TAIPEI — A new report from a prominent defense think tank examines 70 years of U.S. national security policy and processes, and makes recommendations for the next president as he or she builds a national security team.
Few periods in modern world history have been as complicated and tumultuous as the one the next U.S. administration will confront. A long list of international problems will compete for the next president’s attention upon taking office, including:
- The evolving yet persistent threat of terrorism against U.S. interests, persons, territory, and allies emanating from Islamic extremist groups like the Islamic State;
- The resurgence of an aggrieved and more aggressive Russia under Vladimir Putin, who has demonstrated his willingness to use the Russian military, an array of asymmetric tactics, and energy resources to assert his will from Ukraine to Syria;
- The rise of an increasingly powerful, capable, and confident China that appears bent on becoming the dominant power in Asia and is willing to unilaterally change the status quo and violate the rules-based international order;
- The deepening turmoil in the Middle East as four ongoing civil wars (in Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Iraq) create the most significant humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II, breathe new life into sectarian conflicts and violent extremism, and threaten to unravel established borders and destabilize neighboring regimes; and
- The accelerating global proliferation of dangerous technologies, from weapons of mass destruction to sophisticated precision-guided munitions, cyber weapons and drones to both state and non-state actors.
Equally troubling, the tools and institutions we have spent the developed during the last 70 years creating appear increasingly ill-suited to handle such challenges.
In addition to this very concrete set of challenges, the next commander in chief will have to contend with a more intangible though quite serious problem: growing uncertainty about the nature of U.S. global leadership going forward. Whether this perception is fair or unfair, it is real among many friends, competitors, and potential foes alike. The next president will therefore need therefore to articulate a clear vision of U.S. leadership in the world and take concrete steps to demonstrate the United States’ willingness and ability to uphold its commitments and defend its interests, values, and allies around the world. This will be critical to restoring credibility and confidence that America’s support for key allies and partners is iron-clad. ...
... What follows is a list of concrete steps (in logical though not necessarily priority order) that the next president should take to better position his or her administration to handle the national security challenges and crises that will inevitably force their way onto the agenda in 2017.
- Come into office with a clear assessment of U.S. national security challenges, opportunities, goals, and priorities, and a strategy to align the administration’s efforts in the first year.
- Choose a national security team based not only on individual experience, expertise, and qualifications for each respective cabinet position but also on how effectively the group will work as a team.
- Start with a clean sheet of paper and redesign the National Security Council and process.
- Pay immediate and close attention to any ongoing or imminent military or intelligence operations, particularly those that put Americans in harm’s way.
- Given the volume and complexity of the national security agenda, set aside time, especially early on, for a regular tempo of engagement with his or her team to set direction, monitor execution and outcomes, course correct, and learn.
- Develop an initial agenda of initiatives and actions designed to signal renewed U.S. leadership internationally and communicate the administration’s strategic priorities.
- Make a comprehensive budget deal a top national security priority.
- Ensure that the national security team invests in a healthy civil-military relationship.
- Invest in the people on the national security team, whether political appointees, civil servants, foreign service officers, intelligence professionals, or military officers.
The report, is part of CNAS' Papers for the Next Presidentseries, which explore critical regions and issues the next president will have to address early in his or her tenure. Over the course of the next 18 months the CNAS will release reports designed to assist the next president and his or her team in crafting a strong, pragmatic, and principled national security agenda. The Papers for the Next Presidentseries will explore the most critical regions and topics that the next president will need to address early in his or her tenure and will include actionable recommendations designed to be implemented during the first few months of 2017.
CNAS is an independent and non-partisan research organization and does not take institutional positions on policy issues. However, CNAS has a long history of working with the Democratic Party. Defense industry and policy insiders have identified Flournoy as a potential nominee for US secretary of defense under the next president, U.S. President. as evidenced by her service as the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from February 2009 to February 2012. She was the principal adviser to the sSecretary of Defense in the formulation of national security and defense policy, oversight of military plans and operations, and in National Security Council deliberations. She led the development of Pentagon's 2012 Strategic Guidance and represented the Department in dozens of foreign engagements, in the media and before Congress. Before confirmation, Flournoy co-led President Obama's transition team at Pentagon. In January 2007, Flournoy co-founded CNAS, a non-partisan think tank dedicated to developing strong, pragmatic and principled national security policies. She served as CNAS' President until 2009. Previously, she was senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies for several years and, before that, a distinguished research professor at the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University.
In the mid-1990s, she served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Threat Reduction and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy. She has received several awards from the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Flournoy is a member of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board, the Defense Policy Board, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency's External Advisory Board, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Aspen Strategy Group, and a Senior Fellow at Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.