PNSR Executive Director James R. Locher III Testifies Before the HSGAC

February 12, 2009 in News by admin

WASHINGTON, DC– PNSR Executive Director James R. Locher III testified Thursday February 12 before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in a hearing on “Structuring National Security and Homeland Security at the White House.” At issue is a proposal to merge the National Security Council and Homeland Security Council. Locher spoke in favor of PNSR’s recommendation to combine the the two councils into one entity, to be called the President’s Security Council.

Locher appeared with former HSC Secretary Thomas Ridge, Former Assistant to President George W. Bush for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Frances Fragos Townsend, and Christine Wormuth, a senior fellow in the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

On the potential for merging, Committee Chairman Senator Joseph Lieberman, ID-Conn., said, “I have one clear bottom line – that whatever structure emerges, it is essential that homeland security policy issues are given sufficient staff, resources, and attention within the White House and that a process exists to effectively coordinate them. I look forward to engaging with the Administration on this matter in the coming months.”

Locher’s oral and written statements before Lieberman and the rest of the HSGAC appear below. Testimony from Ridge, Townsend, and Wormuth can be found here .

Download or view James R. Locher III’s written statement here

Oral Statement

Chairman Lieberman, Senator Collins, Committee Members, thank you for inviting me to discuss the organization for national security and homeland security in the White House and across the federal government. Most fundamentally, I believe that drawing a bright line between national security and homeland security – as current arrangements do — is a mistake. The nation would be better served by merging the National Security Council and Homeland Security Council into a single council, but with safeguards to ensure that homeland security issues are not lost in a unified system.

This hearing addresses a key issue: How should the highest level of the U.S. Government be organized to protect the nation’s security? It is important, Mr. Chairman, to put this specific issue into a much larger context. The overall national security system — including its national security and homeland security components – is broken. About the seriousness of our organizational problems, the Project on National Security Reform’s Guiding Coalition, made up of twenty-two distinguished Americans, stated in its November report: “We…affirm unanimously that the national security of the United States of America is fundamentally at risk.”

The basic problem is the misalignment of the national security system with 21st century challenges. Today’s threats require a tight integration of departmental expertise and capabilities. We need highly effective teams that stretch horizontally across departmental boundaries. Our government, however, is dominated by rigid, bureaucratic, competitive, vertically-oriented departments and agencies. In sum, we have horizontal problems and a vertical organization.

This misalignment results from a gross imbalance. We have powerful departments and agencies while our integrating mechanisms – the National Security Council and Homeland Security Council and their staffs – are weak. Missing are robust mechanisms capable of producing tight, effective integration. This imbalance was a design flaw of the National Security Act of 1947. This flaw was carried forward into the Homeland Security Council which was modeled on the 60-year-old National Security Council.

In recent years, there has been compelling evidence of the inadequacy of current arrangements: the terrorist attacks of 9/11, troubled stability operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and poor response to Hurricane Katrina. These setbacks are not coincidental; they evidence our organizational dysfunction. Bold transformation of the national security system must happen. Otherwise, we will suffer repeated setbacks, wasted resources, and declining American power and influence.

Among the early reform topics to address is the issue of this hearing — how to organize our integrating mechanisms. In response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, we bifurcated national security into two major components: national security and homeland security. This bifurcation served the important function of jump starting our attention to many long neglected tasks in protecting the American homeland. Although additional improvements are needed, we have succeeded in elevating these tasks to an appropriate level of attention.

The basic question now becomes: does this bifurcation at the very top of the government serve our needs in handling the increasingly complex and rapidly changing security environment of the 21st century? The answer is no. Dividing out security components at the water’s edge is artificial and creates an organizational barrier, gaps, and seams that weaken our overall security posture.

The security challenges that the United States faces must be viewed in the context of one global system. National security and homeland security are subsystems of the larger global system. But the overarching organizing principle for the U.S. national security system must be the global system. We must assess this system as a whole and understand it in the global security environment. Decisions on our policy, strategy, planning, development of capabilities, and execution will maximize our security when they are taken in an integrated, system-wide context, not when they are artificially subdivided. Moreover, by having separate national security and homeland security councils, we force the president to integrate across this divide. He does not have the time or capacity to do so.

This past week, General Jim Jones, President Obama’s national security advisor, discussed the major changes that the president and he intend to make at the top of the national security system. In an interview in the Washington Post this past Sunday and a speech on the same day in Munich, General Jones stated that the National Security Council would expand its membership and have increased authority to set strategy across a wide spectrum of international and domestic issues. In essence, many if not all of the functions of the Homeland Security Council may be subsumed into the National Security Council. At the same time, General Jones has asked John Brennan to do a sixty day review to ensure homeland security issues will receive appropriate attention in a merged council.

The Project on National Security Reform (PNSR) agrees fully with the changes that General Jones outlined. Our own recommendations parallel the direction that President Obama and General Jones have set. This convergence is not surprising. General Jones served on PNSR’s Guiding Coalition, as did other Obama appointees – Admiral Denny Blair, Jim Steinberg, and Michèle Flournoy.

Merging the NSC and the HSC is a critical step towards building a more coherent and unified approach to national security – in the broadest sense of the term. Though I believe that a merger is a necessity, it must be undertaken with safeguards that will ensure homeland security issues remain at the forefront of national security affairs. Merging the NSC and the HSC must be done in a way that ensures that homeland security issues receive the focus and resources they deserve.

As this committee approaches this issue, it has two hats to wear. The first hat is as the Senate’s overseer of the homeland security function. The second hat – focused on government affairs – ranks more important in examining this issue. To make a wise decision on this organizational question, we must take a whole-of-government perspective focused on the global system. Doing so reveals the value of the new direction that the Obama Administration intends to pursue.

This committee worked hard to create the Department of Homeland Security and to guarantee in law a functioning Homeland Security Council. The idea of merging the HSC with the NSC is intended to preserve and enhance the key roles of both councils through integration, not subordination. And since the details of the integration are still under study by the new administration, I trust that this committee’s views can help shape the final arrangements. I believe that you should view integration as an opportunity for preserving high-level focus on homeland security issues, not as a threat to that vital function.

Mr. Chairman, Senator Collins, and Committee Members, thank you for the opportunity to testify on this important issue. I look forward to answering any questions you may have.