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Strategic Operational Planning and Congressional Oversight of Intelligence

By Sally Scudder, Center for Strategic Research

US Capitol

When President Bush signed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA), he called it “the most dramatic reform of our nation’s intelligence capabilities since President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947.   Under this law, our vast intelligence enterprise will be more unified, coordinated, and effective.”[i]  To this specific end, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) officially took over as the nation’s lead in the counterterrorism effort.  Yet IRTPA’s passage didn’t mean the national security structure in Washington was going to change instantaneously and NCTC would be given complete charge of interagency counterterrorism efforts.   While blame of ineffectualness could be laid on interagency turf battles, perhaps the most responsible party is Congress and, as the 9/11 Commission calls it, their “dysfunctional”[ii] oversight of intelligence, which is “always dependent on newspaper headlines.”[iii]

The release of the 9/11 Commission Report demanded action, and with the 2004 elections looming, congressional members across the aisle were quick to endorse it, including presidential candidate John Kerry, forcing President Bush to follow suit. [iv]  Though it had also publicly endorsed the Commission, the Bush Administration had been loath to call it into existence, citing “sensitive information” as a reason to withhold hearings from the public eye.[v]   After the Report was published and public pressure started to build, Bush attempted to go around the recommendations while showing his commitment to reforming the national security structure by issuing a multiple executive orders and memos on the subject.  In reality, many of his orders “did little more that reaffirm the system as it existed” or simply pandered to “established bureaucratic interests.”[vi]  Among the executive orders issued was EO 13354, which created the National Counterterrorism Center as an update of the Threat Integration and Intelligence Center.  Bush outlined the NCTC’s functions as a center for the analysis and integration of intelligence; coordination of strategic operational planning; assigning operational responsibilities to agencies; serving as a shared knowledge bank; and ensuring agencies have appropriate access to intelligence.

Congress was also mindful of public perception.  Shortly thereafter, they introduced and passed IRTPA in less than ninety days, an exceedingly rare occurrence for the notoriously slow-moving bill passage process.  For such a sweeping and purportedly “revolutionary”[vii]  new organization, Congress didn’t add, subtract, or clarify NCTC’s functions, keeping the language identical to EO 13354.[viii]  Specifically, Congress didn’t challenge or define the vague and contrary concept of “strategic operational planning,” which was the mandate of the newly created Directorate of Strategic Operational Planning (DSOP) within the NCTC, leaving it open to interagency interpretation and contention.  Reportedly, members “didn’t know [what strategic operational planning was], just wanted enough words for [someone else] to figure it out.”[ix]  Though the rhetoric surrounding NCTC’s creation promised a “unified, coordinated and effective” streamlining of stovepiped efforts, Congress did not consolidate a single intelligence agency; they simply added to the already intricate intelligence community’s roles and reporting structure.[x]  If Congress did not fully flesh out and institute intelligence reform when public demand was at its peak and funding for intelligence programs had exponentially increased, what would drive them to keep an eye on NCTC’s efforts now, especially the “less than glamorous”[xi] planning side?

The Directorate of Strategic Operational Planning is supposed to be the mechanism for government-wide strategic operational planning and is half of NCTC’s mission, yet oversight is negligible.  The seeming importance of DSOP has been highlighted in testimony by NCTC leadership, yet relatively unchallenged by Congress in hearings.  In his statement to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence as nominee for the Director of the NCTC, Adm. John Scott Redd called strategic operational planning “substantial, daunting and, I believe, very necessary.”[xii]  Through the years, SOP has been called “truly revolutionary”[xiii] as the government has “come together in ways…never seen during…decades of government service.”[xiv]  Despite caveats of strategic operational planning as “new to the US government,” [xv]SOP was called “foundational”[xvi] to counterterrorism efforts.  Succeeding NCTC Director Michael Leiter said he was “more convinced than ever that success against terrorism will only come through such coordinated and synchronized efforts—to include the full weight of our diplomatic, financial, military, intelligence, homeland security and law enforcement activities.” [xvii]  For such weighty importance, however, Congress hardly paid attention to DSOP.  The most questioning DSOP received was after the publication of the National Implementation Plan, which was supposed to discreetly task the interagency on counterterrorism efforts.  There were eight questions regarding NIP and all came from Representative Sanchez, who was frustrated at Congress’s lack of access to the document. [xviii]

It wasn’t until the attempted bombing of Flight 253 and the Fort Hood shootings in late 2009 that NCTC was put under Congress’s microscope as echoes of a ‘failure to connect the dots’ reverberated back into the public rhetoric. Though the sharpest scrutiny was directed at the intelligence side of NCTC, there were questions on DSOP’s roles and responsibilities, to which the answer seemed to be “I do not think the legislation gave clear authority— in fact, it did not give us clear authority to direct action, so we have become a negotiator and mediator of sorts rather than director of action.”[xix]  Suddenly the attitude was seemingly back to “we’re building the airplane at NCTC even as we are being asked to fly it.”[xx]  Though there were questions surrounding strategic operational planning and testimony from outside experts blasting DSOP’s failings,[xxi] there have still been no bills proposed or executive orders given to clarify DSOP’s operation.

NCTC is supposed to be the all-government approach to counterterrorism with the Directorate of Intelligence ‘connecting all of the intelligence dots’ and DSOP serving as the ‘connective tissue’ for the US government’s counterterrorism plans.  Unfortunately, without proper congressional oversight and a clear definition of strategic operational planning, DSOP’s mandate is difficult to enforce across the competing interagency.  Ordinarily, intelligence reform is characterized as moving an “aircraft carrier down a creek,” [xxii] and DSOP as a “less than glamorous”[xxiii] organization does not hold the attention of its overseers enough to ensure accountability or create a comprehensive government counterterrorism plan.

Sally Scudder is a research assistant with the Center for Strategic Research.  The views expressed are her own and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government. 


[i] George W. Bush, “President Signs Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act,” Washington, D.C., December 17, 2004, available at <http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2004/12/20041217-1.html&gt;.

[ii] The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (New York: Norton, 2004). 420.

[iii] Cynthia M. Nolan, “More Perfect Oversight: Intelligence Oversight and Reform.” Strategic Intelligence: Intelligence and Accountability: Safeguards Against the Abuse of Secret Power 5 (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2007), 115-140. 129.

[iv] Glenn Hastedt, “Washington Politics, Intelligence, and the Struggle Against Global Terrorism,” Strategic Intelligence: Counterintelligence and Counterterrorism: Defending the Nation Against Hostile Forces 4 (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2007). 100-25. 103.

[v] Pete Brush, “Bush Opposes 9/11 Query Panel,” CBS News, 11 February, 2009, available at <http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500164_162-509096.html&gt;.

[vi] Glenn Hastedt, “Washington Politics, Intelligence, and the Struggle Against Global Terrorism,” Strategic Intelligence: Counterintelligence and Counterterrorism: Defending the Nation Against Hostile Forces 4 (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2007), 100-25. 108.

[vii] Hearing Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations: Counterterrorism: The Changing Face of Terror, June 13, 2006.

[viii]Todd Masse, “The National Counterterrorism Center: Implementation Challenges and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, (2005).

[ix] Interview, 26 April 12.

[x] Glenn Hastedt, “Washington Politics, Intelligence, and the Struggle Against Global Terrorism,” Strategic Intelligence: Counterintelligence and Counterterrorism: Defending the Nation Against Hostile Forces 4 (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2007), 100-125. 106.

[xi]Hearing of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: Confronting the Terrorist Threat to the Homeland: Six Years After 9/11, September 10, 2007.

[xii] Hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, United States Senate: Nomination of Vice Admiral John Scott Redd to Be Director, National Counterterrorism Center, July 21, 2005.

[xiii] Hearing Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations: Counterterrorism: The Changing Face of Terror, June 13, 2006.

[xiv] Hearing Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations: Counterterrorism: The Changing Face of Terror, June 13, 2006.

[xv] Hearing of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: Nine Years After 9/11: Confronting the Terrorist Threat to the Homeland, September 10, 2007.

[xvi] Hearing of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: Nine Years After 9/11: Confronting the Terrorist Threat to the Homeland, September 10, 2007.

[xvii] Hearing Before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, United States Senate: Nomination of Michael Leiter to Be Director, National Counterterrorism Center, May 6, 2008.

[xviii] Hearing of the Subcommittee on Border, Maritime, and Global Counterterrorism of the Committee on Homeland Security, House of Representatives: Homeland Security Beyond Our Borders: Examining the Status of Counterterrorism Coordination Overseas, October 4, 2007.

[xix] Hearing of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: Intelligence Reform—2010, January, 2010.

[xx] Hearing of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations: Counterterrorism: The Changing Face of Terror, June 13, 2006.

[xxi]Hearing of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: Intelligence Reform—2010: The Lessons and Implications of the Christmas Day Attack: Intelligence Reform and Interagency Integration, March 17, 2010.

[xxii] Cynthia M. Nolan, “More Perfect Oversight: Intelligence Oversight and Reform.” Strategic Intelligence: Intelligence and Accountability: Safeguards Against the Abuse of Secret Power 5 (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2007), 115-40. 131.

[xxiii]Hearing of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: Confronting the Terrorist Threat to the Homeland: Six Years After 9/11, September 10, 2007.

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US Military’s First Comprehensive Operational Energy Strategy Released

By Richard Andres, PhD; Christine Zaino, Research Assistant;
Kevin Ostlie, Research Assistant

Energy and Environmental Security Policy Program

 

For the first time, the Department of Defense (DoD) has published a comprehensive strategy for operational energy. Energy for the Warfighter: Operational Energy Strategy, published by the newly established Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs (ASD(OEPP)), was released last month. Initial reactions to the document were mixed: some welcomed the inaugural strategy, while others felt it lacked specific goals and performance measures. The criticisms, however, are misplaced. The strategy is an important and appropriate first step to improving and unifying DoD energy policy. The new strategy sets the stage for OEPP, mandated by Congress in 2009, to harmonize operational energy policy under an ASD-level office and allows greater opportunities for the military to act as a leader and first mover in the advancement of energy efficiency endeavors and technologies.

The Operational Energy Strategy (OES) focuses on operational energy use – “energy used by military forces in execution of their day-to-day missions.” This focus on operations rather than domestic installations is important because the Services—with the notable exception of the Marine Corps—have often placed greater emphasis on installations than operations.  The OES, on the other hand, attempts to “guide the Department of Defense in how to better use energy resources to support the Department’s operational needs and the Nation’s strategic energy security goals.” As the strategy points out, it is important that DoD align its energy policy with its core mission to ensure American security. Suboptimal energy use in the field contributes to vulnerabilities – more than 3000 military personnel were casualties of attacks on supply lines in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2007. The volatility of energy prices and global competition for scarce energy resources like petroleum also underscores the need to reduce energy consumption. Operational energy took up 75% of all U.S. military energy used in 2009, making it a crucially important focus in energy planning.

Beyond increasing the Department’s focus on operations, the new strategy also plays an important role in helping to coordinate action across the Services. As the leader and underwriter of global security across “the five domains” – air, land, sea, space and cyberspace – the U.S. military relies on energy to achieve its core mission. Before the creation of OEPP, each branch of the military had established energy visions that were compatible, but rarely synchronized. The OES builds on existing approaches by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps but is unique in that it provides direction across the Department.

In terms of its content, the new Strategy lists “3 Principle Ways” to improve DoD energy policy. These include: “More Fight, Less Fuel,” which addresses reducing energy demand; “More Options, Less Risk,” which focuses on diversifying energy sources; and “More Capability, Less Cost,” which emphasizes that future planning on “force structure, posture and strategy” should be done with energy in mind. These are all compatible with the key points of the military’s energy vision. The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps all focus on using energy more effectively in order to serve their national security mission by increasing efficiency and curtailing use when possible to reduce demand, securing access to energy supplies including the development of alternative sources, and looking to the future – “serv[ing] as a model to the nation,” being “resilient to any potential energy future,” inspiring “cultural change,” and “instilling a warrior ethos” that values energy as a weapon of war, respectively.

While the OES has been criticized as too vague, the document should be understood as the first piece in the overall energy plan. As the OEPP’s inaugural strategy issuance, it lays the groundwork necessary for future undertakings of the office. For the past few years, the Services have frequently replicated each other’s work and failed to field promising new technologies—often simply due to a lack of coordination between Services and between domestic institutions and warfighters.  Among other things, the OES will help to optimize energy initiatives across the Services by lowering the chances of duplication of efforts and by highlighting and filling in the gaps that have resulted from stovepiped programs. In addition to providing an overarching direction for DoD energy projects, merging these efforts under the responsibility of OEPP will provide a level of transparency in energy policy that has not been prevalent in DoD culture. The new strategy is a step toward treating energy with the same respect that is given to other tools of war. New energy initiatives across the Services and in the civilian world can be better leveraged under a coordinated energy strategy. Successes like the Marine Corps’ SPACES technology (backpack-portable solar power units that can recharge batteries, lightening a soldier’s load by 10 pounds or more, and reducing the need to resupply) and promising advances like the Navy’s 50/50 bio-fuel/JP-8 blend jet fuels are more likely to be shared and diffused throughout the Department under a unified strategy.

It will be important to see how OEPP builds upon the foundational Operational Energy Strategy with its forthcoming implementation plan. Intended to be released 90 days following the OES, the implementation plan is slated to contain a set of goals with performance measurements and timetables. The OES indicates that the two documents should move forward together to create both short-term and long-term visions for operational energy, while establishing a viable roadmap containing the concrete goals and processes necessary to drive operational energy to the more efficient, diversified, and less costly institution conceptualized by the OES. Hopefully the implementation plan will address the criticisms voiced about the vagueness of the strategy.

The emphasis on long-term goals in the OES is a signal from OEPP that new ways of thinking about energy won’t be institutionalized overnight. The framework presented in the strategy is designed to be incorporated into training and curricula at the senior-level service schools so energy considerations become one of the routine factors of everyday decisions, evidenced under the third theme, which aims to include energy considerations in all future planning and training. General David Petraeus emphasized this approach when he issued a memorandum to the U.S. forces in Afghanistan that encouraged commanders to be mindful of routine energy consumption and ordered them to make “energy-informed” decisions in order to prevent energy consumption from limiting combat capabilities. The OES encourages this kind of attitude from high-level commanders across all Services and operations.

Although it was released months after its initial due date, the timing of the OES’s release may in fact be advantageous. One of the pressing issues facing new Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is how to reduce the budget without reducing the capability and effectiveness of the U.S. military. Both Congress and President Obama have requested that DoD reduce expenditure both immediately and in the long-term, putting Panetta in a challenging situation. Finding more efficient, long-term energy solutions could become a significant factor in the budget equation. Given his energy conscious stances, Panetta is likely to make energy savings a high priority.

The release of the U.S. military’s first comprehensive Operational Energy Strategy will prove a valuable first step to increasing mission effectiveness in both the short and long terms. The forthcoming implementation plan is likely to do more. At the end of the day, what is most critical is that the new OEPP office acts as a coordinating force with and between the services that focuses on minimizing duplication, facilitating diffusion of new technology and techniques to the joint warfighting community and institutionalizing the Services’ successes.  All of this requires a light touch and an emphasis on the long game and the new strategy takes precisely this approach.

Dr. Richard B. Andres is Professor of National Security Strategy at the National War College and Chair of the Energy & Environmental Security Policy Program at National Defense University.

Christine Zaino is a Research Assistant with the Energy & Environmental Security Policy Program at National Defense University. She is currently pursuing her MA in International Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University.

Kevin Ostlie is a Research Assistant with the Energy & Environmental Security Policy Program at National Defense University. He is currently pursuing his MA in Public Policy, concentrating in International Security and Economic Policy, at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy.

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Is Kim Jong Il Ready to Name a Successor?

By Katherine Walczak, Center for Strategic Research

Kim Jong Il with soldiers

Kim Jong Il

As rumors abound over Kim Jong Il’s failing health, the question as to who will take his place goes unanswered. Believed to have suffered a stroke two years ago, and looking increasing worse when pictured on a recent trip to China, Kim’s health will pose a major concern for North Korea’s future. His deteriorating health was, reportedly, the reason the Workers Party Congress planned for September 15 was postponed, which has been rescheduled for today.

North Korea’s Workers Party Congress has not been held since 1980, where Kim officially accepted his position as the leader of North Korea, meaning this meeting will likely address some important concerns about North Korea’s future. And it is believed that Kim will use this congress to name his son, Kim Jong-un, as his successor.

Kim has three sons, from two different women, all of whom have been considered as possible replacements for their father. Kim’s oldest son, Kim Jong-nam, was the likely choice to be the next leader until he fell from favor in May 2001 after being arrested at the Tokyo International Airport. Kim’s next son, Kim Jong-chul, originally thought to have been Kim’s next choice, has been reportedly overlooked for his younger brother. This leaves the position to Kim’s youngest son, Kim Jong-un.

Very little is known about Kim Jong-un. He’s thought to be 26-28 years old, he may or may not have attended school in Switzerland, and few photos are known to exist of him. Kim Jong-un also might face challenges from his brothers for his position or for positions of power within the government. If Kim Jong-un is chosen, his uncle, Jang Song Taek, will likely take up a regent role to guide the young leader. Kim Jong-un is said to be most like his father in temperament, yet many are unsure whether he will follow in his father’s footsteps as a leader.

North Korea’s future is uncertain, yet there are hopes that today’s Congress will address some of these issues. But even should Kim name a successor, questions still remain over who will be named and what type of leader they will be. Given that the last congress was postponed, there is no guarantee the congress will even be held today. There seem to be plans in the making for the future of North Korea, but these plans are shaky at best, leaving the rest of the world in the dark about what’s to come in North Korea.

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