Pentagon Recommends 'Whole-of-Government' National Security Plans

By Walter Pincus
Monday, February 2, 2009

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has formally adopted the concept that national security planning and budgeting cannot be done by the Pentagon alone, according to the Defense Department's newly released Quadrennial Roles and Missions Review Report.

"The Department supports institutionalizing whole-of-government approaches to addressing national security challenges," the document says, adding, "The desired end state is for U.S. Government national security partners to develop plans and conduct operations from a shared perspective."

This approach reflects recommendations made last year by the Project on National Security Reform, which had among its leadership President Obama's new national security adviser, James L. Jones, and Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair.

Among the steps needed to be taken in this more holistic approach, according to the new Pentagon document, is publication of "an authoritative national-level strategic guidance document that addresses interagency roles and responsibilities, and resolves seam issues between agencies," meaning issues that overlap.

The document also recognizes the need for putting together an annual budget that shows a whole-of-government approach to national security programs along with the traditional department-by-department approach. Both ideas were also among the recommendations from the Project on National Security Reform.

The Pentagon document recognizes that there already are interagency groups that work when needed to plan unified actions on national security problems. But it calls for establishing a more permanent framework that includes "commonly understood strategic concepts, operational principles, relationships between agencies, and roles and responsibilities."

One example of existing informal cooperation, according to the Pentagon, is taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan. "We are committed to using our operational and informational activities and strategic communication processes in support of the Department of State's broader public diplomacy efforts," the document says. But it talks of expanding that partnership to "better enable the U.S. Government to engage foreign audiences holistically and with unity of effort."

Without specifically mentioning the problems experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan, it said the new approach would include establishing "how to best coordinate and synchronize efforts as well as transition between military-led and civilian-led activities during operations."

For instance, the Pentagon document proposes "establishing a formal forum for collaborating with other elements of the U.S. Government on Joint Operating Concepts." This group would set responsibilities "across the whole-of-government, such as border security, disaster relief operations abroad, and domestic counterterrorism security programs, among other shared security challenges."

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