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We Have a New President…and an Urgent Need to Revise our National Security Strategy

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By Michael Furlong:

With the changing of the United States Presidency, after eight years of the Obama Administration, one of the urgent priorities for the new Commander in Chief is to reexamine and dramatically improve our national security posture. In today’s environment, our current domestic and foreign policy and the security of our citizenry, dictate the need. There is no time to waste with an extended period of the status quo.

During the past eight years, Americans have witnessed the rapid re-growth of a significant and credible terrorist threat that has global reach. During the past 2+ years, the ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) threat has conducted or inspired hundreds of major attacks around the world, and sadly, eight attacks inside of the United States (US). In total, over 3,000 people have been killed and nearly 7,000 have been wounded at the hands of ISIS during this relatively short period. Those numbers have exceeded our deaths on 9/11/2001 at the hands of the Al-Qaida (AQ), a violent Islamic extremist organization.

The Obama Administration routinely parses words regarding whether a specific ISIS or ISIS-inspired attack is a genuine terrorist attack or whether it is mere “work-place violence.” That is semantics, statistics, and process. Regardless of labeling or a statistical process ploy, the output and result for the American people is that it is terrorism and it is killing real people.

Although ISIS is losing ground in Iraq, the group has now expanded with a foothold in 32 countries. They are more dangerous and better funded than AQ was, even in their prime, and perhaps more terrifying is their success with inspiring self-radicalization and the recruitment of “inspired terrorists” inside of the US.  This phenomena has added a growing and extremely dangerous dimension to the ISIS threat.

Remember the dramatic and far reaching security changes that the 9/11 tragedy triggered. Well, that happened fifteen years ago. Does the American public need to suffer from another San Bernardino or Orlando terrorist tragedy to move to action? The home-grown terrorism threat from within the US is a big hole in our current preparedness to stop violent Islamic extremist terrorism. The rapid intensification of ISIS demands that the new Administration urgently re-work our national security strategy.

Moreover, the new President of the United States (POTUS) has many major national security issues to address during the first 100 days in office including:

  1. Russia’s buildup on the Ukrainian border and a potential NATO response;
  2. US Military’s role and inevitable “mission creep” in Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria;
  3. ISIS’s growing expansion;
  4. Iran’s violations of the new Peace Agreement;
  5. North Korea’s long-range missile tests;
  6. China’s expansion of military bases in the China Sea.

Most of us fully understand that POTUS must reexamine our national security posture within the context of our vital and major Interests as a nation. There are genuine and competing interests beyond just the US military and national security Element of National Power (ENP).

For context, there are three other US ENPs. That is the political, economic, and social/societal ENPs or domains. The four pure ENPs are intersected by two cross-cutting functional enablers, i.e., infrastructure and information.

We have already a vastly under-utilized process for systematically and comprehensively addressing the national strategy and the National Security Strategy of the United States (the NSS, or colloquially, the “President’s Blue Book”). It is an annual requirement in the US government (USG), promulgated under the late-President Reagan in 1984. During the eight years of the Obama Administration, only two NSSs were produced. No wonder our National Security Strategy has been fecklessly adrift.

When our policy and priorities are adrift, so is our budget and efficient spending during an austere budgetary environment. Just look at the number of incomplete/approximate continuing resolutions we have experienced over the past eight years versus exacting and approved operating budgets. With approximately $20 trillion in US national debt, we no longer have the luxury of this inefficient spending of the American people’s tax dollars.

We need to reinvigorate the NSS process to correct our nation’s incoherent national security policies, strategy, and budget. Under these current and urgent circumstances, the NSS process should adopt an analytical spirals process to solve our problems. The first cursory analytic spiral addresses the crisis and near-term issues. The analytically deeper second spiral addresses the mid-term issues. The third analytic spiral addresses the long-term issues. This approach enables a more efficient “concurrent-but-cascading development” approach.

The new President’s “transition team” (for assuming governmental control on January 20, 2017) should begin, as soon as possible after the November 8, 2016 election, to conduct a preliminary and cursory review of existing national security policies, programs, and budgets. This visionary move will enable POTUS to jump-start crisis and near-term decisions during the first 100 days in office.

This crisis and near-term analysis and POTUS’ decisions should enhance and enable self-correction of the process during the comprehensive analysis and development of the mid to long-term policy, strategy and budgeting options.

Most important among the various components of the national security assessment and NSS development include: an internal and external analysis of global conditions and issues and subsequently defining the near-term and mid to long term threats to our vital and major national interests.

With these daunting tasks ahead, and the urgent time constraints too, the new POTUS is compelled to “hit the ground running” on inauguration day.

Michael Furlong is a Senior OpsLens Contributor.  Furlong is a career Army Infantry Officer, Battalion Task Force Commander, Combat Veteran, and retired Defense Intelligence Senior Executive Service.

 

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