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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington DC


Mr. LIEBERMAN. Mr. President, I rise today, with my colleagues Senator COLLINS and Senator AKAKA, to introduce legislation to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our Government by fostering greater integration among the personnel who work on critical national security and homeland security missions.

The national security and homeland security challenges that our nation faces in the 21st century are far more complex than those of the last century. Threats such as terrorism, proliferation of nuclear and biological weapons, insurgencies, and failed states are beyond the capability of any single agency of our Government, such as the Department of Defense, DOD, the Department of State, or the intelligence community, to counter on its own.

In addition, threats such as terrorism and organized crime know no borders and instead cross the so-called ``foreign/domestic divide,'' the bureaucratic, cultural, and legal division between agencies that focus on threats from beyond our borders and those that focus on threats from within.

Finally, a new group of government agencies is now involved in national and homeland security. These agencies bring to bear critical capabilities, such as interdicting terrorist finance, enforcing sanctions, protecting our critical infrastructure, and helping foreign countries threatened by terrorism to build their economies and legal systems, but many of them have relatively little experience of involvement with the traditional national security agencies. Some of these agencies have existed for decades or centuries, such as the Departments of Treasury, Justice, and Health and Human Services, HHS, while others are new since 9/11, such as the Department of Homeland Security, DHS, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, ODNI.

As a result, our government needs to be able to apply all instruments of national power, including military, diplomatic, intelligence, law enforcement, foreign aid, homeland security, and public health, in a whole-of-government approach to counter these threats. We only need to look at our government's failure to use the full range of civilian and military capabilities to stymie the Iraqi insurgency immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003, the government's failure to prepare and respond to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the government's failure to share information and coordinate action prior to the attack at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009, for examples of failure of interagency coordination and their costs in terms of lives, money, and the national interest.

The challenge of integrating the agencies of the Executive Branch into a whole-of-government approach has been recognized by Congressionally chartered commissions for more than a decade. Prior to 9/11, the Commission led by former Senators Gary Hart and Warren Rudman, entitled the U.S. Commission on National Security in the 21st Century, issued reports recommending fundamental reorganization to integrate government capabilities, including for homeland security.

In 2004, the 9/11 Commission, led by former Governor Tom Kean and former Representative Lee Hamilton, found that the U.S. Government needed reform in order to foster a stronger, faster, and more efficient government-wide effort against terrorism.

In 2008, the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, led by former Senators Bob Graham and Jim Talent, called for improving interagency coordination in our Nation's defenses against bioterrorism and other weapons of mass destruction.

Congress has long recognized that a key way to better integrate our Government's capabilities is to provide strong incentives for personnel to do rotational assignments across bureaucratic stovepipes. The personnel who serve in our Government are our Nation's best-and-brightest, and they have and will respond to incentives that we institute in order to improve coordination across our government.

In 1986, Congress enacted the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act. That legislation sought to break down stovepipes and foster jointness across the military services by requiring that military officers have served in a position outside of their service as a requirement for promotion to general or admiral.

Twenty-five years later, this requirement has produced a sea change in military officers' mindsets and created a dominant military culture of jointness.

In 2004, Congress enacted the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act at the 9/11 Commission's recommendation and required a similar rotational requirement for intelligence personnel. The Director of National Intelligence has since instituted rotations across the Intelligence Community as an eligibility requirement for promotion to senior intelligence positions, and this requirement is helping to integrate the 16 agencies and elements of the Intelligence Community.

Finally, in 2005, Congress enacted the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act to improve our Nation's preparedness for and responses to domestic catastrophes and instituted a rotational program within the Department of Homeland Security in order to integrate that department.

This proven mechanism of rotations must be applied to integrate the government as a whole on national security and homeland security issues. Indeed, the Hart/Rudman Commission called for rotations to other agencies and interagency professional education to be required in order for personnel to hold certain positions or be promoted to certain levels. The Graham/Talent Commission called for the Government to recruit the next generation of national security experts by establishing a program of joint duty, education, and training in order to create a culture of interagency collaboration, flexibility, and innovation.

The Executive Branch has also recognized the need to foster greater interagency rotations and experience in order to improve integration across its agencies. In 2007, President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13434 concerning national security professional development and to include interagency assignments. However, that executive order was not implemented aggressively toward the end of the Bush administration and has languished as the Obama administration pursued other priorities.

Clearly, it is time for Congress to act and to institute the personnel incentives and reforms necessary to further integrate our government and enable it to counter the national security and homeland security threats of the 21st Century.

Today I join with Senator SUSAN M. COLLINS and Senator DANIEL K. AKAKA to introduce the bipartisan Interagency Personnel Rotation Act of 2011. Companion legislation is being introduced in the House of Representatives on a bipartisan basis by Representative GEOFF DAVIS and Representative JOHN F. TIERNEY.

The purpose of this legislation is to enable Executive Branch personnel to view national security and homeland security issues from a whole-of-government perspective and be able to capitalize upon communities of interest composed of personnel from multiple agencies who work on the same national security or homeland security issue.

This legislation requires that the Executive Branch identify ``Interagency Communities of Interest,'' which are subject areas spanning multiple agencies and within which the Executive Branch needs to operate on a more integrated basis. Interagency Communities of Interest could include counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, counter proliferation, or regional areas such as the Middle East.

This legislation then requires that agencies identify positions that are within each Interagency Community of Interest. Government personnel would then rotate to positions within other agencies but within the particular Interagency Community of Interest related to their expertise.

Government personnel could also rotate to positions at offices that have specific interagency missions such as the National Security Staff. Completing an interagency rotation would be a prerequisite for selection to certain Senior Executive Service positions within that Interagency Community of Interest. As a result, personnel would have the incentives to serve in a rotational position and to develop the whole-of-government perspective and the network of contacts necessary for integrating across agencies and accomplishing national security and homeland security missions more efficiently and effectively.

Let me offer some examples of how this might work.

An employee of the U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID, who specializes in development strategy could rotate to the Office of the Secretary of Defense to advise DOD in planning on how development issues should be taken into account in military operations, while DOD counterinsurgency specialists could rotate to USAID to advise on how development priorities should be assessed in a counterinsurgency.

A Treasury employee who does terrorist finance work could benefit from a rotation to Department of Justice to understand operations to take down terrorist cells and how terrorist finance work can help identify and prosecute their members, while Justice personnel would have the chance to learn from the Treasury's financial expertise in understanding how sources of funding can affect cells' formation and plotting.

Someone from HHS who specializes in public health could rotate to a DOD counterinsurgency office to advise on improving public health in order to win over the hearts and minds of the population prone to counterinsurgency, while someone from DHS could rotate to HHS in order to learn about HHS's work to prepare the U.S. public health system for a biological terrorist attack.

The cosponsors of this legislation and I recognize the complexity involved in the creation of Interagency Communities of Interest, the institution of rotations across a wide variety of government agencies, and having a rotation as a prerequisite for selection to certain Senior Executive Service positions. As a result, our legislation gives the Executive Branch substantial flexibility, including to identify Interagency Communities of Interest, to identify which positions in each agency are within a particular Interagency Community of Interest; to identify which positions in an Interagency Community of Interest should be open for rotation and how long the rotations will be; and finally, which Senior Executive Service positions have interagency rotational service as a prerequisite.

To be clear, this legislation does not mandate that any agency be included in an Interagency Community of Interest or the interagency personnel rotations; instead, this legislation permits the Executive Branch to include any agency or part of an agency as the Executive Branch determines that our nation's national and homeland security missions require.

In addition, our legislation gives the Executive Branch 15 years in which to implement this legislation and contains a substantial number of exemptions and waivers, especially during but not limited to the phase-in period.

The legislation contains a number of provisions designed to protect the rights of our government personnel under existing law.

Finally, this legislation is designed to be implemented without requiring any additional personnel for the Executive Branch. The legislation envisions that rotations will be conducted so that there is a reasonable equivalence between the number of personnel rotating out of an agency and the number rotating in. That way, no agency will be short-staffed as a result of having sent its best-and-brightest to do rotations; each agency will be receiving the best-and-brightest from other agencies.

Let me close by answering a common objection to government reorganization. To quote the 9/11 Commission, ``An argument against change is that the nation is at war, and cannot afford to reorganize in midstream. But some of the main innovations of the 1940s and 1950s, including the creation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and even the construction of the Pentagon itself, were undertaken in the midst of war. Surely the country cannot wait until the struggle against Islamic terrorism is over.''

I urge my colleagues to take bold action to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our Government in countering 21st century national security and homeland security threats by promptly passing the Interagency Personnel Rotation Act of 2011.


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