News | Dec. 1, 2010

Chief of Mission Authority as a Model for National Security Integration

By Christopher J. Lamb and Edward Marks Strategic Perspectives 2

CMA Model for NSI


Executive Summary

The inability of the President of the United States to delegate executive authority for integrating the efforts of departments and agencies on priority missions is a major shortcoming in the way the national security system of the U.S. Government functions. Statutorily assigned missions combined with organizational cultures create “stovepipes” that militate against integrated operations. This obstacle to “unity of effort” has received great attention since 9/11 but continues to adversely affect government operations in an era of increasingly multidisciplinary challenges, from counterproliferation to counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. Presidents have tried various approaches to solving the problem: National Security Council committees, “lead agencies,” and “czars,” but none have proven effective.

Yet one precedent of a relatively successful cross-agency executive authority does exist: the Chief of Mission authority delegated to U.S. resident Ambassadors. The Congress and White House could build on this precedent to provide the President greater ability to manage complex national security problems while strengthening congressional oversight of such missions. Specifically, this paper makes a case in favor of legislation that gives the President authority to delegate his integration powers to “Mission Managers.” Congress would need to provide resources to empower mission accomplishment, and the President would need to ensure that the Mission Manager’s authority is used properly and respected by the heads of departments and agencies. This paper argues that while such reform is politically challenging, there are no insuperable legal or organizational obstacles to such reform.