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Dr. Gordon Adams testifies before HASC: Testimony in brief June 9, 2010

Posted by Elizabeth Cutler in Analysis.

Dr. Gordon Adams testifies today before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Armed Services Committee regarding Interagency National Security Reform: The Road Ahead. Dr. Adams discusses the issues and challenges inherent in reforming the interagency national security machinery and provides several tangible recommendations for making successful reform a reality.  His testimony is summarized below, or you can access his entire testimony here.

Three premises inform the perspective that Dr. Adams presents today:

  • The interagency reform agenda depends on having greater clarity about agencies’ missions. Strong, mission-driven organizations can collaborate. Without agency mission clarity, collaboration is significantly more difficult
  • Budgets are policy. Collaboration in defining priorities and in matching resources to those priorities is an essential part of the answer to our interagency dilemmas.
  • Process and structure are as important as good leadership. The best process cannot make up for poor leadership, but even the best leadership cannot exercise its will if the process and structures are wrong.

Dr. Adams emphasizes the necessity of strong agencies with clear missions and organization:

  • The absence of a significant, flexible, well-funded civilian capacity at the State Department and USAID has frustrated U.S. missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially in the hand-off of post-conflict reconstruction and stabilization efforts.
  • Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, are not the best guidelines for future interagency reform because they will not be representative of future commitments.
  • Future commitments likely will require the military to provide secondary support to a civilian mission, thus requiring strong civilian agencies with clearly defined goals.

Dr. Adams further highlights the problem of resources linked to missions:

  • The budget process inside agencies is the point at which strategy and mission meet resources.  It is the key indicator of policy priorities.
  • DOD resources (funding and personnel) far outstrip those of the State Department and USAID, but that does not mean that a funding rebalance between the two is necessary. Missions, rather than an arbitrary algorithm, should drive requirements and resources.
  • The share of spending and resources located at DOD is disproportionate to the changes in the global environment. This has skewed both the shaping and the implementation of foreign policy and national security missions.

Dr. Adams presents several reform options and recommendations:

  • Increase systematic interaction on the Hill between the defense authorizers and appropriators and their foreign affairs counterparts, including joint oversight hearings with HFAC, especially in the area of security assistance, and joint support for the unification of the international affairs (150) and national defense (050) budget functions.
  • Include defense in the discretionary budget freeze proposed by the administration.
  • End the practice of funding operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through a separate title in the budget request.
  • Strengthen the Chairman’s role, in support of the Secretary, integrating Service budgets and plans.
  • End the annual ‘unfunded requirements’ exchange.
  • Impose accountability on Defense Department for meeting its schedule for financial auditability.
  • Support Secretary Gates’ efforts to discipline defense planning and budgeting.
  • Ask the Defense Department to clarify the priority it puts on the numerous missions outlined in the QDR.
  • Direct the Defense Department to solicit and incorporate into the QDR inputs from the State Department and Intelligence Community.

It is important to be aware that reform efforts both in agencies and in the interagency space can overreach or otherwise prove inefficient, such as in the cases of DHS and ODNI. Furthermore, centralizing authorities in and around the White House also has its limitations. In order for the recommendations proposed here to be viable, mission clarity will be imperative as we move forward with interagency reform.



1. Donna Hopkins - June 9, 2010

Great presentation, Gordon, I agree with all your points.

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