My cell phone is an antiquated hunk of junk. It has no capabilities other than sending and receiving messages (haphazardly at that, too). I have to carry a separate PDA to access WIFI on the fly, an iPod to listen to music, a decent laptop if I want to play World of Warcraft during down time, and a digital camera to snap an occasional picture. I plan to buy a Motorola Q shortly (when my service plan allows me a free upgrade on phones) that combines telephone, text messaging/email, digital camera, WIFI, MP3 player, and data storage device (with the addition of an SD card) into one sleek device.
Many of the past task forces and working groups the government sent out into the world to execute American Foreign Policy were much the same as that clunky phone of mine: stovepiped, possessing a singular, limited purpose and function, and operating independently (and sometime at odds) of other government organizations, much like the jumble of electronic devices tangled together in my backpack.
Today, fortunately, there is more convergence in assembled government task forces, and numerous effective inter-agency working groups; more work is needed if the United States is going to effectively pursue and achieve its foreign policy goals in the 21st century, however.
There are many cases illustrating government synergy across the spectrum of function and capability. The American response to the Asian tsunami, and the drug interdiction and security cooperation efforts in Latin America are two recent examples that immediately come to mind. However, there are equal numbers foreign policy endeavors that have had problems arise at least in part due to disjointed military and civilian agency efforts. For instance, a frequently stated critique of "Phase IV" stability operations in Iraq is that in addition to the lack of a cohesive campaign plan for the reconstruction phase, there was poor fusion of the Coalition Provisional Authority and the military on the ground, who comprised the bulk of American capability and situational awareness (as it still does now). Perhaps a campaign plan that called for and established an Iraq joint interagency working group (military-led, comprised of State Department, Intelligence, USAID, et al) long before the invasion took place, that had unity of command as well as unity of effort, and was poised to surge capabilities and execute a sound stability operations strategy after Baghdad fell, things would be different on the ground today. . .
Hypotheticals only advance an argument so far, and the situation in Iraq today is what it is. Elsewhere, however, there is proof of this concept already emerging out of operational necessity. USSOUTHCOM established Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) South "to combat illicit trafficking through domestic and international cooperation as the premier joint, interagency and international task force"; all the uniformed military services participate in JIATF activities, as well as agencies such as the FBI, DIA, DEA, and the like. The geographical combatant commands also include a state department political advisor (POLAD) on the general's staff as well. The military and other agencies have begun to fuse their education systems, and undertake more personnel exchanges as well. Recent classes at the Army's Fort Leavenworth have included personnel from agencies such as the DIA, for example.
Hopefully, greater capabilities and effectiveness will arise from these auspicious beginnings. Savvy congressional staffs might research and draft legislation to further the process that is by situational exigency occurring in the field (similar to the highly successful Goldwater Nichols act, which rapidly reorganized the Department of Defense). An approach that establishes funding, develops sound doctrine, and a framework for organizing, educating, and employing governmental elements is long overdue.
American foreign policy challenges in the coming decades are more often than not going to require action in complex situations. The United States will continue to find itself involved in developing countries, where requirements of advancing regional cooperation, economic development, and deterring or neutralizing threats intersect, and thus require a multifaceted response; there will be more Djibouti deployments than DESERT STORMS in the coming years. Governmental agencies will be required to work side by side in organizations comprised of various law and humanitarian bureaus, and perhaps controlled by uniformed military personnel. On the ground, infantry company commanders will find themselves working together with FBI and USAID personnel more often than with direct support artillery batteries.
The days of the government endeavors resembling the singular-functioning cell phone are over; bring out the Q!