Small Wars Journal

We Cannot Do This Alone: Combating National Security Challenges With the William & Mary Whole of Government Center of Excellence

Mon, 05/07/2018 - 1:37am

We Cannot Do This Alone: Combating National Security Challenges With the William & Mary Whole of Government Center of Excellence


Madeleine Terry with Maggie Dene, Molly Dinneen and Colin Evert


In a society where actual governing and problem solving are hindered by systemic disconnection among government agencies, how do we encourage interagency cooperation to better address national security challenges? On Friday, April 20, 2018, the William & Mary (W&M) Whole of Government Center of Excellence held its Inaugural National Security Conference to help answer that question.


The conference brought together over 150 experts from civilian agencies and the military, as well as scholars, graduate students, and undergraduates. This gathering took a timely and critical step toward figuring out how diverse agencies, the private sector, and academia can work together to tackle multi-dimensional issues. The discussion generated some promising conclusions and recommendations. Among the key themes of the day were: the evolution of national security threats; the role of veterans; an integrated warfighter effort; the relationship between policymakers and scholars; how to promote entrepreneurship in the national security context; innovative student research; the impact of foreign aid and conflict; resilience in Hampton Roads; and organizational responses to complex problems.


Former Secretary of Defense and W&M Chancellor Dr. Robert M. Gates ‘65 L.H.D. ‘98 addressed the room via video message: “Too often people think the only solution is military force and the truth is that sometimes is a part of the answer, but what is really required is bringing all of the assets of the American government and frankly the private sector to bear on a particular problem.” W&M, through this new program, will bring all of the players to the table to train with their diverse organizational cultures while teaching enduring lessons in the classroom and in the field.



Former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates Addresses The College of William & Mary Whole of Government Center of Excellence Inaugural National Security Conference


The Evolution of National Security Threats and the Need for Improved Interagency Operations


“The downsides of globalization pose a significant challenge to our national security apparatus: individuals and networks can have strategic impact; problems straddle foreign and domestic lines; and threats transcend departmental and agency responsibilities. ‘Whole of Government’ solutions are more critical than ever before. We have to work much closer together than we have in the past.” -- Russell Travers ‘78, Acting Director, National Counterterrorism Center


In the current state of affairs characterized by terrorism, transnational organized crime, cyber proliferation, revisionist state actors, and asymmetric use of the Internet, national security threats are more globalized and complex than ever. In addition, we have to worry about powerful individuals and international networks, as well as select state actors, who now sit at the helm of the most strategically challenging national security threats our world has ever seen. Countering that with the most siloed and disconnected government in our history, the United States does not have the adequate mechanisms nor organizational responses in place to combat such complex threats to our national security. There is no doubt that the United States has put in a valiant effort to combat these challenges, but the fact remains that current attempts are not enough.


Throughout his keynote speech, Travers explained this evolution of national security threats and the need for improved interagency operations. In these complex times, Travers stressed three necessities for combating our country’s national security challenges: more effective interagency cooperation than in the past; greater involvement of the private sector; and importantly, increased Whole of Government training and education. These action items are imperative to bridging the gap between interagency officers and building the mutual trust needed for the future fusion cells and task forces, which will inevitability tackle threats to our national security. In essence, private, military, and interagency officers must train together to better prepare themselves for the imperative of interagency operations.


Protecting Us Then and Now: The Critical Role Veterans Play in Maintaining Our National Security


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Protecting Us Then and Now: The Critical Role Veterans Play in Maintaining Our National Security Panel


“Veterans know how to problem solve: they shake every tree to know how to solve it; it’s inherently in our DNA.” -- Charlotte Hurd (ret.), Military Liaison, Office of U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner


According to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, the projected U.S. veteran population is nearly 24 million people. With the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as future conflicts, veterans will continue to provide valuable contributions across the spectrum of national security operations and are critical to the success of efforts within and outside of the Department of Defense.


The first panel of the conference, chaired by Professor Patricia E. Roberts, Vice Dean, Clinical Professor of Law, Director of Clinical Programs, and Co-Director of the Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic, W&M, put the spotlight on veterans as an untapped well of intellectual and physical capital, and a resource that our government must learn to draw upon. Colonel Michael Dick, USMC (ret.) J.D. ‘06, Vice Chair, Virginia Board of Veterans Services, and Associate Director for Policy, Legislation, and Multilateral Affairs at the U.S. Department of Justice, noted that veterans are uniquely equipped to encourage teamwork in the interagency environment and to prepare for the challenges and missions of the future. They do this by learning from past experiences. Hurd and Admiral John C. Harvey, Jr. (ret.), Strategy, Forces, and Resources Division of the Institute for Defense Analyses and former Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, pulled from their own experiences to argue that veterans leading agencies will solve problems and facilitate more information sharing between military and government agencies, which do not currently possess the personnel needed to bridge such a gap. The speakers then analyzed the response efforts to the Haiti earthquake and Hurricane Katrina, where the lack of international, inter-branch, and interagency collaboration left much to be desired, asserting that cooperation is key to preventing similar response problems in the future.


National Security and Sustained Outcomes: The Importance of Integrated Whole of Government Approaches to the War Fighter Effort


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National Security and Sustained Outcomes: The Importance of Integrated Whole of Government Approaches to the War Fighter Effort Panel


“A ‘Whole of Government’ approach to problem solving is the future of countering trans-domain threats.” -- John F. Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction


Technological advances and innovative solutions to increasingly complex national security challenges coincide with changes in the way war is waged at home and abroad. As these developments allow for air, ground, sea, space, and cyberspace to be attacked simultaneously, we need a multi-domain defense that is only available through enhanced interagency, military, and private sector cooperation.


The second panel, chaired by Colonel Kevin Felix (ret.), Senior Advisor, The Roosevelt Group, focused on the benefits Whole of Government cooperation can provide to the warfighter effort. Major General Robert M. Dyess, Acting Director, U.S. Army Capabilities Integration Center, argued that the way in which war is waged has transformed from an isolated, singular, or dual plain battlefield into a multi-domain conflict. Air Force Brigadier General B. Chance Saltzman, Director Current Operations, HAF, A3, echoed Dyess’ sentiments stating, “MDO (Multi-Domain Operations) requires seamless, dynamic, and continuous integration of capabilities generating effects in and from all domains.” As the scope of competition expands, Whole of Government operations will optimize the depth and capabilities of our military personnel. Travers, who also sat on the panel, argued that diplomacy accompanying military operations is critical; paraphrasing Secretary of Defense Mattis, “we need to invest in the Foreign Service or we’ll need to buy more bullets.” Sopko concluded the panel by stating that a Whole of Government approach to problem solving is the future of countering trans-domain threats: W&M’s Whole of Government Center of Excellence will help propel mid-level government officials toward the exchange of ideas and information necessary for combating national security.


Despite their varied organizations, these speakers agreed that a Whole of Government approach to addressing great power competition, warfighting, and conflict resolution will give the United States the ability to better shape operations, operate more effectively within and across warfighting domains, and create more sustained outcomes supporting US national security objectives.


Policymakers and Scholars 


Are students and scholars of International Relations (IR) equipped to assist policy makers in our rapidly changing world? And even if they are, does IR research and teaching actually have any influence on international politics and policy making? As found by the Teaching, Research & International Policy (TRIP) Program, W&M’s Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations (ITPIR), almost no systematic research has been conducted to verify causation between research and policy. TRIP’s goal is to change that. Founded in 2003, the TRIP project seeks to examine and bridge the divide between the academic and policy communities with the long-term goal being to study and improve the interaction between scholars and practitioners through the use of data. Professor Susan Peterson, Wendy & Emery Reves Professor of Government and International Relations and Co-Director of ITPIR, presented TRIP’s most recent research and results. 


Data was collected from a 2017 survey of policy officials at the level of assistant director or above who were in office between 1993 and 2016 within the fields of national security, international trade, and development. In collaboration with the International Security Program at Notre Dame University, the survey tested the conventional wisdom that practitioners find research to be too abstract and quantitative and do not rely on academia to inform policy decisions. The results indicate that, while conventional wisdom is partially right in that practitioners find IR research too abstract, the wisdom is also partially wrong as practitioners do rely on academic research, which they do not find to be overly quantitative. Further, when they do not rely on academic research, the issue is largely one of time rather than lack of interest. TRIP’s research can help inform the design of academic programs intended to train students in Whole of Government approaches to national security and foreign policy by suggesting the inclusion of more area studies, case study analysis, statistics, and survey research that can be utilized within the time constraints of U.S. policy makers.  


Entrepreneurship and Its Role in Supporting National Security


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Entrepreneurship and Its Role in Supporting National Security Panel


“We aren’t NGOs, we aren’t FEMA, we aren’t the UN, but we speak all of those languages.” -- Jesse Levin, Founder, Tactivate; and Member, Defense Entrepreneurs Forum


How do we solve problems as a government in a way that is creative, efficient, and in our best interest? While it might not be the first answer to come to mind, entrepreneurship arguably holds the key. With their ability to bring about thought-provoking ideas and overlooked multi-disciplinary approaches, entrepreneurs can no longer be an afterthought in the process of breaking apart complex national security issues.


Led by chair Ronald Monark, Managing Director, Alan B. Miller Center for Entrepreneurship, and Lecturer of Business at W&M, this panel discussed the benefits that entrepreneurship brings to the national security table. Sarah Heck, Head of Entrepreneurship, Stripe, and Vice Chair, Young Professionals in Foreign Policy, believes that entrepreneurship and national security are intricately related. By hiring people and incentivizing those people to take risks, we produce creative solutions to problems. Heck argued if we want to solve real problems in national security, then we will have to use entrepreneurship more in policy and policy making. Dr. Kira Hutchinson, GG-15 Intelligence Specialist, TRADOC, continued this point by describing entrepreneurs as the “makers of stone soup” whose adoption of new technologies and capabilities have the power to disrupt in order to produce change. Levin and Lt. Commander Kristen Wheeler, Innovation Project Manager, U.S. Navy Reserves, and Co-Founder and CEO, Puzzle Perks, called attention to the power and untapped talent they encounter within the Defense Entrepreneurship Forum. Expanding entrepreneurial initiatives and creative disruptors will help our government take in available and increasingly complex information to meet problems head-on, thus creating sustainable solutions for the future of national security.


The Next Generation: Undergraduate Policy Makers


Like veterans, undergraduate scholars are a largely untapped resource of creativity within the academic and policy communities who, when guided by faculty and policymakers, can make significant contributions to national security. The idea of students as a policy resource is the main goal of the Project on International Peace and Security (PIPS), a think tank at W&M designed to bridge the gap between the academic and foreign policy communities in undergraduate education.


Lead by Professors Amy Oakes and Dennis Smith, PIPS Co-Directors, the student PIPS research fellows presented on ingenious topics ranging from the threat of unattributed mid-range drone attacks to mass manipulation through sensory propaganda. Another paper discussed how regional security is strengthened through labor reform. Some students even took peace and security to its societal roots, analyzing environmental degradation threats and food insecurity in West Africa and the risk of Russian agricultural power through their weaponization of wheat. Two students looked at the risks of current technological advances. One paper addressed the dangers of real-time reconnaissance and geointelligence through programs such as Fitbit, while another researched the very real yet largely overlooked vulnerabilities of DNA-based identity verification systems such as 23andMe. These presentations made one glaring lesson clear. Utilizing students who have the time, creativity, and passion to do serious research identifies emerging international security challenges and generates policy recommendations that can contribute to the future wellbeing of our world.


Foreign Aid, Conflict, Policy Interventions, and Influence Projection


“There is a need for cultural and political leadership on the ground, but you have to train for it.” -- Ambassador Ronald Neumann (ret.), President, American Academy of Diplomacy; former Ambassador to Algeria, Bahrain, and Afghanistan; and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State


National security challenges are not always characterized by warfare and conflict. Sometimes, they sit just below our line of sight in seemingly unrelated domains such as foreign aid.  Indeed, solving pressing global challenges may require practitioners to have a sophisticated understanding of how to utilize foreign aid resources in the service of national security.  However, as the fourth panel noted, sometimes this technique is easier said than done.


Chaired by Professor Michael J. Tierney ’78, Hylton Professor of Government and International Relations and Co-Director of ITPIR, this panel discussed the challenges of a Whole of Government approach to foreign aid, national security, and U.S. interests abroad. Dr. Michael Findley, Professor of Government, University of Texas at Austin, and Co-Director of Innovations for Peace and Development provided a thoughtful review of the latest research by scholars interested in the impact of foreign aid on conflict and peacebuilding.  Findley stated that the biggest challenge to cooperation lies in the frequent disconnect between an organization’s headquarters and realities in the field. To more efficiently bridge that gap, Neumann noted the importance of improved training for civilians to learn how to put their cultural and political knowledge to work on the ground; the military, meanwhile, needs to more effectively use civilian input in the field. Neumann emphasized that the U.S. diplomatic and defense forces will only have a more stable platform on which to advance American interests through rigorous training and the bridging of these political, cultural, and military divides. Samantha Custer, Director of Policy analysis for AidData, presented on China’s expansion of regional influence through infrastructure aid, arguing that America needs to reexamine how continuing support for its own foreign aid programs may be necessary to counter China’s own efforts in this arena.


The Need to Plan for Resilience in Hampton Roads, Our Nation’s Crucial National Security Corridor


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The Need to Plan for Resilience in Hampton Roads, Our Nation’s Crucial National Security Corridor. Rear Admiral Craig Quigley shares a map of the military and federal facilities in the Hampton Roads area.


“Water is coming to get us.”-- Professor Elizabeth Andrews, Professor of the Practice of Law and Director, Virginia Coastal Policy Center, W&M


Hampton Roads, Virginia, is a real-world learning environment that requires a hands-on approach to build national security. Rising water levels in the region present a unique Whole of Government problem. This region is home to 29-separate federal entities, 17 major federal facilities, and one of the only aircraft carrier construction and refueling installations in the country. The existence of critical infrastructure makes it imperative that action be taken to address rising water levels: communities must survive, thrive, and adapt following inevitable recurrent flooding events.


Andrews and her panelists have been at the helm of this very issue. Dr. Albert U. Mitchum, Jr., Political Advisor to the Commander of Air Combat Command, pushed the need for action while recounting his experience with flooding in critical Langley Air Force Base offices, which are located a mere ten feet above sea level. Mitchum stressed that if the water level continues to rise, the operations existing at such a low elevation will be permanently affected with irreversible damage. Rear Admiral Phillips (ret.) M.B.A. ‘16, former commander, Expeditionary Strike Group TWO, stated that while this threat appears to be “slow-motion” in nature, it must be solved now. Resources to address this disaster will not exist in the future. 


Countering this threat cooperatively might produce some benefits. Major General Timothy P. Williams, Adjutant General, highlighted the Virginia National Guard’s efforts toward integrated response plans.  Rear Admiral Craig Quigley (ret.), Executive Director of the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance, stressed the potential of creating a holistic approach to combating similar threats within other regions of the United States, in addition to Hampton Roads.  Panelists provided some specific recommendations for steps that the region needs to take to address this coastal threat, including: educating the public about sea level rise impacts; creating regional leadership on this issue involving government, business, academia and nonprofit organizations; and developing regional sea level rise predictions and planning standards, as well as a prioritized list of assets in the region that need to be protected. They also concurred that the problem must be addressed as a collective body so that the facilities and operations crucial to our nation’s national security are protected from future ruin. A Whole of Government solution to the Hampton Roads disaster will not be simple, cheap, or quick, but it is necessary.


Organizational Responses to Complex Problems


“Don’t underestimate the importance of the small and the iterative.” -- Dr. Cynthia Watson, Dean of Faculty & Academic Programs, The National War College, The National Defense University


Though there is a long way to go before our government reaches a fully effective strategy for interagency collaboration, multi-organizational responses to complex national security problems are not new. Further, some attempts at these responses have been more successful than others. Research into the evolution of these efforts are integral to understanding not only how elements of our government have worked well together in the past, but also the steps it took to get there.


Professor John Gilmour, Director of the Public Policy Program for W&M, chaired the final panel that took a deep dive into the successful and not-so-successful attempts at multi-organizational responses and what we can learn to be better prepared for the future. David Kelley ‘81, Partner, Dechert LLP, and former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, spoke of how organizational responses to crises transformed in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks. As the former Chief of the Organized Crime and Terrorism Unit, Kelley described the difficulties of investigating terrorism cases, whether due to disputes between executive agencies or battles over jurisdiction. Watson proposed a solution: employing small, iterative actions that work towards fulfilling a clearly stated goal. She pressed the need to refrain from vague intentions, and to be specific and aware of institutional histories, cultures and precedents while constructing collaborative missions. By providing examples of successful organizational responses to the problems of port expansion and security, such as the Annual SAR Forum, Captain Richard J. Wester, Commander, Sector Hampton Roads, U.S. Coast Guard, illustrated why civilian-military collaboration is critical to leveraging all capabilities to maximize the efficiency of maritime incident response.


Throughout this conversation, panelists agreed that civilian-military relations must continue to improve and correspond with the growing complexity of national security problems. Doing so will establish the most efficient organizational responses for future collaboration.


The Future of Whole of Government and National Security


The myriad of possibilities on how to implement Whole of Government approaches to national security is daunting. To start, we can emphasize the role of veterans, academia, and entrepreneurs in national security operations, as well as integrate interagency approaches to the warfighter effort, impending natural disasters, and foreign aid. But, as Travers stated: “we cannot do this alone.” Organizational responses, interagency collaboration, and openness toward innovative solutions are key to the present and future of our nation’s wellbeing.


The W&M Inaugural National Security Conference, part of the research arm of our Whole of Government Center of Excellence, and similar events are essential to making integrated national security solutions a reality. Academic initiatives such as W&M’s can serve as the anchor of broader efforts at the local, state, federal, and international levels where policy can be proposed, debated, and discussed in a spirit of collaboration and creative problem-solving.


To find out more about the Center of Excellence, apply to be part of the Fall 2018 cohort, and join the conversation, click here.

About the Author(s)

Colin Evert is a Government Major at the College of William and Mary. Colin will graduate in May 2019 and is hoping to pursue a career in national security.

Molly Dinneen is a junior International Relations major at the College of William & Mary who aims to pursue a career in national defense.

Maggie Dene is a senior at William and Mary, studying Government and Middle Eastern Studies. Beginning this fall, Dene will be studying in Amman, Jordan as a Boren Scholar.

Madeleine Terry graduated William & Mary in 2015, focusing on international relations. Terry is currently working as a research assistant for the William & Mary Whole of Government Center for Excellence.