Tuesday, September 09, 2008

National Security: Memo to the Next President

Eric Rosenbach, executive director of research at Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and former staff member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was interviewed about his opinion on what the next president of the United States should concentrate on when confronted with U.S. national security and intelligence capabilities (Interview). Essentially he said, whoever wins the election will have to learn from the last eight years of the Bush administration and do many things differently.

First, Rosenbach claims that a reorganization of the intelligence community simply does not solve any problems.  The recent reorganization of 2004 led to a reshuffling of the cards, but really only caused chaos.  He recommends the next president not to focus on reorganization, but to develop strong leaders within the intelligence community that do their job instead of worrying about organizational novelties.  Thus, Rosenbach claims the reorganization of the intelligence community has been more disturbing than productive.

Second, in the interview Rosenbach states that the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) created in 2004, which was established as a coordination and collaboration platform for all intelligence communities, has not reached its full potential.  It still lacks the ability to develop efficient "strategic policy planning" and focuses too much on the detailed tracking of terrorists, than on the greater picture.   Also, information sharing is still not fully established, especially on the state and local levels, and the NCTC collaboration with the CIA needs strengthening in order to discover and analyze new threats.

Further, with oil prices skyrocketing, Rosenbach claims that the public has to expand its view of the intelligence community and see that it also serves to detect new threats that derive from energy shortages and crises and from the impact that climate change has on national security.  If the public realizes that these are also issues on the agenda of the intelligence community, it will realize that the intelligence community's purpose is not limited to fighting terrorism and people might feel a stronger connection to it in their everyday lives.

In addition, Rosenbach advises the next president to work closely with allies on counterterrorism.  Continuing close relationships with foreign intelligence services is essential in order for the U.S. to have access to a wider range of information.  However, he also states that it is important for the U.S. to constantly be open to new partners in the field so it can keep evolving its knowledge and perfecting its counterterrorism capabilities.

In conclusion however, Rosenbach thinks that the U.S. intelligence community has significantly improved its abilities since 9/11. It is now able to "track down" dangerous enemies of the United States and analysis capabilities are also better than pre-9/11.  He uses the recent Iran National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) to indicate how much the intelligence community's abilities have improved compared to the Iraq NIE from a few years ago.

Overall, I think whoever the next president will be, he should utilize the intelligence community platform established in the post-9/11 era and try to make it more efficient and not let organizational superficialities get in the way of efficient collection and analysis. And he should also be willing to listen to experts in the field.

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