Margaret Nencheck is a member of the 2017 WiSe Cohort
President Barack Obama’s most recent National Security Strategy was published in February 2015. By the time President-Elect Donald Trump is inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States, that document will be almost two years old. In the time since it was released, the world was rocked by terror attacks in Paris and Brussels, as well as scores of other events. On the home font, Americans saw their peace and security shattered by attacks at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California, at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and most recently, at an airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
In addition to these select few terrorist attacks, the last two years have seen major data breaches and cyber attacks, an intensifying fight against the Islamic State’s efforts to expand in the Middle East and beyond, and significant attention paid to the security threat posed by climate change.
How does the new administration develop a strategy to address these important and very diverse threats to our national security?
The first step in this strategy development will be identifying priorities. If everything is important, than nothing is important. However, while the major issues are interconnected, they are at their core very different. The next President cannot apply the same solution to the problems associated with climate change that might be considered in an effort to combat nuclear proliferation.
The next step should focus on a consolidation of resources – a slimming of government which President-Elect Trump has already voiced his support for. Over one hundred committees are charged with providing oversight for national security, yet many experts agree that the United States is unprepared to stop some of the most significant and potentially dangerous national security threats that we face. Refocusing and eliminating duplication of effort are vital for a streamlined and effective national security strategy.
The final step in this effort must ensuring a unified government response to these challenges. This means building a bi-partisan approach to national security challenges. How can the United States develop a coordinated strategy to protect our people and resources if we are locked in divisive, internal debates within the halls of our government? Leaders from both political parties must work together to ensure the country is adequately postured to meet the wide range of threats we face.
While it is impossible to propose and defend a comprehensive national security strategy in a few short paragraphs, this brief outline suggests a strong beginning for such an effort. Focusing on identify the major threats to our national security and prioritizing them, consolidating resources to avoid wasted effort, and focusing on a bi-partisan approach to our national security are vital steps for the incoming administration to take as it begins to develop the next iteration of our national security strategy.
Without a comprehensive strategy designed to address the current and emerging threats facing the country, every concern has the potential to threaten our security.