Tuesday, July 22, 2014

another fine report, destined for oblivion

The Atlantic Council has a new report urging better interagency coordination of U.S. foreign policy and emphasizing regional diplomatic-military "commands."  Two key recommendations:
The United States should rebalance national instruments of power by providing enhanced Department of State capacity in key regions. Unbalanced resourcing and manpower between the Department of Defense and the Department of State creates significant roadblocks to enhancing interagency presence in the region. A more balanced approach would strengthen US engagement more broadly.

Department of State regional assistant secretaries should be further empowered to set and coordinate foreign policy within the regions. Currently, assistant secretaries have an explicit requirement to be responsible, but they lack sufficient resources and authority to be effective. Regional assistant secretaries should have the authority to integrate the full range of foreign and security policy as well as diplomatic resources to execute foreign policy on a regional scale.
It's especially significant that this report is signed by several former high-ranking military officers and draws upon interviews with several combatant commanders. When they agree on the need to increase the resources, capabilities and power of the State Department, that's newsworthy.

These recommendations are similar to other think tank reports in recent years, but little has been done to improve interagency coordination and whole-of-government thinking and planning for national security.

On the other hand, the report recycles the view that everything would be better if every department had a "common map" delineating the various regions. Ain't gonna happen, and shouldn't. The GAO reviewed this for Congress and found numerous justifications for the disparate alignments. For example, the Pentagon puts Mexico in the AOR [area of responsibility] of the Northern Command, which also included Canada and the United States, while State includes it with the Western Hemisphere countries. For example, DOD includes Israel under the European command so that the Centcom commander isn't expected to worry about the diplomatic aspects of Arab-Israeli issues. And while State logically puts India and Pakistan in the same region, the Pentagon splits them, again to avoid the challenge of dealing diplomatically with the disputing nations.

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