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Increased Interagency Cooperation Vital in Global War on Terrorism

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 5, 2006 – Improving cooperation and coordination among government agencies is vital to winning the global war on terrorism and ending circumstances that drive people to terrorism, top Defense Department officials said on Capitol Hill yesterday.

"We must bring all elements of our national power to bear in this struggle against global terrorism, and we can only do that through effective interagency coordination at all levels," Thomas W. O'Connell, DoD's assistant secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict, told members of the House Armed Services Committee.

The most recent Quadrennial Defense Review states the Long War is "characterized by dispersed, global terrorist networks with radical political aims that directly and indirectly threaten the United States and our allies and our way of life," O'Connell said in prepared remarks.

He said this war is very different from but similar in scope to the Cold War, in that it requires major shifts in strategic concepts and national assumptions on the role of military power. The nature of this new kind of enemy puts a premium on interagency operations, he said.

A November directive from President Bush firmly establishes support to "stability, security, transition and reconstruction" activities as a core military mission, on par with combat operations, explained Navy Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Helping civilian counterparts in other agencies and friendly militaries expand their capabilities is one way to accomplish this mission, he said in testimony at the same hearing.

"The QDR concluded that we in DoD need to do more to share expertise in planning, training, and professional development and education with our partners in the federal government and with key allies and friends," he said.

Critical issues outside the traditional military realm -- for example, stopping the spread of religious fundamentalism and improving economic conditions -- make interagency cooperation even more vital.

"The global war on terror is primarily a communications, cultural, political, economic and diplomatic war with strategically important security and military components," Giambastiani said. "In Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, most of the key activities for success are the responsibility of organizations beyond the uniformed military.

"Security is a prerequisite," he added. "But other agencies must step up to solidify progress."

O'Connell noted that joint interagency task forces have been established within the combatant commands to help coordinate war-on-terror operations. "In turn, we at (the Office of the Secretary of Defense) and the Joint Staff are forging stronger linkages among planners in the military services and the combatant commands," he added.

This shift in focus means major changes for two combatant commands in particular: U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Joint Forces Command.

Bush has designated SOCOM as the lead combatant command for planning, synchronizing and, when directed, executing global operations against terrorist networks. JFCOM has been designated as the lead joint force integrator, now responsible for "recommending changes in doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, and facilities to improve the integration of service, defense agency, and combatant command actions with interagency capabilities," O'Connell said.

O'Connell acknowledged work needs to be done to improve coordination and cooperation. "The interagency process we have today can work well under crisis," he said. "But even with all our efforts, the (war on terrorism) presents coordination challenges not previously faced by the (National Security Council)."

O'Connell presented several recommendations from defense officials. Among them: creating a national security planning guidance to direct development of military and nonmilitary plans and capabilities, and providing civilian agencies resources to develop capabilities to deploy in response to contingencies. "U.S. servicemen and women need their civilian colleagues," O'Connell said.

Contact Author

Thomas W. O'Connell
Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani, USN

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