News | Dec. 1, 2007

Organizing for National Security: Unification or Coordination?

By James M. Keagle and Adrian R. Martin Defense Horizons 60



Experience gained from the 9/11 attacks, combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, disaster assistance during and after Hurricane Katrina, and the ongoing war on terror provides the basis for amending our anachronistic national security structures and practices. Many analysts and officials have called for a second-generation version of the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 to address the array of organizational and management challenges that we face. Some argue that the new security environment requires even more fundamental change, similar to what was enacted after World War II. The principal legislation that emerged from that era was the National Security Act of 1947. Goldwater-Nichols aimed to fix inter-Service problems by streamlining the chain of command and promoting “jointness” but did not fundamentally alter the structure of the U.S. military. 

These earlier efforts attempted to strike a balance between those who wanted to unite bureaucracies to improve efficiency (primarily resource considerations) and produce more effective outcomes and those who opposed potentially dangerous concentrations of power and desired to preserve their heart-and-soul missions (as well as congressional support for their strategic view and related combat systems and force structures). Today, the debate rages anew with the security of this nation dependent on the outcome. 

This paper explores two options for reorganization: unification and coordination. We investigate each against the backdrop of the two previous attempts at reorganization in the context of the Madisonian political culture that constitutes part of who we are as a nation. Finally, each option is judged against its ability to contribute to the development and implementation of the kinds of strategies and operations needed to wage the new kind of war and peace in the emerging global security environment.