The Guiding Coalition of the Project on National Security Reform (PNSR), a Federally mandated commission review, affirms unanimously that the national security of the United States of America is fundamentally at risk. The U.S. position of world leadership, our country’s prosperity and priceless freedoms, and the safety of our people are challenged not only by a profusion of new and unpredictable threats, but by the now undeniable fact that the national security system of the United States is increasingly misaligned with a rapidly changing global security environment.
The legacy structures and processes of a national security system that is now more than sixty years old no longer help American leaders to formulate coherent national strategy. They do not enable them to integrate America’s hard and soft power to achieve policy goals. They prevent them from matching resources to objectives, and from planning rationally and effectively for future contingencies. As presently constituted, too, these structures and processes lack means to detect and remedy their own deficiencies.
The United States therefore needs a bold, but carefully crafted plan of comprehensive reform to institute a national security system that can manage and overcome the challenges of our time. We propose such a bold reform, which, if implemented, would constitute the most far-reaching governmental design innovation in national security since the passage of the National Security Act in 1947.
However daunting the task, we believe nothing less will reliably secure our country from clear and present danger. We are optimistic that American government can reinvent itself once more, as it has done many times in the past, not only for the sake of national security but for more effective government generally. No area of policy is more critical, however, than national security. If we fail to keep pace with the opportunities afforded by change as well as the challenges posed by an unpredictable world, we will ultimately be unable to preserve, and strive to perfect, our way of life at home.
Our optimism is buoyed by a widespread and growing consensus that we have reached a moment of decision. Congressional sponsorship of the Project on National Security Reform is itself a sign of that consensus. Not everyone, however, is yet convinced that major reform is necessary. Some skepticism is understandable. After all, despite its shortcomings the system did work well enough to achieve victory in the Cold War. Moreover, major reforms in other areas of government, such as for the intelligence community, have not always produced the benefits advertised for them. Besides, every presidential administration since that of Harry Truman has altered the 1947 system to...