Interagency leadership: the case for strengthening the Department of State.

Author:Caudill, Shannon W.

Editor's Note: Effective interagency coordination has become an increasingly important topic of discussion and study within the U.S. military, particularly as military forces, largely by default, have increasingly taken on traditionally civilian roles in reconstruction and stabilization operations and foreign assistance. In this essay, three students at the Joint Forces Staff College find that the State Department "is not viewed as an effective organization on par with the military combatant commands in influence or leadership, by the Congress, the Defense Department, many interagency partners, or even within the State Department." They conclude that State "should be the pre-eminent diplomatic and interagency leader abroad, but it must be reorganized to become more relevant, robust, and effective." Their solution is creation of "Regional Chiefs of Mission" that would replace the current geographic bureaus and report directly to the Secretary of State, together with development of agreed-upon geographical re-alignments that would pair them with the military combatant commands.--Ed.

National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 44 requires the Department of State (DOS) to "lead" interagency efforts for stabilization and reconstruction operations, tasks it simply is not organized or prepared to do, even with recent personnel moves supporting the new "Transformational Diplomacy" concept. It is critical the U.S. government reorganize, revitalize, and invigorate the diplomatic corps, ensuring a new construct to enable its leadership in interagency operations. DOS must reorganize to step from the shadow of the Department of Defense's (DOD) regional combatant command construct and articulate a vision of diplomatic leadership that convinces the U.S. Congress of its value as an indispensible pillar of American power.

Since the end of the Cold War, alarm bells have been ringing in diplomatic circles and policy think tanks about the organizational structure and effectiveness of the DOS's diplomatic and interagency effort. In 1999, the DOS reported its overseas mission "is near a state of crisis," "perilously close to the point of system failure," and lacking an "interagency process to 'right-size' posts as missions change." (1) In 2001, the bipartisan U.S. Commission on National Security for the 21st Century reported:

The DOS, in particular, is a crippled institution, starved for resources by Congress because of its inadequacies, and thereby weakened further. Only if the State Department's internal weaknesses are cured will it become an effective leader in the making and implementation of the nation's foreign policy. Only then can it credibly seek significant funding increases from Congress. The department suffers in particular from an ineffective organizational structure in which regional and functional policies do not serve integrated goals, and in which sound management, accountability, and leadership are lacking. (2) Within the DOD, there is a growing recognition that the other elements of national power must be bolstered to meet national security objectives. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently surprised many pundits by making a speech in which he called for "strengthening our capacity to use 'soft power' and for better integrating it with 'hard power'." Developed by Joseph Nye, the concept of "soft power" refers to the use of values and culture to influence people and countries into supporting your goals, rather than using the "hard power" of military and economic threats, inducements, or direct action. (3)

The U.S. government has done much to press the military toward a stronger interagency footing, but there has been little change in organization or doctrine by the other government departments; most notably the DOS. DOD should not be expected to shoulder all responsibility for interagency transformation across the government. Recognizing that American power is much more than its military arm, Secretary Gates called for "a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security--diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action and economic reconstruction and development." (4) The DOS is the lynchpin in bringing all of these non-military planks of U.S. power to bear overseas.

The overuse of American military power and overarching influence of DOD's regional combatant commands has the unsettling effect of making American foreign policy appear primarily militaristic in nature to foreign observers. Currently, a major concern for American diplomacy is America's image around the world. Especially troubling are the current public opinion polls in functioning democracies. Increasingly, Americans are viewed with suspicion, distrust and, in some cases, outright hatred. Attitudes in the EU are of particular interest as the United States has many significant ties, historically, diplomatically, and militarily. Influenced by the Iraq War, a 2004 Pew Research Center world opinion poll showed "discontent with America ... has intensified." (5) Since then, the world perception of American image and motives has only gotten worse. In a 2007 poll of 25 countries, 49 percent said the United States played a mainly "negative role" in the world, while 68 percent of respondents stated the United States "provokes more conflict than it prevents." (6) The message is clear; if the U.S. hammer of "hard power" is the tool of choice, then every problem will begin to look like a nail, a prospect that will further alienate friends and create more foes.

The U.S. Government's Interagency Initiatives

For at least a decade, it has become increasingly obvious that the deployment of U.S. military forces abroad requires much more than military activity. (7) --Ambassador (retired) Robert E. Hunter, The RAND Corporation The movement toward an interagency framework has been a matter of importance for the last two presidents in the area of stability and reconstruction. In 1997, President Bill Clinton approved Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 56. This directive was intended to lay the foundation for "interagency planning of future complex contingency operations" and was intended to spur a cross flow of U.S. government professional education at institutions like National Defense University and the National Foreign Affairs Training Center. Focusing curricula and exercises on interagency practices and procedures, PDD 56 called upon government agencies to institutionalize lessons learned from complex contingency operations in Haiti and Bosnia. (8)

In 2005, President Bush signed NSPD 44, which lays out detailed responsibilities for governmental departments in supporting stability and reconstruction, including specific responsibilities for the DOS. Born of the lessons learned from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, NSPD 44 requires DOS to "coordinate and lead integrated U.S. Government efforts ... to prepare, plan for, and conduct stabilization and reconstruction activities," and "coordinate interagency process(es) to identify states at risk of instability, [and] lead interagency planning to prevent or mitigate conflict." NSPD 44 also charges DOS with developing "detailed contingency plans for integrated U.S. government reconstruction and stabilization efforts" and to "lead U.S. government development of a strong civilian response capability including necessary surge capabilities."

The directive seeks to "achieve (the) maximum effect" of federal government operations by strengthening the interagency efforts of government to "prepare, plan for, and conduct reconstruction and stabilization assistance" by harmonizing...

To continue reading