities under the "dual key" of Defense and State, is invaluable when it comes to assisting our partners in learning how to provide not just for their own security, but also contribute to the security of the global commons and the points of commerce flow.
The totality of these efforts, combined with real world developments and the materializing 21st-century security environment, has produced some fundamental alterations to the existing structure, doctrine, and national security objectives of the U.S. Government as we pursue and protect our vital and enduring national interests.
To borrow from our National Security Advisor, retired Marine General Jim Jones:
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.3
Within the Department of Defense specifically, there is great momentum to integrate and coordinate military, interagency community, multinational, and private sector efforts on all matters of national security. In 2005, for example, DOD Directive 3000.05 declared stability operations were a core U.S. military mission, raising them to a level comparable to combat operations. Stability operations, by definition, demand civilian involve-ment—both government and private citizens—and this spurred the development of new Joint Operational Concepts and field manuals on stability operations in addition to counterinsurgency and irregular warfare.
Another seminal document signaling the shift from predominantly combat operations to a broader multinational and full-spectrum engagement is the Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower. This new maritime strategy was vetted throughout the Nation via a series of "conversations with the country" and it rightly emphasizes the need to foster and sustain international partnerships over time, building mutual trust and capability for steady-state security cooperation as a matter of course, and the desire to respond together in the case of crisis. We clearly recognize the inherent value and wholeheartedly embrace the need to build the capability and capacity of our neighbors to address the complex security challenges we share together, while simultaneously building upon the foundation of our common interests.
In its reorganization, U.S. Southern Command adopted an integrated, multiagency approach to security in its area of focus. While fully respecting the prerogatives of the State Department to execute diplomacy and USAID to execute development, our reorganization efforts included multinational, nongovernmental, and even private sector collaboration to enhance understanding of regional dynamics and amplify the benefits of cooperation activities. Although we cannot claim that our reorganization is definitively correct and final, we can truly attest to the fact that we are definitively more effective and responsive than we were just 3 short years ago. There has also been improved synchronization of operations and activities between Southern Command and other U.S. Government organizations operating in this part of the world. This is the direct result of innovation coupled with empowering courageous leadership at all levels to become a living organism that will continue to evolve and adapt as the environment and surroundings necessitate.
We have engaged interagency community partners and integrated personnel from these agencies into the Southern Command staff, not as liaison officers or external advisors, but as bona fide integral staff members—to include having a 3-star equivalent, former Ambassador as one of two Deputy Commanders, with all the requisite authority and responsibilities. We have also ensured all Southern Command exercises and conferences include participation from our interagency community partners. Finally, we have established the paradigm of pushing our innovative ideas and approach to the Joint Staff and the Office of the Secretary of Defense to support our interagency-oriented security command concept in future Unified Command Plans. It is important that we get this right.
One of the unique characteristics enabling such an energetic collaborative approach is that Southern Command has an entire directorate—the Partnering Directorate, lead by a Senior Executive Service civilian—dedicated to partnering with the interagency community and public-private sector. This allows for improved cooperation with interagency partners, and facilitates their involvement in strategic planning, resourcing, and operations. Additionally, a Stability Directorate was formed, responsible for executing activities that build partner nation capacity, and for integrating engagement projects with interagency, host nation, and regional activities.
Our new, flatter organizational structure and diverse interagency and international team members allow us to partner proactively with the U.S. Government interagency community and with the sovereign countries in the region. These efforts will ultimately improve our collective response to regional and transnational security challenges and help build relationships in the region based on trust, respect, and mutual understanding.
The entirety of the U.S. Southern Command concept and approach is articulated in our guiding strategic document called Command Strategy 2018. As mentioned in the previous chapter, this document is a living, breathing entity that serves as a foundation upon which to build the construct for joint and combined military/civilian operations. It contains our vision and strategy to respond to the ever-constant mandate to meet joint military requirements and to recognize the increasing importance of integrating all instruments of national capability to meet the challenges of the future throughout the hemisphere. As we continue to assist in building that bridge to the future, we see Southern Command as just one section of one span of that bridge, hopefully helping connect several islands of excellence here within our region. We are committed to helping build a focused, collaborative approach that will allow us to best support the State Department in carrying out diplomacy and USAID in executing development, even as we do our part in defense.
We also have a promise to fulfill with the American people. The military’s primary goal is to fight and win our nation’s wars; however, preventing war on conditions favorable to our vital national interests is of even more value than fighting. Diplomatic solutions are highly preferable and come at a much lower cost than military operations. That’s where diplomacy by the State Department and development by USAID, together with the deterrent power of defense, find their most powerful sinews. As much as others may like to think—or default to the notion—that development is the purview of the military, it is not. Organizations such as USAID are there to fill that role, and the State Department does diplomacy. We do not want to convey the impression that we have any desires or intentions to usurp any other agency’s priorities or mission sets.
USAID and other civilian agencies have very different perspectives and purposes derived from a different source of strategic guidance than does the military—and this difference should be recognized, understood, and embraced. Our National Security Strategy accounts for this and envisions a broad role for development assistance around the globe. Development is what USAID does, and they are good at it. But they need more people and resources, as does the State Department. As Hans Binnendijk and Pat Cronin point out,
S/CRS made heroic efforts to organize and develop civilian capabilities for complex operations, but the new office was underfunded, understaffed, and unappreciated within the State Department. Whereas the Department of Defense had dedicated tens of thousands of military personnel to these operations, S/CRS had a staff of fewer than 100, most of them detailees.4
But the future does look brighter. As Secretary Gates recently put it, "The military and civilian elements of the United States’ national security apparatus have responded unevenly and have grown increasingly out of balance. The problem is not will; it is capacity. Since 9/11, the State Department has made a comeback, Foreign Service officers are being hired again, and foreign affairs spending has about doubled."5
An expanded and enhanced USAID and State Department presence will enable the United States to implement its foreign policy in permissive environments. In nonpermissive or dangerous environments that are beyond the reach of diplomacy, the U.S. military sets the conditions for a secure environment— as it did in Iraq and is currently doing in Afghanistan—for development to take place. This capability stems from our logistic capacity, planning methods, experience, and the well defined chain of command. Through that chain of command, Theater Security Cooperation activities can pave the way for development, and development can pave the way for furthering U.S. strategic objectives using the tools of diplomacy. This is true whether it is U.S. Southern Command or any other combatant command.
Need for an Interagency Planning Process
Security, stability, and prosperity go hand-in-hand. When we cooperate in combating the threat of terrorism, when we prevent crises and turmoil, when we deter aggression, we help build the foundations for increased prosperity. But this formula works in reverse as well—when we work together to help build prosperity, we contribute to reducing the potential sources of threats to regional and global security and stability. This relationship highlights the complexity of the task we face in building a cooperative security and the inherent need for teamwork and partnering. However, it also emphasizes that our collective effort to deal with the volatility and potential sources of conflict can have a dual impact in shaping both a stable and prosperous world. All three variables in this equation must work together to face the challenges of the 21st century and strive to achieve our national strategic objectives. In addition, these objectives must be clearly defined, prioritized, and deconflicted by our civilian leaders, so we can take a whole-of-government approach—and a whole-of-nation approach—to national security.
Lacking coherent objectives and clearly defined and prioritized national goals will continue tipping the scales of military and civilian elements of U.S. national capability off balance. We must articulate our goals and establish an order of precedence among them; then we must formulate a national strategy that defines the ends, the ways, and the means that will ultimately lead to establishing the right balance between hard power and soft power—finding the correct setting on the rheostat of smart power—so as a nation, we can make the proper investments and focus on advancing national security. And it is important to emphasize that USAID must lead development, and the State Department must lead diplomacy. We must not militarize foreign policy. Our military does not want to be "the Peace Corps with guns." All of this must be planned and led by civilians, unless we are in a direct combat situation.
To arrive at the objectives, goals, and national level strategy described above—and drawing from the previous section on strategy formulation and strategic planning—it follows, then, that the U.S. Government requires a truly interagency strategic planning process for national security and foreign policy. The U.S. Government approach to interagency strategic planning represents a challenge for the Nation, given the characteristics of our current strategic landscape. This capability is a critical requirement for effectiveness in an emerging regional and global operating environment in which challenges and opportunities will proliferate, issues will become increasingly interdisciplinary, and the resources available to the U.S. Government may be significantly constrained. Therefore, this process must facilitate cross-agency issue prioritization, clarification of agency roles and responsibilities in crosscutting areas, greater visibility into budgetary resources by strategic area, and anticipation of emerging strategic issues. The solution should address traditional and nontraditional national security factors and therefore include the participation of all U.S. Government agencies that have a stake in these arenas.
As mentioned above, in such a setting, the U.S. Government must have the ability to prioritize among pressing issues; this necessitates a means for establishing prioritized strategic goals across the agencies and for having visibility into the interagency resources being spent to address these goals. Prioritized endstates will drive prioritized objectives; these, in turn, will drive prioritized capability development which drives resource allocation. The current atmosphere already features strategic issues that do not match up nearly with current agency structures—for example, the intersection of regional security, food availability, health, and the environment. Managing these issue intersections effectively requires both common orienting goals and regular assessments of performance across agencies to ensure all relevant capabilities are being brought to bear in a timely and coordinated fashion.
Our strategic environment also increasingly features nontraditional actors capable of highly unified, agile, and patient strategic action. To compete effectively for influence with such actors requires a means for closing the strategic and operational seams that such actors target. It also requires the ability to shape the environment. Given that many of the U.S. Government instruments of power best suited to shaping the operating environment reside in agencies not traditionally included in national security considerations, this highest-level interagency planning process must explicitly include them.
Globalization has distorted the boundaries and distinctions between national and international policy to the extent that more than 30 U.S. Government agencies now operate internationally. The new demands of homeland security and the rapidly evolving challenges of international affairs are converging increasingly into a linked set of regional and global challenges containing critical military, financial, homeland security, diplomatic, commercial, legal, environmental, and health components. Agencies previously considered mainly domestic now have vital global responsibilities with strategic linkages to traditional foreign policy agencies. Although U.S. Government agencies share highly interrelated goals, they often lack coordinated plans to achieve them, creating both strategic vulnerabilities and operational inefficiencies.
The value of a strategic planning process that is inclusive of interagency, public and private sector, and governmental and nongovernmental members and views from the outset derives from both enhanced effectiveness and efficiency in accomplishing the Nation’s foreign policy and national security objectives. Effectiveness is strengthened both by increasing unity of effort and by managing performance across all elements of national power in accomplishing specific goals. Efficiency results from reduced duplication of effort, better visibility into and rationalization of investments in accordance with priorities, and anticipation of emerging strategic issues and gaps to enable earlier, more proactive action in lieu of more costly reactive responses.
As touched upon previously, even for a single agency or strategic command, conducting integrated strategic planning within today’s strategic environment is a significant challenge, particularly for organizations composed of large, semi-autonomous agencies or bureaus. For many entities, the plethora of strategic plans, performance plans, and all other types of plans mandated by external factors and the resulting "urge to plan" creates a cacophony of white noise in the planning rooms throughout the organization. The result is that none of these plans is synchronized or aligned in any way, as different offices conduct strategic, performance, resource, and policy planning without a unifying framework. And this is still only talking about what goes on within a single institution. At the interagency level, particularly for agencies operating regionally and globally, these challenges are exacerbated, becoming even more difficult and imperative.
Stability operations, security cooperation, security assistance, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief are all blurring the lines of authority. This blurring and overlapping jurisdiction between the development, diplomatic, and defense institutions are causing some understandable discomfort.
To ease that discomfort, we should recognize that stability and development are built upon the substratum of security. Without security, the other two are impossible to achieve. The United States and its international partners must focus on common interests, apply our collective wisdom, and leverage the shared and unique abilities of all partners to defeat those who seek to fracture the peace and disrupt the established global system of trade, commerce, and communication. The security challenges are not always traditional military threats, are often interrelated and transnational, and may involve both state and nonstate actors.
These threats, challenges, and conditions require using our 3-D glasses to see the blueprint for constructing an international partnering and interagency community approach on the foundational pillars of development, diplomacy, and defense.
Interagency partnering is an essential component of the Southern Command mission and enables the command to fulfill its full range of missions and effectively support our partners in Latin America and the Caribbean. These partnerships enable us to prioritize and synchronize efforts in a resource-constrained environment. Additionally, cabinet-level strategic plans and strategic plans from numerous independent establishments and government corporations provide valuable insights into the way these different organizations see a situation and how they approach a challenge or threat. This higher level guidance is but one factor that enables the synergistic development of a holistic strategy that synchronizes the efforts of our interagency community partners. This would not be possible if our Strategic Planning Process were not open and transparent from page one!
Bringing everyone together and openly sharing ideas and information is a vital step toward enlightenment and understanding the different points of view of our partners. But before we "understand," we must "see." Ultimately, we—the U.S. Government specifically, but also the Nation as a whole—need to view the world through others’ eyes; it is not enough just to try and understand the other points of view, but truly understand where they are coming from and whence that point of view originates. We need to fully grasp the sources of grievance, and truly establish a permanent residence in the critical nodes in the international web of thought that drive political, cultural, and economic instability. We need to fully comprehend the sources of conflict and quarrel so that our thoughts, our words, and our deeds can serve as safety switches, not tripwires that set off unintended consequences.
Consider humanitarian operations, for example—such efforts foster goodwill and enhance the credibility of the United States. They solidify existing partnerships with key nations and open access to new relationships between and among nations, nongovernmental organizations, and international organizations. We need to always remember, however, that assistance provided by civilians can be viewed differently than assistance provided by personnel in uniform—even the vehicle from which this assistance is provided can influence perception and subsequently adulterate the mission. The former might be viewed as truly humanitarian, altruistic, and as part of a shared common interest. The latter could very easily be construed as serving some darker pursuit of national and military objectives.
One way to illustrate this "white hull vs. gray hull" mentality is shown in Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s remarks in August 2008: "Last year . ..the Comfort came to Corinto, and they were serving the people of Corinto, on the coast of Chinandega. They came to provide medical attention. They are ships of war! In other times, when these ships arrived in Nicaraguan waters, they would come to disembark troops. . . . Today we have the Kearsarge, also in a plan of peace, with a plan of cooperation. Ships of war with a plan of peace." Understanding those nuances is crucial.
Civilian agencies and military organizations have different strengths to bring to development activities. USAID and its implementing partners have substantial experience in all types of development projects. They often combine this with extensive knowledge of the area where projects are performed, which is gleaned from a persistent presence (with a purpose) in country. This could aid greatly in ensuring the assistance—and the message that accompanies the assistance—is delivered to the proper audience in the proper manner.
Our Services, for example, have a long history of performing a wide array of humanitarian operations, including rescues at sea, transport of emergency personnel and relief supplies, community service, emergency relief, and medical services. These activities are an ingrained part of who we are and what we do. And though many observers often focus on the standard qualities of logistic capability and capacity, money, personnel, organization, and size as the most important comparative advantages held by the military, perhaps the most unique attribute the military has is its security mindset.
Whereas civilian development experts look at a situation and ask "what is the need," military actors ask the additional question of "what is the threat?"
This unique comparative advantage in providing security for itself and other U.S. agencies in hostile environments positions the military to be the only actor that can provide humanitarian or development assistance in situations of armed conflict.
Clearly, there will always be a need for humanitarian operations. Perhaps in our concept of maritime engagement operations, we should no longer constrain ourselves to the current force-packaging paradigm— carrier, expeditionary, and surface strike groups. If we are truly looking for a concrete way to implement the new maritime strategy and a new way to more completely take advantage of both traditional and nontraditional sources of national power, now is the time to give humanitarian missions a permanent, integral place in the spectrum of mission-tailored deployment options.
We could consider developing a new type of deploying group—call it a Humanitarian Service Group or HSG. As envisioned, an HSG could be organized from the keel up to conduct humanitarian relief and disaster recovery missions, but would benefit from the precise direction and focus of trained development and diplomatic professionals from USAID and the State Department being on board, in addition to a full complement from other departments such as Health and Human Services/Centers for Disease Control, Treasury, Energy, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Taking the hospital ships, USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy, as centerpieces, we already have the foundation for two HSGs—one for the Atlantic Fleet and the other for the Pacific Fleet. Each one would be home-ported in a place ideally suited for these ships to respond to crises or deploy to areas of most critical need. In addition, this would allow multiple participating agencies and their representatives to train and exercise together in advance of the deployments, much in the same way a carrier, expeditionary, or surface strike group goes through 6–12 months of "workups," honing their skills until they are in finely tuned synchronicity.
To accompany our hospital ships, we could assign escort ships from the Navy and Coast Guard, as well as assign permanent squadron command and staff and invite the various participating agency, nongovernmental, and public-private organization members to serve on that staff. The crews of these HSGs would focus their training on myriad humanitarian assistance, noncombatant evacuation, training and education, disaster recovery, health engagement, and community development missions. But regardless of how the HSG is ultimately organized, an inclusive mindset to work hand-in-hand and strive for complete integration with partners should be a core requirement.
We in the Department of Defense must expand our understanding of conflict and security beyond lethal means and reexamine all our operations, including peacetime engagement and training activities, as part of a single strategic framework. These are the new fundamental conditions of the 21st-century security environment:
Sophisticated media engagement by transnational terrorists and organizations. Pressing ecological issues, environmental disasters, rapid population growth, escalating demand for water, land, and energy—all these contribute to producing communities that lack the basic infrastructure to maintain even the most basic quality of life and health conditions that are essential to human welfare and civil development.
These new threats—not susceptible to combat operations but certainly exacerbated by bellicose behavior—tend to lurk in our intellectual seams and find our bureaucratic and cultural blind spots. Our self-imposed legal, political, moral, and conceptual boundaries defining what constitutes combat vs. criminal activity, domestic vs. international jurisdiction, and governmental versus private interest all provide operational space for potentially lethal opponents with no such boundaries to respect.
Countering such threats and challenges, and reacting to the informational realities of our age, require new organizational structures not predicated on traditional notions of war and peace. Our old model, wherein the State Department and USAID offer "carrots" in time of peace while the DOD threatens the "stick" should deterrence fail, provides solutions only when such black and white paradigms are readily distinguishable. Today we operate in shades of gray.
This all comprises a difficult set of conditions, to be sure. Accordingly, we must recognize that the 21st-century security environment is a thriving marketplace of ideas; we must also understand we are but one of several merchants in this marketplace where intended and unintended messages often carry equal weight, wherein every activity attributable to the United States communicates to some audience—either positively or negatively. Everything we do, therefore, must be guided with the thought of increasing our market share in a positive way. Thus, exactly what we wish to communicate and to whom we wish to communicate it—both the American population and the population of the country or region of focus—must be predetermined and guided throughout by a systematic, yet flexible and effective process; this process could perhaps be driven by a separate information agency which will ensure a more comprehensive, tightly integrated and synergistic interagency community effort delivers this national message.
The aforementioned set of challenging conditions comprises more than just a Defense Department issue, more than just a State Department issue, more than even just an Executive Branch issue—this is a whole-ofgovernment crucible and it demands a whole-of-government approach.
The American people have a vested interest in this; Congress, as their elected representatives, should take its rightful place as an equal or leading power to set the agenda, identify problems, and enact solutions to ensure interagency cooperation, collaboration, and integration. Building greater transparency between the Executive and Legislative branches is essential for getting budget flexibility and the decentralized instruments we need to succeed. More collaborative planning and budgeting can help restore trust between the two branches and among the interagency community. We as a nation would fall short of that level of involvement to our own detriment.
Engaging all stakeholders in Congress is essential. To sustain support for the level of development activities essential for the Nation’s interests, there must be a broad consensus among the American people regarding the importance of regional and global development for the Nation’s security as well as its values. Building this consensus requires a concerted effort by a variety of advocates to educate both policymakers and the public. Some of this is already happening, as indicated by the increased level of focus on the 3-D approach. We must continue an assertive public engagement on the part of civilian development agencies.
Continuing on the theme of education, within the Executive Branch, we as members of the interagency community must become aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, constraints, and restraints. We must find ways to mutually promote our common interests, and we must become intimately familiar with each other’s goals and objectives, both in the field as well as in Washington. An example of this can be found at U.S. Southern Command as USAID and U.S. military officers are gaining a better understanding of each other and an appreciation for what they do through our exchange program. In the 16 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean where USAID operates, we find our valiant USAID personnel providing vital contributions and making a significant difference every day. We have also learned that objectives determined by headquarters may or may not match the needs and objectives of people and organizations in the country.
As remarkable as this learning process is, however, it is only the tip of the iceberg—we can and we must do more. The starting point is interaction and sharing, striving toward increasing the levels of awareness of how we each think and operate. But to truly institutionalize an integrated, coordinated, whole-of-government systemic approach, interagency national security training and education are needed across the U.S. Government. While we have made some modest improvements in this area for military personnel, the demands for increased civilian training, academic instruction, and interagency assignments and exchanges are compelling and immediate. This includes language and cultural training, but also a new system of personnel incentives similar to the military’s changes following Goldwater-Nichols legislation more than two decades ago.
Interagency personnel need challenging assignments, regardless of their rank. In order to continue benefiting from interagency community expertise and perspectives, personnel need career-enhancing assignments. In the military, if personnel who work at an interagency activity or come to an interagency-oriented command are not promoted or sent to career-advancing follow-on assignments by their parent agencies, it is unlikely that strong interagency partnering will be sustainable or effective.
The demands of the 21st century will require even more interagency integration of planning, and the shortfalls in this area merit attention and resourcing. In many respects, we need to develop a new cadre of national security officers who can deploy and staff organizations across the wholeof-government. Particular attention must be paid to the development and diplomatic arenas; our desired endstate should be a new generation of national security officers and interagency community leaders who are just as comfortable practicing diplomacy, enabling development, or providing for our common defense and security.
America must . . . balance and integrate all elements of our national power. We cannot continue to push the burden on to our military alone, nor leave dormant any aspect of the full arsenal of American capability. . . . This effort takes place within the walls of this university [NDU], where civilians sit alongside soldiers in the classroom. And it must continue out in the field, where American civilians can advance opportunity, enhance governance and the rule of law, and attack the causes of war around the world.
— President Barack Obama6
The foundation of society rests upon the ability of a nation to provide security and stability for its people. Today, widespread poverty and inequality combined with corruption leaves many searching for the means for simple survival in much of Latin America and the Caribbean. A lack of opportunity and competition for scarce resources lead to an increase in crime and provide opportunities for gangs and terrorists to flourish. In many cases, these conditions lead to an environment that threatens the security of the entire region, and threatens democracies everywhere.
Addressing the challenges posed by gangs, drugs, and terrorist threats requires the application of all instruments of national power. Our nation must also deal with the underlying problems of unemployment, corruption, and a general lack of opportunity. The U.S. interagency community must encourage and assist in building partnerships across the region while working with intergovernmental organizations to ensure success. Given an environment of unceasing micro-conflict and constant ideological communication, "carrot and stick" must work not merely hand-in-hand, but hand-in glove—synchronized toward a single purpose and unity of effort, across national and tactical echelons, in ways previously unseen in our country’s history.
We should not expect clear transitions between peace and war, and, thus, in certain regions, we need new standing organizations chartered to manage the entire spectrum of international relations conditions. Combatant commands must seek to maintain a vital regional perspective on security issues. Enabling truly joint and interagency activities requires additional modalities and authorities to provide effective synchronization of various U.S. Government agency resources. It also requires integration among the regional authorities of other interagency actor cells, particularly the State Department and USAID. We need to explore new standing organizations chartered to operate with today’s dynamic and challenging international environment.
Joint Interagency Task Force–South (JIATF–South)
U.S. Southern Command is itself one example of such an organization at the combatant command level, but perhaps an even more impressive model can be found in the Joint Interagency Task Force–South (JIATF–South) located in Key West, Florida. The security and prosperity of the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean are inseparably linked, and together we face some serious challenges. Fighting two of these in particular, narcoterrorism and illicit trafficking, is the very reason JIATF– South exists. This task force, which in February 2009 celebrated 20 years of excellence, is comprised of truly amazing individuals from all 4 branches of the military, 9 different agencies, and 11 different partner nations. This group, beyond doubt, is a team: a joint, interagency, international, combined, and allied team—a creative and innovative body that defines "synergy," the blending of experience, professionalism, and knowledge being greater than the sum of its individual parts. JIATF–South sets the standard of achieving unity of effort to accomplish great things in confronting the challenges that exist in our shared home.
JIATF–South’s raison d’être is a task of enormous proportions, but the task force nevertheless continues to make incredible headway every year and produces eye-watering results. For example: JIATF–South’s area of responsibility covers nearly 42 million square miles, almost 40 percent of the earth’s surface; in the 20 years it has been conducting operations in this region, 2,300 metric tons of cocaine have been seized, 705,000 pounds of marijuana have been interdicted, 4,600 traffickers arrested, almost 1,100 vessels captured, and a grand total of approximately $190 billion taken out of the pockets of the drug cartels; in 2008, JIATF–South was responsible for greater than 50 percent of the total cocaine seizures in the world; and, while doing all this, JIATF–South set the benchmark for workplace quality in a recent nationwide study.7 This kind of success demands total commitment from the entire organization—inspirational leadership, complete integration, collaboration, and partnership which pervade every possible sinew of the entity.
In an ideal world, the required resources for successful accomplishment of our missions would be limitless. With our national, regional, and even global commitments, however, the simple and honest truth is that we do not have all we want; more importantly, we do not have all we need. Thus we need to rely heavily on innovation and partnerships in all we do. JIATF– South is not just the frontline in our fight against those who threaten the region with drugs and other kinds of misery; they are the vanguard of creativity—a breeding ground for the kind of innovation and ideas that have transformed, and will continue to transform, not only this unit, not only U.S. Southern Command, but hopefully government at all levels.
The power of creativity—the power of ideas—comes not from secrecy and maintaining preestablished cylinders or stovepipes of excellence, but through open and honest communication and collaboration. For only through such a process can we hope to tap into the vast resource of experiences and enthusiasm to build the security and stability we owe the people of our nations, and tend to the needs of those who make this possible. This is what makes this team work so wonderfully; furthermore, it is helping to transform the face of government throughout the region. The team members’ willingness to integrate, their desire to incorporate, and their creativity are the example—the catalyst—that will help lead all in government to work more cooperatively and efficiently.
Whenever I talk about this incredible organization, I describe it simply as a "national treasure" or the "crown jewel of Southern Command." And after being fortunate enough to witness it in action and see for myself all that this amazing organization represents—record-setting achievements year after year, and robust interagency and international partnerships that have been carefully cultivated by the leadership from the ground up and at all levels—I know what I am really observing at JIATF–South is the future of Southern Command specifically, and the model for future geographic combatant commands, perhaps even combined interagency security commands. The men and women of JIATF–South have been doing it for 20 years; their unparalleled achievements showcase them as a beacon to steer by for all thinkers and statesmen calling for better ways to integrate and implement the whole-of-government and whole-of-nation approach in confronting challenges to national and shared regional security. I have been extremely fortunate to have them as part of Southern Command as they have been an integral cornerstone as we continue to build our Partnership for the Americas.
In summation, cooperative security in this region must be anchored by the belief that only through constant engagement and aggressive development of our partnerships, at every possible opportunity, can our "forces" be agents that build regional stability and security. This fundamental principle must guide the thoughts, words, and deeds of all the elements of national power, as well as our friends and partner nations. This is an exciting prospect, as I believe this type of cooperative security is a shining example of a common tool that addresses human issues, while at the same time it preserves the pride of our own national heritage and the shared common heritage to which President Kennedy referred.
This inherent and elemental desire for security is the reason the nations of the Americas have each tailored unique military and police forces in their own right. From the protection of valuable natural resources and the preservation of human rights, to fears of potential existential clashes of political ideologies, our national needs have produced unique security forces and doctrines for their use. The previously described range of threats and challenges to our individual and collective security has also spawned a multitude of different meanings and definitions of security— but this should not be viewed as a problem. We probably will never reach a consensus, except on a very human level, on what security means to our nations, any more so than a meeting of all the Executive Branch agencies and departments could agree on a single definition of national security.
But that, in itself, is a positive thing—for those varied definitions of security have produced a magnificent array of capabilities, skills, and specialized strengths that contains an inner strength through its own diversity. This multiplicity is a veritable gold mine for all of us who will live and seek to thrive in the 21st-century. Where we have commonalities, we should leverage those and forge a stronger hybrid as a result. Where we have unnecessary redundancy and duplication of effort, we should look to maximize efficiency and effectiveness by channeling constrained resources into an area that may not be as well developed.
How do we mine this mother lode of extensive talent available to us? Access is, of course, limited by the reality of political constraints, both foreign and domestic. But political constraints are often overcome by the tremendously positive experiences we enjoy so often with and through constant interaction, cooperation, and transparent collaboration. It can begin in the classrooms at the Service war colleges and can extend to the many bilateral and multilateral exercises and humanitarian assistance and outreach programs throughout our shared home. To build a truly cooperative security for the 21st century, we must believe there are always new ways to operate together; there are always new forums for dialogue; there are always things we can learn from our partners; and, there are always new tools and solutions that bring both the largest and smallest players to the table.
We have recognized that the real thrust of 21st-century national security in this region is not vested in war, but in intelligent management of the conditions of peace in a volatile era. While remaining fully ready for combat operations, the defense function must work to support the practitioners of diplomacy and development—because their success will dominate so much of what unfolds for our nation in this volatile and unpredictable time. We in the Defense Department must undertake no task without first considering the valuable synergy of the State Department, USAID, and the entire cast of national security agencies, nongovernmental bodies, and the private sector, working together. We must also be equally inclusive of our international partners.
We have also learned that the entire organization must be mission-focused, informed and guided throughout by strategic communication, and integrated by function. I commented earlier that to survive and emerge even stronger from the 21st-century security environment crucible, we need a whole-of-government strategic plan and mindset; that is not enough—we need to truly mobilize all the elements of national power and capabilities, and truly bring to bear a whole-of-nation archetype.
Done correctly, this new way of doing business incorporates more fully the political, military, economic, humanitarian, ecological, and diplomatic dimensions of regional and global operations into a single, coherent strategic approach—an approach that keeps us on our journey toward completing that bridge to a new era of national security, a bridge built upon the "3-D" pillars of development, diplomacy, and defense, but constructed with, and supported by, the wrought-iron girders of all the elements of the interagency community, the nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector.
1 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "Remarks at Asia Society," February 13, 2009.
2 Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, "Landon Lecture," remarks delivered by Secretary Gates at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, November 26, 2007.
3 Karen DeYoung, Interview with Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs James Jones, "Obama’s NSC Will Get New Power," The Washington Post, February 8, 2009, available at: <http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/07/AR2009020702076.html?wprss=rss_ world>.
4 Hans Binnendijk and Patrick M. Cronin, eds., Civilian Surge: Key to Complex Operations (Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, 2009), 3.
5 Robert M. Gates, "A Balanced Strategy, Reprogramming the Pentagon for a New Age," Foreign Affairs 88, no. 1 (January/February 2009), available at: <http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/63717/robert-m-gates/a-balanced-strategy >.
6 President Barack Obama, Address to National Defense University in dedicating Abraham Lincoln Hall, March 12, 2009.
7 2009 Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI) Organizational Climate Survey: JIATF-South surpassed the national average in every category (13 of 13). U.S. Southern Command 2010 Posture Statement, 18.