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HIll Grapples With Interagency Reforms

The talk on Capitol Hill is that major interagency reform -- a new look at the interagency legislation and executive orders undergirding US national security -- may be the hottest and hardest to address of the recommendations of the independent QDR panel led by Bill Perry and Stephen Hadley.

The panel called for a substantial revamp of the national security structure, saying it was created during the Cold War and was best suited to that era, not to today. Perry and Hadley called for an executive order "that clarifies interagency roles and responsibilities for ―whole of government‖ missions." They also called on Congress to fix its own house and reduce the overlapping jurisdictions that slow and complicate everyone's ability to act. They want to reconvene the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress, established in 1945 and which has sat twice since then. They hope it will "establish a single national security appropriations subcommittee for Defense, State, State/AID, and the Intelligence Community," which would require an enormous leap for both Congress and the executive branch.

You can imagine the screams of horror from appropriations subcommittee chairmen -- also known as cardinals -- at the prospect of merging the State, Foreign Operations subcommittees with the defense subcommittees. The intelligence functions already reside to some degree with the defense subcommittee through the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel of the Committee on Appropriations, which includes the chairmen of the full appropriations committee and the defense subcommittee.

Just how far all this interagency change might go is the big question, with aides conceding it will be difficult in an election year to get the few truly knowledgeable lawmakers to make time and throw their support behind this crucial work.

Following are the panel's recommendations for changes to the executive branch, which can be made more easily if the political will exists:

Executive branch reform should begin with an Executive Order or directive signed by the President that clarifies interagency roles and responsibilities for ―whole of government‖ missions. This directive should:

i. Establish a consolidated budget line for national security that encompasses, at a minimum, Defense, State, State/AID, and the Intelligence Community.
ii. Task both the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the National Security Council (NSC) to develop a mechanism to track implementation of the various budgets that support the Comprehensive Approach.
iii. Identify lead and supporting departments and agencies and their associated responsibilities for notional national security missions. This Executive Order or Presidential directive should also establish a process to define interagency roles and responsibilities for missions not specifically addressed therein.
iv. Establish standing interagency teams with capabilities to plan for and exercise, in an integrated way, departmental and agency responsibilities in predefined mission scenarios before a crisis occurs.

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