Agencies Must Cooperate to Win Terror War, Pace Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2004 In the fields and deserts of the Middle East, Americans already are working toward a joint interagency ideal. They just have to ignore their superiors to make it work, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace told the attendees at the 2004 Eisenhower National Security Conference that agencies throughout the government must cooperate to win the global war on terrorism.
Military and civilian employees from many different agencies are working together in the provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan or on tiger teams in Iraq. They have to work out command arrangements on the fly in combat zones. There has to be a better way, Pace said.
He used the example of the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 that created the joint warfighting machine the United States has today as an example.
Pace said Congress forced the act down the Defense Department's throat. It strengthened the position of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, created the position of vice chairman and strengthened the service chiefs' positions as members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Pace said negative views of the interagency process when he was in Somalia, and positive views when he was in Korea convinced him early on in his career that joint cooperation was essential. With the global war on terrorism, cooperation across the government is even more crucial. President Bush and other leaders talk about defeating terrorists using all instruments of national power. Changes in the interagency process could strengthen this important aspect of the offensive against terror, Pace said.
The current National Security Council process works well in "teeing up" decisions for the president, the general explained. The problem comes after he makes the decision. The various parts of the government take their various pieces and go back to work on them. No one below the president has control over the totality of the process. And if there are disagreements among the various players, it has to go back to the president for resolution.
"Might we consider something at the national level to allow the president of the United States to say, 'This is what I want done in Afghanistan, and I want the State Department to be the lead agency'?" Pace asked. All the other agencies would have to support the department. And the secretary of state or the secretary's designated leader would be the one ensuring that the president's goals were being met. The leader of this "Joint Interagency Task Force" would be able to cross agency lines to ensure the work is being accomplished, receive progress reports, and task the various agencies to accomplish the missions.
This would also allow regional approaches to various problems, too, Pace said. Right now there is no civilian equivalent to a combatant commander. But a Joint Interagency Task Force would allow that flexibility.
And flexibility is key to combating terrorists. "Are the mechanisms for making decisions flexible enough, efficient enough to stay ahead of the threats?" he asked.
The vice chairman maintains this is possible, but that it will take time. Pace said that in the early 1980s, the United States had the "world's best Army, world's best Navy, world's best Marine Corps and world's best Air Force. The only problem was we weren't talking with each other.
"When we went to battle, at best we deconflicted the battlespace, but we sure weren't fighting joint and combined like we do today," he said.
To fight the nation's battles, DoD now has a Joint Task Force commander who tells his Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps components what to do and when to do it. "Ninety-five percent of the time that works great," Pace said. "But inside that system, if a Marine feels that something is not quite right, he or she still has the ability to go through Marine Corps chain of command to the commandant, and the (Joint Chiefs of Staff)."
The same sort of system would work in a joint interagency task force, he added.
Pace said there also has to be an incentive to being an interagency specialist, just as the military started giving promotion preference to officers in 1986 if they took joint assignments. The same sort of thing would work for civilian agencies, Pace said.
It took time for military officers to trust members of other services, and it will take time for people to trust members of other departments and agencies. "I was in the Marine Corps for 16 years before I found out there were great Americans in the Army," Pace said with a smile.