Michael C. Davies has written three books on the Wars of 9/11 and is a progenitor of the Human Domain concept.  He currently works for an international law firm.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 

Editor’s Note:  This article is an entry into our 70th Anniversary Writing Contest: Options for a New U.S. National Security Act.  The author submitted this article under the contest heading of Most Disruptive.

National Security Situation:  Unless the National Security Act of 1947 is scrapped and replaced, the United States will inevitably suffer grand strategic failure.  After 16 years of repeated, overlapping, and cascading strategic failures[1], the ineptitude of the U.S. national security system has been laid bare for all to see.  These failures have allowed America’s enemies to view the National Security Act’s flaws and provided the time and space to develop effective competitive strategies against the U.S. and successfully threaten both the international order and the U.S. social contract.

Date Originally Written:  September 10, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  October 9, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of an individual who previously conducted research on the Wars of 9/11 at the U.S. National Defense University and concluded that the United States of America, as a government, a military, and a society, is currently functionally and cognitively incapable of winning a war, any war.

Background:  Because the U.S. national security system, modeled via the 1947 Act, is built for a different era, different enemies, and different mental models, it is incapable of effectively creating, executing, or resourcing strategies to match the contemporary or future strategic environment.  The deficiencies of the current system revolve around its inability to situate policy and politics as the key element in strategy, competitively match civilian and military forces with contemporary and future environments and missions, maintain strategic solvency, end organizational stovepipes, and consider local and regional politics in strategic decision-making.

Significance:  Without immediate and revolutionary reorganization, a series of ever-more consequential strategic failures is inevitable, eventually leading to grand strategic failure.

Option #1:  Revolutionary Reorganization.

The list below offers the necessary revolutionary reorganization of the national security system to negate the previously mentioned deficiencies.

  1. Command and control of the Geographic Combatant Commands (GCCs) is moved to the Department of State.  Senate-approved civilian Ambassadors are given unity of command over all civilian and military forces and policymaking processes in their area.
  2. The Department of State is reorganized around foreign policymaking at the GCCs, super-empowered Chiefs of Mission in each country[2], and functional areas of expertise[3].
  3. The Department of Defense is reorganized into mission-centric cross-functional corps[4].
  4. The intelligence community is rationalized into a smaller number of agencies and reorganized around, and made dependent on, the above structures.
  5. The National Security Council is curtailed into a presidential advisory unit, a grand strategy unit headed by the Secretary of State to align national objectives, GCC policies, civilian and military force structures, and budgets, and a red team cell.
  6. The Joint Chiefs of Staff remain, but transfer all organizational power to the GCCs and the cross-functional corps.  The Chairman remains as the President’s chief military advisor.  The heads of each military Service will retain a position as military advisors to the President and ceremonial heads of the respective Services.
  7. A second tier is added to the All-Volunteer Force to allow for rapid scaling of civilian personnel into military service as needed, negating the need for National Service and the use of contractors.  Second tier individuals undertake a fast-track boot camp, provided functional training according to skills and need, given operational ranks, and assigned to units as necessary to serve a full tour or more.

Because of the magnitude of power given to the Executive Branch by this Act, the War Powers Resolution must be redrafted into a constitutional amendment.  Congress must now approve any action, whether a Declaration of War or an Authorization for the Use of Force (AUMF), within 5 days of the beginning of combat by simple majority.  The President, the relevant GCC Ambassador, and the relevant country-team Ambassador(s) will be automatically impeached if combat continues without Congressional approval.  All majority and minority leaders of both houses and the relevant Committees will be automatically impeached if an authorizing vote is not held within the 5-day period.  Any AUMF must be re-authorized at the beginning of each new Congressional term by a super-majority of both houses.

Risk:  This reorganization will cause significant turmoil and take time to organizationally and physically relocate people, agencies, and bureaucratic processes to the new structure.  Large-scale resignations should be expected in response also.  Effective execution of policy, processes, and institutional knowledge will likely be diminished in the meantime.  Furthermore, the State Department is not currently designed to accept this structure[5], and few individuals exist who could effectively manage the role as regional policy proconsul[6].  This reorganization therefore demands significant planning, time, and care in initial execution.

Gain:  This reorganization will negate the current sources of strategic failure and align national policy, ground truth, and effective execution.  It will free the President and the Executive Branch from attempting to manage global politics on a granular level daily.  It will enable local and regional expertise to rise to the forefront and lessen the impact of ideologues and military operationalists on foreign policy.  And above all else, America will be capable of winning wars again.

Option #2:  Goldwater-Nichols for the Interagency.

The implementation of all the recommendations from the Project for National Security Reform’s, Forging a New Shield[7], will allow for superior strategic decision-making by lessening the negative impact of organizational stovepipes.

Risk:  The maintenance of a strong President-centric system, Departmental stovepipes, and the military Services as independent entities that overlay Forging’s proposed interagency teams retains too much of the current national security system to be forcefully effective in negating the factors that have caused repeated strategic failures.  This option could be also used to give the appearance of reform without investing the time and energy to make its goals a reality.

Gain:  This reorganization can be readily adopted onto current national security structures with minimal disruption.  Demands for a ‘Goldwater-Nichols for the Interagency’ is an oft-repeated call to action, meaning that significant support for these reforms is already present.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


[1] Kapusta, P. (2015, Oct.-Dec.) The Gray Zone. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2017 from https://www.dvidshub.net/publication/issues/27727

[2] Lamb, C. and Marks, E. (2010, Dec.) Chief of Mission Authority as a Model for National Security Integration. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2017 from http://ndupress.ndu.edu/Portals/68/Documents/stratperspective/inss/StrategicPerspectives-2.pdf

[3] Marks, E. (2010, Mar.) A ‘Next Generation’ Department of State: A Proposal of the Management of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2017 from http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/item/2010/0103/oped/op_marks.html

[4] Brimley, S. and Scharre, P. (2014, May 13) CTRL + ALT + DELETE: Resetting America’s Military. Retrieved September 10, 2017, from http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/05/13/ctrl-alt-delete

[5] Schake, K. (2012, March 1) State of Disrepair: Fixing the Culture and Practices of the State Department. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2017 from http://www.hooverpress.org/State-of-Disrepair-P561.aspx

[6] Blair, D., Neumann, R., and Olson, E., (2014, Aug. 27) Fixing Fragile States. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2017 from http://nationalinterest.org/feature/fixing-fragile-states-11125

[7] Project for National Security Reform (2008, Nov.) Forging a New Shield. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2017 from http://www.freedomsphoenix.com/Uploads/001/Media/pnsr_forging_a_new_shield_report.pdf