The Cable

New NSC memo: Jones on the 21st century interagency process

The Cable has obtained an unclassified memo authored by national security advisor Gen. James Jones (ret.). Entitled "The 21st Century Interagency Process" and addressed to 18 cabinet heads and White House advisors, the five-page document lays out Jones's vision for adapting U.S. national security bureaucracy architecture to today's security challenges.

"As we all know, the 21st Century announces itself as one in which there are great challenges to the symmetric world of the 20th century," Jones writes. "Matters pertaining to national and international security are broader and more diverse than anyone thought possible just a few years ago. The United States must navigate an environment in which traditional organizations and means of response to global challenges may be inadequate or deficient. Indeed, the ability of the Nation to successfully compete in global issues is being tested in ways that were unimaginable until recently."

"To succeed, the United States must integrate its ability to employ all-elements of national power in a cohesive manner. In order to deal with the world as it: is, rather than how we wish it were, the National Security council must be transformed to meet the realities of the new century."

Jones further proposes principles to guide the interagency process. Among them: a strategic process, an agile NSC, a transparent process, a predictable process, and an NSC that monitors implementation.

Sources said that a version of Jones's memo was drafted during the transition to be sent around alongside Presidential Policy Directive-1 (pdf), which Obama signed on Feb. 13. They weren't certain why the Jones memo was not released until more than a month later, on March 19.

"This strikes me as a very good statement of how a policy process ought to work," commented IM Destler, of the University of Maryland, co-author, with Ivo Daalder, of a recent book on the NSC, In the Shadow of the Oval Office. "The question is whether Obama will be willing, in practice, to accept its constraints so he can benefit from its virtues."

"One interesting question is why it was sent out when it was," Destler added. "The most likely explanation: It was in the pipeline for a while, and sent out when the needed clearances, redrafting, etc., were complete.

"Less likely but more interesting if true," Destler continued. "It was triggered by an occasion when the process did not function this way."

You can read the memo here (pdf).

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