About a month ago I wrote two posts on NSPD-46/HSPD-15, a new classified Presidential directive intended to clarify roles and responsibilities on the war on terror. In the intervening month, no new information emerged on the directive, until Jim Hoagland’s column in the Washington Post last weekend, which clarified that its implementation is bogged down in turf wars, and noted that internal conflicts over its meaning are symptomatic of the problem it is trying to address:
The blueprint — whose broad outline was approved in private last month at the White House — commits the administration to concentrating its national security powers on defeating jihadist terrorism at home and abroad. But a series of internal battles that have been kept more secret than the classified document itself has delayed final agreement on who has the authority to carry out its most demanding responsibilities.
Resolving those divergences still preoccupies interagency drafting committees and the National Counterterrorism Center, even though President Bush originally asked his aides to move urgently to stage a revolution in the government’s methods and structures for fighting a new kind of long war.
The story of the making of National Security Presidential Directive 46 is at one level a familiar tale of a Washington turf battle that pits diplomats, soldiers, spooks and new legions of terrorism experts in a scramble for resources and glory. The document is co-titled Homeland Security Presidential Directive 15 because it holds the newest Cabinet department responsible for preventing attacks on U.S. territory….
The quest for a master plan for counterterrorism originated in the need to update or change pre-9/11 laws, presidential policy documents and bureaucratic structures that treated international terrorism directed at Americans primarily as a law enforcement problem, not as a global struggle to be won on foreign battlefields with arms and ideas.
That review stretched over two years in one form or another and appeared to have been completed when NSPD 46 was formally adopted behind closed doors by the Bush national security team one week before the public release on March 16 of the administration’s National Security Strategy. In fact, some crucial unresolved disagreements were simply passed over in the interests of a show of consensus on “a statement of aspirations,” in the words of one participant.
The most contentious issues — particularly how far the Defense Department should go in carrying out Bush’s direct order to “disrupt and destroy” jihadist terrorist networks, even if they operate in friendly or neutral countries — were left to be dealt with in annexes that are being negotiated by the departments of State and Defense and the CIA. An NSC spokesman declined to comment on the contents of the document or on any ongoing differences about implementation.
The column contains no mention by Hoagland about the homeland security-related elements of the directive. That raises a question: does the government intend to release an unclassified version of the directive, to provide its key partners (e.g. state and local governments, foreign allies) with a sense of the directive’s outcomes? Getting these “external” stakeholders on board would seem to be a precondition for success, given the decentralized, networked nature of the war on terror. Some might argue that the National Security Strategy released in mid-March is in effect that unclassified version, but that document has very little to do with homeland security, as I noted several weeks ago. Hopefully we’ll see new information emerge about this directive in the weeks ahead.