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National Security Reform and the 2016 Election

By Christopher J. Lamb and Joseph C. Bond Strategic Forum 293

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Key Points

  • Over the past 20 years, there has been a sea change in senior leader views on national security reform from skepticism to support. Nine major studies argue the national security system cannot generate or integrate the capabilities needed to manage security problems well. The system is “broken.”
  • Yet there are major obstacles to reform. Inexperienced U.S. Presidents discover system limitations too late, when it is politically difficult to correct them; experts who have not studied system behaviors underestimate their liabilities; and leaders in the Department of Defense are more likely to favor reform than their counterparts in other departments, which creates a bureaucratic backlash against reform.
  • However, two key prerequisites for success are in place: galvanizing cases of unsustainable performance, and in-depth problem analysis that reveals the origins of the same. A third prerequisite is committed leadership. With that in mind, the authors identify several reasons why Presidential candidates should embrace national security reform during the 2016 campaign.