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Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) raises important question about structure of security assistance April 27, 2010

Posted by Alexander Brozdowski in Analysis.
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On Thursday, April 15, the full House Armed Services Committee heard testimony from the co-chairs of the forthcoming QDR independent review panel: former Secretary of Defense William Perry and former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley.

The latter part of this hearing included an interesting exchange with Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA).  Alluding to the “shared responsibility, pooled resources” model proposed in a memo from Secretary Gates to Secretary Clinton last December, Larsen noted that Congress’ committee structure poses a major obstacle to effective oversight.  Paul Clayman argued similarly in Defense News just a week earlier, reasoning that the British DFID-inspired resource sharing would require the improbable cooperation of up to eight committees and subcommittees.

Of even greater interest, Larsen introduced the idea that interagency involvement in security assistance might grow beyond Defense and State. It’s a relatively simple concept, but one that seems to have fallen out of the policy dialogue. For example, the Justice Department routinely assists in training police and developing rule of law. But, under the “shared responsibility, pooled resources model,” this would also add a whole new layer of Congressional red tape, with ever more committees involved in funding and authorizing a single program.

Although the outcome of this conversation is far from clear, change is undoubtedly coming.  Next year, Section 1206 train and equip authorities temporarily given to DOD are set to expire. They may be renewed or made permanent, or they might be replaced with something new, such as the interagency model suggested by Secretary Gates. Should this new idea prevail, the breadth with which ‘interagency’ is defined will become increasingly important.

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