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Bettering the US Security: Decision Making Improvement Research Paper

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Updated: Aug 7th, 2020


The decision making system is one of the key factors predetermining the effectiveness of the national security strategy, which makes it an issue of increasing interest all over the world. In order to be able to deal with external security threats, the system must encompass all the wisdom accumulated by several generations of American presidents and national security professionals who assisted in making the most difficult and controversial decisions. The significance and complexity of the decision making system is especially evident when poor choices lead to irretrievable consequences whereas seemingly effective solutions do not bring about positive outcomes (Collins 13).

Thus, the way the government develops, coordinates and applies decision making strategies in connection with national security policies is a pivotal factor determining the future of the nation. The process involves a long chain of institutions starting from federal security agencies up to the President, whose word is the final in accepting or rejecting the proposed policy. To do the right choice, the President needs the decision making system to be well-tried, effective, and properly organized for it to ensure the most acceptable course of action.

However, the major problem is that the only definite aspect of the whole process is the list of people who are to participate in it as there is no specific law that would regulate how decisions must be made to achieve success (Collins 14). That is why the human factor is decisive: the outcome depends on the personality of the President and his leadership style as well as strong and weak sides of people working with him on security issues.

The National Security Council (NSC) is the principal forum, which serves the President for considering matters of primary importance (the problems of national security and foreign policy of the country) and helps him coordinate policies through a number of governmental security agencies engaged in the process. NSC is comprised of senior national security advisors and cabinet officials. Some of the latter have to inform the President about potential security hazards to the homeland and propose strategies to improve preparedness. They form Homeland Security Council (HSC) and, together with members of NSC comprise the so-called National Security Staff (Posen 28).

The basic principles of the system described above were formulated as far back as in the middle of the 20th century in the National Security Act (1947) following World War II. The system has considerably evolved since the time of its creation; however, not all the changes can be considered positive. There is currently a huge number of structural problems that stand on the way of effective decision making (Snow 9).

Thus, the paper at hand is going to track the process of the system evolution to find out what factors diminished its effectiveness. It will also analyze the current situation to identify challenges that have to be addressed. Some recommendations for improving the decision making process based on the analysis performed will be provided in the final section of the research.

The Evolution of the Decision Making System: Diminished Effectiveness

Since the national security interests of the country are predetermined by the decision making process, all the actions of the President connected with security (visits abroad, meeting with heads of state, press conferences, etc.) are carefully planned before being performed as the consequences of spontaneous actions for the national security are totally unpredictable (Collins 34).

Since the introduction of the National Security Act in 1947, there have been established two key security bodies: the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Also, there appeared the position of Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (National Security Adviser). However, little has changed: the efficiency of interagency systems has not been improved and practical security-related operations still fail to align with the strategy (Snow 22). To understand the negative impact the evolution of the system had on the decision making process, we need to track it since the signing of the National Security Act.

When the National Security Council was imposed upon the President by Congress; it was generally considered redundant and was not trusted. Yet, reorganization of the security system was necessary to prevent another Pearl Harbor. President Harry Truman supported the idea since he understood the deficiencies of the interagency system in terms of collaboration and coordination of the bodies comprising it. To create alternative to dispersed, non-governmental actors, it appeared necessary to establish permanent intelligence body and the Department of Defense that would be managed centrally.

However, since the agencies could not be totally eliminated and replaced by the unified system, there appeared a need to guarantee that policies across various agencies and departments were well-coordinated and that their decisions did not contradict one another. For this purpose, Congress wanted to create a security structure that, among other responsibilities, would also be accountable for advising the President on complicated matters (Snow 27).

This way, they aimed to ensure that the most experienced people would support the President in decision-making and the security policy issues would not be dependent totally on one person. President Truman agreed that it was necessary to create intelligence and defense structures as well as the council; yet, he was reluctant to empower any other organization with operational authority and expressed his determination to preserve the direct control over all decisions related to security affairs. That was the major reason the NSC acted only as an advisory group having no real power and operating exclusively under the President’s discretion (Ellis et al 61).

This decreased the effectiveness of the decision making system as instead of producing coordinated policy, the forum often spent time in heated debated and fights among agencies. The situation changed drastically with the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, when the President decided to use the NSC for his own purposes – mostly to develop decisions related to the war. Since that time, the importance of the NSC increased considerably: it became responsible for analyzing and developing security polices and acquired greater influence upon the President’s actions (Ochmanek et al. 17).

The NSC became an important body during the administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower, who established an intricate interagency structure of a much larger size. The system, which relied on a Planning Board accountable for regulating the process of policy making and on Operations Coordinating Board monitoring implementation of new polices, appeared to be rather influential. It was also Eisenhower who created the post of Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs that is now known as the national Security Advisor (Ochmanek et al. 19).

President Kennedy did not approve of the system introduced by the previous President and did not see any necessity in extended staff. He preferred communicating directly with member of various agencies as well as with secretaries and consulting a staff that consisted of a small number of experts (only 12 people had decision making power in NSC). He also created the so-called Situation Room where all national security agencies communicated day and night (Tama 736).

President Johnson sided with the same approach to control the informal advisory mechanism. He also had a restricted number of NSC staff and several trusted people with whom he could discuss national security problems. In addition, he established a discussion group called Tuesday Lunch. The committee consisted of Secretaries of State and Defense, CIA Director, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who gathered for breakfasts or lunches to discuss policy issues (Snow 32).

The end of Johnson’s presidency marked the end of the highly centralized control over the activity of agencies and the role in decision making. President Nixon was mostly preoccupied with foreign policy of the country. That was the major reason to designate Henry Kissinger (who was developing strategies to improve foreign policy at Harvard) for the post of National Security Advisor. It was Kissinger’s initiative to expand NSC staff to 80 members.

However, the group did not directly interact with the President: the Security Advisor analyzed their suggestions and devised a list of recommendations for the President. This new system not only reflected Kissinger’s authoritative personality but was also demonstrative in terms of his intention to deprive NSC of its power. It was not a rare case that the Secretary of State was not even informed about important foreign policy decisions made by Kissinger and approved by Nixon (Tama 742).

Kissinger’s domination over all security issues continued during Ford years when he already occupied the position of the Secretary of State in the State Department (but continued to serve as a National Security Advisor). Still, unlike Nixon, Ford recognized that it was too hazardous to confer too much power to one person. That is why he decided to appoint Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft (USAF) as National Security Advisor relieving Kissinger from this post. Nevertheless, the latter managed to maintain his role leaving the former coordinating functions. The evident deterioration of the decision making system was progressing (Ochmanek et al. 21).

When Carter came into office, he made an attempt to go back to the practice of discussing security matters directly with agencies. Carter’s major goal was to bring more diversity in the policy development as well to achieve a more significant role of the State Department. Moreover, his concerns about Kissinger domination resulted in the appointment of Zbigniew Brezinski to the position of the National Security Advisor since he demonstrated independence and the ability to act as a public advocate expressing the ideas that were different from those promoted by the State Department (Snow 35).

The Carter administration under National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brezinski brought back structure and the practice of interagency policy consultation, though it had to cope with some serious reversals, including the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the failure of the “Desert One” Iran hostage rescue mission. Yet, his public speeches often provoked tensions and disputes overcomplicating the process of decision making (Tama 743).

Reagan wished to achieve a more peaceful decision making avoiding public conflicts and debates over the range of security policy alternatives. This led to another mistake that had a considerable negative impact on the quality of decisions: the National Security Advisor was downgraded. He no longer had the power to develop policies together with the President. The effect Reagan achieved was quite the opposite of his initial intention: there was no consent among the heads of the departments (Tama 743).

Moreover, conflicts between the State Department and the Department of Defense were open to the general public. As a result, six National Security Advisors came and went during Reagan’s term in office whereas the NSC acquired significant power and independence not only in policy making but also in its implementation, which undermined the centralized authority of the President and led to Iran-Contra affair. It was later determined that the mistakes made derived from inappropriate decisions made by the NSC that went beyond its commission and involved in policy implementation. The decision-making system evidently needed considerable restructuring (Snow 35).

That was why President George H.W. Bush, who served two terms as a Vice President and witnessed all the security failures of Reagan administration, came into office having a well-developed plan of the security system reformation. Lieutenant General (Ret.) Brent Scowcroft was appointed as a new National Security Advisor and the NSC was reorganized into a collegial system including a Principals Committee, Deputies Committee, and eight Policy Coordinating Committees to staff and support policy options.

Now, the primary function of the NSC (however, not always performed successfully) was to coordinate the security policy across the Executive Branch. All the committees were aimed to create a hierarchical system to develop and refine policies in the course of their passage from the bottom to the top (while the President’s decisions were communicated down the chain). This organization of the agencies’ cooperation and the way the decision making system was regulated has been preserved by the President’s successors (Tama 748).

President Clinton intended to reinforce the approach introduced by Bush. Still, he could not avoid tensions and open conflicts arising because of the differences between policy directions proposed by the NSC and the committees. Clinton continued Johnson’s tradition of weekly lunches that gathered the Secretaries of State and Defense and the National Security Advisor to discuss and coordinate various policy issues.

The greatest change in the policy direction was the increased importance of economics, which the President considered the key aspect of the US national security. The Secretary of the Treasury and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy became full members of the NSC (the latter was also the head of a National Economic Council that the President created to handle foreign and domestic economic issues). Since a lot the NSC members served simultaneously in NEC, the efficiency of decision making system in security matters was considerably decreased (Tama 749).

During the administration of George W. Bush, the NSC was supposed to return to its coordinating functions in the process of developing security policies. However, initial plans that the President had concerning security issues, were drastically changed after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. He was forced to create new executive branch bodies that managed security problems since, according to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States and the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities, there was a danger of other attacks whereas information channels on security affairs were ineffective and unreliable (Tama 751).

That was the reason Office of the Director of National Intelligence was established to monitor how the US National Intelligence Program was implemented (additionally acting as the President’s major advisor). Several other organizations were created after the terroristic attacks including National Security Council (HSC), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to deal with both domestic and foreign threats. Yet, the decision making process was complicated by the controversy upon the distinction of national and homeland security and overlapping responsibilities (the problem indicated by many officials who simultaneously served in both organizations) (Posen 20).

Moreover, it can be stated that during Bush administration, the Global War on Terrorism, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and other foreign policy issues created a lot of confusion in security policy and brought about a number organizational transformations to the structure of the NSC as well as to the functions of its staff (establishing the Office for Combating Terrorism under the Deputy Assistant to the President for Combating Terrorism and Deputy Assistants to the President for Strategic Communication and Global Outreach, and Global Democracy Strategy).

Policy making was mostly performed at the NSC level. The NSC, in its turn, realized that it needed transformation of the decision making system in order to be able to answer new political, strategic, economic, and other needs. The problems of long-term policy development and reinforcement of interagency coordination became the most pressing (Snow 46).

During Obama administration, deterioration of the security decision making system reached its climax. The President could not prevent significant staff increase, which led to aggravation of all weaknesses of the system, which was gradually becoming completely useless. Meetings became more frequent and random giving members of agencies no opportunity to prepare for discussions in a proper way.

The inefficiency of the new, overstaffed NSC revealed itself when the country tried to handle newly emerged foreign policy problems involving Iraq, Georgia, Libya, and Ukraine. All these cases could not be explained by the failure of strategy or intelligence – on the contrary, the outcomes could be predicted and prevented in advance. However, the NSC still failed to produce a solution in due time (Posen 20).

As it is evident from the analysis of the system evolution, its effectives was diminishing proportionally to its growing size. A considerable number of interventions and adjustment plans were proposed to deal with dysfunction of agencies’ collaboration but no real change has taken place so far. The system is still too much centralized, the resources are distributed inadequately, and actions do not correspond to the strategy.

There have not been yet any reform proposals that would be capable to cope with numerous deficiencies of the system that currently undermine its ability to handle security matters. Even those transformations that were introduced on the initial stages of the system development were not long-term. That is why the system s now unable to keep pace with the ever-changing risk environment presenting more and more threats.

Owing to the size of the NSC, much time is lost in discussions and disputes, which implies that very little time and attention is left to devote to each particular issue. Policies that are being introduced are inconsistent as they are mostly developed within the shortest possible period of time. This creates tension between the government and the public that perceives such policies a sign of negligence. The number of foreign threats from other super powers is increasing as well as the number of non-state actors exerting influence on international policies (Posen 21). As a result, the capability of the government to control the situation is affected negatively, which means that the prosperity of the nation is now undermined unless ways to increase effectiveness of the decision-making system are found.

Current Challenges

Taking into account the above mentioned problems arising from the increased staff, it would be reasonable to suggest returning to the system of organization first proposed by Eisenhower: recommendations of the NSC are to travel upward to the President and, being approved, go downward to the agencies that are to execute the decision made. However, the problems are much more deep-rooted than it may seem (Posen 35).

First and foremost, such system relies on two basic assumptions that cannot be ignored: the President must demonstrate personal involvement and regularly participate in the decision-making process while his major advisors are to take the control over security agencies that implement his decisions. Yet, Bush and Obama administrations showed that these assumptions remain theoretical when they are challenged by the pressing issues of the foreign policy (Ellis et al 65).

The real situation is quite different from the ideal hypothetical structure of the decision making system. Despite the fact that all policies are introduced in the name of the President, he actually quite often has neither time nor energy to exercise control over all the decisions made. There are only about 10 priority problems that are under the President’s constant supervision, and no more than 25 on which he can give general recommendations without going into much detail.

Thus, there is no chance to bring all minor matters to the President for resolution (Ellis et al 66). The greatest challenge, however, is to identify the criteria that would help classify issues into those of primary and those of secondary significance as it is often unclear what problems require his opinion and intervention. This creates a dilemma whether it is more important to save the President’s time needed for the solution of top problems or to ensure commitment to his wishes and guarantee that the policy outcome will correspond with the planned (Posen 36).

It seems that there is no contradiction between a pyramidal organization and transfer of authority to security agencies to avoid wasting time on routine matters. However, over the last several administrations, it has become a universal solution to assign responsibility for decision making to the White House staff instead of trusting these functions to permanent agencies that are left without any decision making power whatsoever.

The problem is that the White House staff is primarily interested in satisfying the President’s wishes and therefore ignores department interests, which created a situation of over-centralized power. The Secretaries of State and Defense can be absent when the President declares his final decision, which gives rise to suspicions that the Cabinet officials are intentionally misled about the security policy directions, which implies the existence of the so-called “palace politics” in the White House (Ochmanek et al. 31).

Such kind of policy makes personal influence on the President a factor of paramount importance. It means that the security of the whole nation actually depends on who has the President’s trust, whose views are supported, and whose judgment is considered the most authoritative. In the past, the most likely state of things was the appointment of such individuals to the top positions in the Department of State and Defense but the situation changed dramatically during the recent years.

Now, influential people surrounding the President usually have little or no state authority but still manage to deny Cabinet officers any access to the decision making process making them powerless in policy matters (Posen 41). Consequently, formal titles and positions now carry almost no real weight and are not demonstrative in identifying who stands behind all decisions and is responsible for effects they produce. In many cases, actual proximity of the White House staff member to the President give him/her more power than any remote Cabinet member can enjoy (Hamre).

In the situation as such, all the parties involved have no real control over the decision making process: decisions are made by the selected number of people from the President’s surroundings who are not a part of the hierarchy; the President himself is often unaware of the particulars and has no time to control policy execution; whereas Cabinet officers, who have to stay detached from the process, can order agencies not to follow any directions coming from the White House but this would mean creating a split inside the government (Snow 66).

Unfortunately, there is nothing that gives any hope that Trump is going to change this tendency as he continues to emphasize the influence of the White House staff as compared to Cabinet members. The situation is exacerbated by the #NeverTrump movement: the President is unlikely to trust any department members that do not show enough commitment to his policy. He and his circle can now take over department functions to have security policy under their own control. This situation (along the tendency to downgrade Cabinet power) is highly probable if the Presidents’ nominees for key positions are not approved and other officials are forced upon him by Senate (Snow 67).

Trump has inherited an enormous apparatus of more than four hundred people, in which bureaucracy has already become unavoidable. The President may continue delegating authorities to the staff to develop connections between the White House and the security agencies and even appoint a coordinator who would control the decision making process as well as policy implementation. Yet, mixing vertical and horizontal chains would create even more red tape.

There are those who propose returning to politics established by Eisenhower reducing the staff to the amount that would allow creating a simple and comprehensible chain of command. This suggestion does not seem to be realistic as it would mean to ignore the outer forces influencing the President’s actions and leaving him incapacitated in the current pressing situation in the world political arena (Posen 42).

Those who believe that the major problem consists in the weak position of security agencies and advise to review the interagency process granting them more decision making power, do not quite see the essence of the problem. The point is that interagency is not a place but a process that unites a great number of people and organizations having different opinions on what would serve to the benefit of the national security system. This leads to controversies that consume a lot of time and money. Agencies would have to involve in negotiations, look for compromises, and resolve personal conflicts. Such activities create even more bureaucracy and lead to change resistance (Ellis et al 71).

Still, it would be wrong to underestimate and neglect challenges that arise from interagency in decision making. There is in fact a lot of tension over the sphere of influence – such conflicts have always been indispensible to the interagency work. In many cases, disputes concerning division of power stem from cultural differences as there is a huge cultural gap between the diplomatic and the military sides. These two parties are dominant in the national security system but are far from being the only.

There are numerous cultures and subcultures existing within each of the two. While diplomats prefer not to resort to physical force, the military are not quite comfortable with using words only. These discrepancies lead to communication failures that make it impossible to come to an agreement on decision making issues. The major cultural differences and challenges are summarized in the table (Posen 55):

Table 1. Military Officers vs. Diplomats.

Key Aspects of Difference Military Officers Diplomats
Mission Military officers have to prepare for war and be ready to protect the country in case a war breaks out, which makes them opt for a more straightforward approach in decision making. The major mission of foreign service officers is to conduct diplomacy that would safeguard peace, which accounts for their tendency to avoid extremes in decisions.
The role of training Training is crucial both for units and for individuals. The military have to be ready to respond to episodic undesired events, which makes them spend a lot of time on preparation. Diplomats have only little formal training as this activity does not guarantee the success of the outcome and is neither urgent nor decisive. They learn by experience while performing desired activities such as negotiations, which explains why their vision of decision making is quite different from that of the other group.
Uncertainty avoidance The military are generally uncomfortable with ambiguity as they cannot successfully deal with unpredicted situations. This makes their decisions more clear-cut and particular. Foreign services officers always have to deal with understatements and ambiguous situations demanding quick decisions. As a result, they do not tend to elaborate long-term plans and police projects.
Planning Planning is one of the core activities of military officers. They have to elaborate both general and detailed strategies; that is why each decision they make should be consistent with the whole plan. Diplomats are not involved in detailed planning. They develop general guidelines for action but higher value is attached to innovation as they have to be flexible and ready to change the course of action.
Doctrine Following the doctrine is essential as otherwise undesirable consequences are unavoidable. It is not important (and in many cases merely impossible) to follow the doctrine.
Foreign policy The ultimate goal of decision making is military policy and all related matters. Diplomats are concerned with all aspects of foreign policy.
Major focus of decision making The military are concentrated on the solution of discrete problems that involve planned activities, clearly set goals, defined strategies, and successive steps of implementation. Foreign service officers have to focus on the currently running processes the ultimate outcome of which is almost impossible to predict.
Contacts It is not typical of military officers to engage in communication with their opponents or partners. The only exception is actual war fighting, which makes interaction less infrequent. Diplomats are forced to perform daily negotiations with both their allies and rivals.
Subordinates Military officers typically have a long list of staff to manage and have to command corps, which implies that the outcome of their decisions directly affects a considerable number of people. Foreign service officers have to watch other officers in case they have to work on the same mission – this makes them responsible only for their own actions most of the time.
Competence The military are accountable for everything concerning war and peace operations (both diplomatic and force). In this aspect, diplomats share the same responsibilities as they have to be concerned with both the civilian and the military.
Communication Oral communication is much more important than written. Physical actions prevail. All ways of communication are equally important and used extensively to achieve diplomatic goals.
Collectivism vs. individualism Interaction is essential, which makes team work and leadership skills highly significant to acquire. Communication is more important internally than externally. Individual work and achievements are valued much higher among foreign service officers than their ability to collaborate. Communication is more important externally.
Resources The military can dispose of a large amount of resources, both financial and non-financial (including manpower and equipment). Diplomats usually have scarce resources that must be used only for satisfying essential needs.

It is evident from the table that such differences in approach and ways of action make clashes unavoidable, which leads to decision making problems. Therefore, it can be stated that the major challenge for the system is the absence of controlling and ultimate authority – no one is accountable for the efficiency of interagency cooperation. A lot of efforts to find the best solution to pressing problems fail for the lack of leadership support and excessive diffusion of policy control. The budget authority is not aligned with policy responsibility and there is no integrated approach to security strategic planning, which makes the system unstable and unpredictable. The functions of each policy making body are not consolidated – therefore, there is no way to make sure every agency performs at its highest (Snow 73).

Another challenge the national decision making system needs to address is asymmetry of resources that is becoming more and more dramatic. The state is now military-oriented: most of the resources go to the military to conduct diplomacy whereas diplomats from the Department of State have practically no support whatsoever. Regardless of foreign service officers’ qualifications, excellent knowledge of the political situation, outstanding negotiation skills as well as increased awareness of the peculiarities of the decision making process, the organization is getting smaller and less influential every year. Since the Department of State gets almost no allocations from Congress owing to budgetary shortfalls, its technological support is primitive and chances for professional training and development are limited. Hundreds of diplomatic positions have been reduced, which puts constraints on the diplomatic activity and creates disproportion of forces (Hamre).

On the contrary, the military services can dispose of enormous resource supplies, modern equipment, and development opportunities. These resources often have to serve nation-building purposes as this is the only institution that has expeditionary capabilities and is able to create an environment that would be safe enough for other organizations to perform their functions.

Thus, one of the major problems the decision making system will have to address is the domestic situation that appeared as a result of this power division. It has a negative impact on both the political situation and the economy of the country undermining its security and prosperity. The international standing and influence of the country now directly depends on its ability to reach inner consensus and reform the system so that resources and revenues become balanced (Posen 59).

However, besides homeland problems, there are also challenges connected with foreign politics. The US has to deal not only with its enemies but also with ambivalent partners: while the country takes the burden of leadership, none of its allies pay any share for the security that this cooperation ensures. The alliances were built to find support when dealing with national threats. Yet, the benefits are now far from being reciprocal. Besides, there is no guarantee that the allies will later find this relationship valuable and will not start doubting in the moment of crisis. Partnership also presupposes interconnected economies, which implies that poor policies of any of the US allies cannot help affecting the nation (Hamre).

This uncertainty with allies is aggravated by the strengthening position of regional competitors such as China, Russia, and Iran that have already found ways to challenge US primacy with the so-called gray zone activity (including covert maneuvers, economic subversion, and cyber espionage). Since the gray zone often has no visible manifestation, the country often has no time and resources to take immediate action. As a result, the US is gradually losing its power in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, which makes failures of decision making particularly acute. With the proliferation of weapons and their delivery systems, there is always a chance that any tension might escalate and become an open conflict as the rivals have everything they need to violate the borders.

Finally, the US security could not avoid negative implications of the global revolution of information system: modern technologies continue to exert enormous influence on the traditional approaches to safety as even a well-protected database can fall a victim of cyber attacks. The secure information is always vulnerable and the consequences may be deplorable, especially if rivals get access to the banking system, nuclear command and control, or electrical grid, which is highly probable with the growing number of cyber crimes (Hamre).

Still, the cyber security is not the only threat. Despite the fact that the Internet has contributed a lot to facilitation of the decision making process providing direct access to press reporting, postings and other sources of information about key events, it can also be used in adverse purposes such as terroristic communications and plotting. On the one hand, the government can estimate the prospect of this or that event on the world arena and give commands remotely to ambassadors and the military.

On the other hand, open access always poses a threat that enemies will react to the situation quicker. In addition, the spread of different new modes of communication has another negative consequence: the formal messaging system has become obsolete and has been replaced by informal communication channels (Carr 53). The role of email should not be diminished as it allows providing necessary detail on each situation; however, the failure of the telegram system that was used for reporting information to agencies, has led to distortions in organizational communication channels.

The major problem is that availability of organizational messages on the SIPRnet puts the whole system at risk of a cyber attack. It already happened that the network was broken and a lot of information was downloaded from it. The security of email messaging has been increased through making all the departments use separate email systems that interconnect. However, this complicated the process of searching as there is no common directory search tool. This denies access to agencies that are not involved in messaging but do need to understand all the ongoing interactions to be able to correctly implement strategies and policies (Hamre).

Another global issue affecting security is environmental crisis. The world population continues to grow and natural disasters add to the problems of poverty, famine, and refugees. The country has to deal with devastation produced by climatic changes as well as the flow of refugees from regions affected by natural catastrophes (Snow 74).

All these challenges will determine which crises and outcomes the country may expect in the nearest future. Now, the administration can already define what policy areas the decision making system will have to address at home and abroad in order to survive as a nation following traditional American ideals.

Changes to Improve the Effectiveness of the Decision Making System

There are a lot of alternatives the government could consider to improve the effectiveness of the decision making system. However, no matter what course will be chosen, the security sector still needs deep restructuring and reform. The process is complex and comprehensive as its outcomes have to answer all the current needs and eliminate threats. In most general terms, the reform should (Goldgeier and Suri 39):

  • enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the decision making system through clear division of roles and balanced allocation of resources;
  • empower civilian actors and give them the capacity to control the system;
  • promote transparency and accountability in all policy making affairs to overcome the stage of palace politics;
  • cut the staff down to the right size to avoid bureaucracy;
  • deal successfully with recognition and prevention of internal and external conflicts.

It is important that the security sector reform and follow-up activities should cover all institutions and organizations that are involved in inner and outer threats, which means that it must feature political, military, financial, information, economic, and other components. The previous experience showed that any attempted reform was highly affected by personal preferences of people who initiated it (Goldgeier and Suri 40).

As a result, it managed to reach only a limited number of aspects whereas the general effectiveness of the system usually remained at the same level. Besides, it is not a rare situation when there appears jealousy of the old government members to the newly appointed officials and their privileges that creates tension hindering reforms. Thus, first and foremost, the government members should leave their personal conflicts behind and focus on numerous domestic and foreign problems that the new decision making system will have to deal with (Ochmanek et al. 40).

To achieve better understanding within the apparatus, the US needs to develop both the civilian and the military sectors and provide professional development and rewards in jobs involved in security policy making. Moreover, inner integration is required: diplomats should be allocated to both civilian and military agencies. There should be incentives for committed service and participation. It is recommended to create and interagency team of professionals with representatives from both sectors to head the major nation security projects (Goldgeier and Suri 51).

Cooperative relationship is crucial for dealing with outer threats: military and civil officers must coordinate their actions in critical and post-conflict situations in order to come out with an adequate response and not to interfere with each other’s policies. The major strategy is to create the government with a civilian director and a military officer as a deputy in order to develop a comprehensive approach (Ries 35).

Despite the fact that the current system has to deal with more complex problems and therefore cannot return to its initial size when one person could be responsible for several tasks simultaneously, it still has to move towards a more simplistic and linear structure. The size of the NSC staff should be reduced as much as the system allows in order to increase its flexibility. Before taking this step, it would be reasonable to identify the optimal number of middle managers that are crucial for policy making and reduce only those whose functions can be performed by others (Goldgeier and Suri 52).

Currently, it seems that no more than 150 people are required to support the principal authorities. Yet, it is not enough to eliminate redundancy – the NSC should be reformed functionally. The remaining professionals should be restored in their coordinative and policy making functions. Moreover, the President should reconsider the functions of the White House and the Cabinet in order to avoid favoritism. Clear division of power is needed for the process to run smoothly (Ries 38).

As far as communication problems are concerned, it is highly advisable for the departments and agencies to switch to SMART messaging architecture instead of emails in order to simplify the process of retrieving information and guarantee that no hacker will get access to secret data. All relevant organizations should get an access to the information that they need for their work to avoid misunderstanding (Ries 39).

To ensure that the policy is implemented effectively, it is essential to reform the preparation stage. Before decision making actually takes place, the analysis of various interests and opinions have to be conducted. Now, the problem is that most of the decisions are made in accordance with preferences and interests of a very limited circle of influential people, which often leads to crises for other departments. Internal debates on issues of foreign and domestic policies should be brought to the inter-department level when the matter concerns the interests of the whole country. What the government really needs is to switch from personal priorities to shared ones (Ochmanek et al. 41).

For making the decision making system more powerful, it should step away from rigid limits of proposed policy options. The fact that it currently approaches only the issues that can be solved on the basis of previously made decisions puts considerable constraints on its capabilities as the results of policy implementation. It is recommended to create red teams that will have to deal with challenging currently accepted patterns of decision making and find new possible courses of action (Ries 43). Their major role would be to estimate which decision patterns have successful precedents and should be developed further and which have to be replaced by new approaches. Additionally, red teams have to analyze the success of the decision and outline the lessons learned to avoid mistakes in future (Ochmanek et al. 42).

Perhaps, the hardest change is connected with environmental crisis as there is no way to solve the problem at the local level without resorting to the assistance of other countries. Much has to be done to prevent ecological catastrophe. The country should invest money and non-financial resources in activities aimed to struggle against global poverty, famine, and consequences of natural disasters. Since the US has to deal with great numbers of refugees coming to the country after such disasters, it is highly important to develop policies that would help providing these people with jobs, health care access, and homes (Snow 80).


The new administration has inherited a lot of problems of the old decision making system together with challenges facing the nation on the global arena. In the conditions of high pressure, the security making system can no longer operate using its old patterns. Before passing on to foreign policy problems, the government has to switch to a more flexible, cooperative, and well-structured system of decision making and implementation. Interagency work should be coordinated from the top but not by the President’s favorites. More attention should be paid to creating balanced and fair allocation of resources and distribution of power between the military and the civilian sectors. At the same time, such global problems as environmental crisis and cyber attacks should not be left unattended either.

Works Cited

Carr, Madeline. “Public-Private Partnerships in National Cyber‐Security Strategies.” International Affairs, vol. 92, no. 1, 2016, pp. 43-62.

Collins, Alan. Contemporary Security Studies. Oxford University Press, 2016.

Ellis, Keith, et al., eds. Critical Issues in Systems Theory and Practice. Springer Science & Business Media, 2013.

Goldgeier, James, and Jeremi Suri. “Revitalizing the US National Security Strategy.” The Washington Quarterly, vol. 38, no. 4, 2015, pp. 35-55.

Hamre, John J. “CSIS. 2016. Web.

Ochmanek, David, et al. America’s Security Deficit: Addressing the Imbalance Between Strategy and Resources in a Turbulent World: Strategic Rethink. Vol. 2. Rand Corporation, 2015.

Posen, Barry R. Restraint: A New Foundation for US Grand Strategy. Cornell University Press, 2014.

Ries, Charles P. . Rand Corporation, 2016. Web.

Snow, Donald. Thinking about National Security: Strategy, Policy, and Issues. Routledge, 2015.

Tama, Jordan. “Does Strategic Planning Matter? The Outcomes Of US National Security Reviews.” Political Science Quarterly, vol, 130, no. 4, 2015, pp. 735-766. Web.

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