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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

National Security Professionals and Interagency Reform: Proposals, Recent Experience, and Issues for Congress

Catherine Dale
Specialist in International Security

There is a growing consensus among many practitioners and scholars, across the political spectrum, broadly in favor of reforming the U.S. government interagency system to encourage a more effective application of all elements of national power. The reform debates have included proposals and initiatives to establish and foster an interagency community of national security professionals (NSPs) from all relevant departments and agencies. According to proponents, NSPs, through participating in activities that might include shared educational and training opportunities, and rotational tours in other agencies, would gain a better understanding of the mandates, capabilities, and cultures of other agencies. They would become better prepared to plan national security missions with counterparts from other agencies and to execute those missions at home and abroad, and eventually become better able to oversee their own agencies’ efforts from leadership positions.

Such recommendations are not new, but real-world events over the past decade— the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and U.S. government responses to natural disasters at home, including Hurricane Katrina—gave the debates a greater sense of urgency by underscoring room for improvement in the ability of the U.S. government to integrate the various components of its efforts.

Congressional interest has emerged in both houses, on both sides of the aisle, and from multiple committees. That interest was manifested in part by the introduction of NSP-related legislation in the 110th, 111th, and 112th Congresses.

In the executive branch, in 2007, the Bush Administration launched the National Security Professional Development (NSPD) program, based on the three pillars of education, training, and rotational service. The program included an oversight structure and participation by multiple agencies, including many not traditionally focused on national security. In 2011, the Obama Administration reinvigorated the NSPD program, giving it a streamlined new emphasis on accomplishing missions, and adopting Emergency Management as the initial focus area.

This report focuses primarily on analyzing key issues that Members of Congress may wish to consider in evaluating existing or proposed NSP initiatives, including the fundamental purpose; the concept of integration; the scope of participation; practical modalities for making the program work; the role of centralized oversight; incentive structures for individuals and agencies; recruiting; and congressional oversight. For context, the report also describes early NSP proposals; U.S. government strategic guidance; the experiences of the NSPD program to date; and significant congressional initiatives. It makes illustrative use of the military’s Joint Qualification System, perhaps the closest U.S. government analogue.

Date of Report: September 26, 2011
Number of Pages: 43
Order Number: RL34565
Price: $29.95

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