US Representative Ike Skelton, D-4th Dist., MO., Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has a guest post up on Interagency reform at the US Army Combined Arms Center blog.
As Yogi Berra once said, this is déjí vu all over again. The United States Government has many talented employees with critical skills and expertise, but its departments and agencies don't always play well together. Even when they share common interests and common goals, they often fail to coordinate effectively, if at all. This can cause agencies to duplicate efforts, or worse, to work at cross purposes, which hardly makes the most of our resources to achieve our strategic objectives.
While not a new problem, the issue has lately taken on new urgency, particularly in the area of national security. The post-9/11 challenges that confront our nation -- such as fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, combating terrorism, and preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction -- require strategies that embrace the capabilities of all government agencies. Unfortunately, eight years into the twenty-first century, our institutions and policies maintain a lot of Cold War organization and thinking, but lack the common focus of the Soviet threat.
The few existing mechanisms to bring together the departments that should play a role in developing national security policy and translating that policy into action are weak. These mechanisms are usually the ad hoc efforts of those directly engaged in the challenge of the moment, and not the result of a broader deliberative process. The experiences of U.S. service members and civilians working with Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Iraq and Afghanistan are prime examples that show how interagency solutions can be forged by necessity in the field. But there must be a better way -- we shouldn't have to reinvent the wheel each time agencies need to join forces...