The Cable

Report: Obama’s national security team ‘incredibly weak’

Despite an expansion of the National Security Council staff, coordination of national security policy is still dysfunctional and there is a lack of strategic guidance from President Obama, according to a group of leading outside experts and former officials.

"Reform must take place," said James Locher, President & CEO of the Project on National Security Reform (PNSR), "If you did not like what happened in the last 7 or 8 years... you're not going to like what's coming in the future."

"Momentum for reform is building, but it is largely rhetoric and good intentions," reads PNSR's new report . The congressionally funded group was begun as the result of a cooperative agreement between the Defense Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. "Strategic management of the national security system remains absent and is desperately needed to make it integrated, cohesive, and agile," the report continues.

Calling reform of the national security infrastructure "the number one national security issue," Locher said that America's ability to operate in international arenas the world over is "crippled" by the dysfunction within the system.

He called the White House's national security staff "incredibly weak," preventing integration and coordination that the National Security Council should be doing.

"There's almost no strategic guidance from the president or the executive office of the president," Locher said, adding, "We have almost no knowledge management in the national security system."

There's also no effective means for delegating the president's authority, he added.

Locher spoke a an event rolling out the latest PNSR report at the New American Foundation, hosted by its foreign policy chief and editor of The Washington Note Steve Clemons.

Clemons noted that according to the Goldwater-Nichols act, President Obama was required to submit a national security strategy by June 18, 150 days into his presidency, but he failed to do so.

The "Guiding Coalition" that oversaw the PNSR report included heavyweights such as former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine, former Amb. Robert Blackwill, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, retired Adm. Ed Giambastiani, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, plus Washington players Brent Scowcroft, Thomas Pickering, and Joseph Nye.

Last November's version of the PNSR report included input from now Obama officials Jim Jones, James Steinberg, Michele Flournoy, and Dennis Blair. It declared that "the national security of the United States of America is fundamentally at risk."

The Cable

Breifing Skipper: Cairo, Sikorksi, Burma, Japan, Goldstone

In which we scour the transcript of the State Department's daily presser so you don't have to. Here are the highlights of today's briefing by Department Spokesman Ian Kelly:

  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at the Forum for the Future and "reaffirmed the commitment of the United States to broad engagement with Muslim communities around the world," Kelly said. Then she moved on to Cairo where she met with Intelligence Minister General Omar Suleiman and Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit. Wednesday she will meet with President Hosni Mubarak. .
  • Clinton's meeting with Polish Prime Minister Radoslaw Sikorski planned for Wednesday was cancelled, despite the fact that he was already in Washington.
  • Middle East Special Envoy George Mitchell will join Clinton Wednesday in Cairo after meeting Tuesday in Amman with King Abdullah and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
  • North Korea's announcement that it had reprocessed enough plutonium for another nuclear bomb is a violation of agreements and UN Security Council resolutions, Kelly said, although the State Department is not official condemning remarks the regime made to that effect.
  • Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell is in Burma now and will stop in Tokyo Thursday before returning to the U.S. Tomorrow he will meet with imprisoned democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi. The new Japanese government is still deciding how to position themselves regarding the relocation of a key U.S. air base in Okinawa. "Ultimately, it's for the government of Japan to decide what kind of relationship that they're going to have with us," Kelly said.
  • State Department is not explicitly again the UN General Assembly discussing again the Goldstone report, which the House condemned on Tuesday, but "our priority is that we don't want to do anything that's going to make it more difficult to resume talks," Kelly said.
  • Still no agreement on a date or agenda for another P5+1 meeting with Iran.