By Lincoln P. Bloomfield Jr. and Tom Harvey
Already the Trump presidency has delivered big-time on one promise: it has shaken up the status quo. Like the Trump candidacy that had vilified the competence and performance of establishment practitioners in both major parties en route to a victory that few predicted, the Trump administration has made it abundantly clear that no personage, organization, bureaucratic office, process, policy or funded program is sacred.
In response, a chorus of negative commentary has been the soundtrack to the forty-fifth president’s early tenure. Foreign allies have expressed misgivings about potential changes in the U.S. security role. From the tenor of media coverage, protest rallies, political rhetoric, bureaucratic dissent memos and advocacy groups facing the loss of federal support, one could conclude that the president’s penchant for disruption is wholly at odds with the national interest.
But Trump never ran as an agent of continuity. From the outset, he framed his campaign as an indictment of the establishment, Right as well as Left, whose stewardship of the country’s affairs had for too long allegedly permitted American interests—principally economic interests, but also American power and reputation—to suffer. There can be no denying that the United States in this century finds itself on a trajectory of eroding solvency, declining geopolitical influence and fraying trust between many millions of American citizens and those in Washington on whom they depend to manage the nation’s affairs.
Unbeholden to political-party orthodoxy, and advised by some highly regarded national-security principals, President Trump has the opportunity to reverse America’s decline. This was, indeed, his signature campaign pledge. Boosting economic growth is only part of the solution. To succeed, Trump needs to retool the national-security apparatus, shaking up its turf-obsessed, risk-averse culture while sharpening its tradecraft. In a changed world, he must unify, empower and align the national effort toward endeavors of high consequence. In meeting the legislative requirement for a National Security Strategy, the president can best ensure future American greatness by offering a fresh road map to address long-term dangers and restore U.S. influence in the world.
Lincoln Bloomfield Jr. is chairman emeritus of the Stimson Center. He held positions in the State and Defense Departments and the White House under the previous five Republican administrations. Tom Harvey is founder and chairman of the Global Environment and Technology Foundation. He drafted the legislation requiring the National Security Strategy (NSS) and wrote the first NSS for President Reagan in 1987. This piece originally appeared in The National Interest, August 21, 2017.