Draft report cites lack of strategy

Overhaul Advocated For Multibillion-Dollar U.S. Security Assistance Efforts

By / August 2, 2012

The White House needs to develop a national security strategy for its multibillion-dollar efforts to build the security capacity of foreign countries, update Byzantine processes for prioritizing and funding such projects, aid more civilian security personnel as opposed to troops and find better ways to assess whether individual initiatives are succeeding or failing, warns a State Department draft report prepared for senior administration officials.

The State Department's International Security Advisory Board, chaired by former Defense Secretary William Perry, prepared the May 23 draft report based on a study chaired by former Pentagon policy chief Walter Slocombe. Inside the Pentagon obtained a copy of the draft report.

Although the United States spends more than $25 billion on what is broadly labeled "security assistance" to boost the "security capacity" of foreign countries, there is no comprehensive definition of what "security capacity" means in this context, no overall strategy to guide the investments and "no coherent system for making those decisions or for evaluating the effectiveness of the program being undertaken," the draft report states. The programs range from providing major weapons to Israel to maintain its qualitative military edge to helping countries adopting democratic forms of government to create police, justice and corrections systems.

The report urges the National Security Council to conduct a comprehensive review of all security assistance efforts to develop a national strategy and to consider revising the current allocation of funds and management responsibilities among the State Department, the Pentagon and other agencies.

The State Department and the Defense Department have achieved "unprecedented" levels of cooperation in recent years, a senior State Department official noted last week. Diplomatic and DOD officials are in the midst of jointly deciding what urgent and emerging needs worldwide should be supported by the new Global Security Contingency Fund, the latest in a series of post-9/11 security-assistance initiatives overseen by both departments, said Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro. State can provide up to $50 million to the fund and DOD can contribute up to $200 million, he told reporters at a July 27 breakfast in Washington.

"This could really be the new model," he said. "Rather than us fighting over we get this money and they get that money, we work together on pooling our resources." This approach preserves the secretary of state's leadership while leveraging DOD's larger budget and significant planning capability, marking a "sea change" from previous "bureaucratic battles," he said. The report recommends expanding such new models, which put both departments on equal footing in determining how to spend limited resources and meet pressing needs.

But the report cites considerable room for improvement in security assistance. Noting "the interagency" is not optimally structured to effectively conduct security capacity building, the study proposes strengthening the State Department's ability to coordinate policy.

U.S. government planning for these activities should be restructured to allow for multiyear planning and programming in a way that echoes DOD's long-term budget process, the panel writes. The best area for improvement and greater investment is the civilian side of the security and justice sector, the report adds, noting that such efforts have in the past often been outranked by military assistance goals.

Apart from the new joint models for security capacity building that have emerged in recent years, there are three traditional models. The first uses State Department resources that are implemented by other organizations such as the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. In the second model, the State Department implements programs using its own funds, including efforts to remove mines for humanitarian purposes. The third traditional approach involves efforts such as multinational military exercises, military-to-military contacts and other aid that is both resourced and executed by DOD or "another non-State agency," the panel writes.

Some individual programs have several different goals, but U.S. officials do not always explicitly state these aims in official communications with Congress, the report notes, adding the executive branch should be more transparent about what it hopes to achieve with such projects. One goal for security capacity building is providing high-end military capabilities to allies such as Israel. Another goal is building links with foreign militaries to improve interoperability, help the U.S. industrial base, pre-empt purchases of security related equipment and services from other non-U.S. suppliers that could give foreign nations influence and establish key relationships and understandings that may be valuable later. Fostering good relations with other countries is yet another aim. Other goals include influencing the balance of power in a region, aiding foreign troops fighting alongside U.S. forces, boosting key functions such as counterterrorism and nonproliferation, helping a country fight an internal threat and promoting improvements in security and justice sectors.

"The Board was struck by the fact that while these varied goals are, at least in most cases, legitimate and reflect U.S. interests, they are sometimes competing and imply quite different standards for decisions and management," the report states. "This reinforces the need to have all goals for a particular program or assistance targeting a particular challenge clearly and openly stated, and to have a hard-headed system for assessing whether particular programs (which will often be intended to serve more than one goal) actually advance the particular objectives for which they were put in place." That will help senior officials in Washington, in embassies and in combatant commands, as well as lower-level officials handling the implementation, stay aware of and better balance the goals.

But the most striking feature of the current U.S. approach, the panel writes, is the lack of a national strategy for security capacity building that "lays out priorities and clear processes." History, bureaucratic priorities, congressional interests and habit have scattered such efforts across a "baffling host of different programs, with different goals, funded or operated by different agencies and with different funding and implementation arrangements." The resulting "patchwork" isolates programs with closely related goals, the report notes.

"It is only a modest exaggeration to say that the efforts have something of the feel of a philanthropic grant-making process by an assemblage of different foundations with different agendas rather than a well-managed and coordinated set of critical federal-funded programs, geared to (admittedly multifarious) national interests," the panel writes. The draft report remains subject to change. A spokesman for the State Department had no comment on when the final version might be published. -- Christopher J. Castelli