Sandy Berger was critical of people who think we need wholesale change. He feels that the current system hasn't worked for the last 6 years because of the Bush administration, but prior to that it worked decently. His position was 'don't blow the system up, reform it.' He had a list of recommendations for the next president:
- Fix your priority issues at the outset;
- Have a strong and honest National Security Adviser, in contrast to our last two;
- Fix the implementation of policy
- Get the best information and experts - this requires attracting academics into government, something we don't traditionally do (some recent exceptions include Rice and Mike Doran)
- Do some strategic planning - not something the US has been good at, our horizons have generally been the start of the next administration;
- More jointness/cooperation in the agencies;
- Coordinate the National Security budget, in order to demilitarize policy by emasculating DoD and giving State more power.
Lake also had a list of general thoughts:
- NSC should set the priorities, but allow implementation through departments. Whenever NSC gets involved with implementation they screw things up;
- The National Security Adviser should stay out of the public eye and out of politics. NSC staff should be career people, not political appointees;
- The NSC should be flexible, and should change to accomodate every new president's individual style;
- Keep the National Security Adviser and NSC out of the command structure;
- Clear up the confusion between who has in-country authority - whether that is the combatant commander or the ambassador;
- Now new major legislation is required, just minor fixes;
- Reform Congress - legislation is unwieldy and the committee structure is bloated, for instance the House and Senate intelligence committees should be combined.
Snowcroft sees two changes since 1947. The first is the nature of warfare, changing from conventional to insurgency. The second, in my mind a logical outgrowth of the first, is the closer relationship between the military and diplomacy.
The audience was surprisingly sparse - less than half of the 150 or so seats were filled. All in all it was a well-spent hour seeing three (well, maybe only two...) of the most respected bigwigs in my field debate bureaucratic structure. I had a question regarding the National Security Act lined up but unfortunately there was only time for two questions before they had to get back to being bigwigs with stuff to do. Oh well - next time I run into Tony Lake on campus I'll surprise him.