US Foreign Policy

Improving the Interagency Process to Face 21st Century Security Challenges

in Program

Dear Colleague,

On behalf of the U.S. Army’s Dwight D. Eisenhower National Security Series and the Henry L. Stimson Center, we are pleased to provide this short report on an enduring challenge for U.S. national security: how security professionals in our large and complex bureaucracy can learn to work together, across disciplines and institutional boundaries, for the goals of more effective policymaking and implementation. In recent years, there have been a large number of special commissions and task forces looking at reforming the national security bureaucracy, due to criticisms and demands for change that came out of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and the decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003. We applaud that work, and believe there are many good ideas in circulation that would lead to improved coordination and communication in the U.S. system.

We now offer our contribution to this continuing conversation. In May 2005, we convened a prestigious group of former and current practitioners with vast experience in diplomacy, military, and intelligence. The group discussed, over a day-long workshop, the key topics of:

  • is the interagency system broken? If so, how?
  • what are some basic, realistic ways to improve interagency cooperation in the field and in Washington, D.C.?
  • do Iraq and Afghanistan provide useful new insight into what works and what does not?
  • how can training of national security professionals be improved or revised to strengthen the interagency process yet retain the key specialized skills our government needs?

We hope you will find this summary of the discussion and a few additional essays by workshop participants of value. We’ll welcome hearing from you if you’d like to share your comments.


Ellen Laipson
President and CEO Program Manager
The Henry L. Stimson Center

Captain John Prior, U.S. Army
Eisenhower National Security Series

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