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US national security's challenge: communication

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Other common problems include excessive preoccupation by the president and his senior advisers with day-to-day crisis management rather than long-term planning, a budgetary process in Congress focused on individual agencies rather than joint efforts by multiple departments, and increasing partisanship in Congress even on vital national security issues.

History is replete with examples of how our national security system impeded the effective development and implementation of US national security policy. PNSR is conducting case studies to learn from these incidents.

One case study examines the infamous 1993 "Blackhawk Down" disaster in Somalia. Eighteen US Task Force Rangers died and 73 were wounded in a firefight with forces of Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aideed. Photos of dead US troops being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu triggered public outrage in the US and led President Clinton to wind down the operation.

Little known at the time, the Somalia operation was mired in confusion. During the transition between the Bush and Clinton administrations, policy and strategy changed to support larger objectives but resources fell out of sync with the mission – a larger, well-equipped force left the country and gave way to a smaller force with grave uncertainties over its mission and responsibilities.

As Maj. Gen. William Garrison was planning and executing missions to snatch Mr. Aideed and his senior leaders, US Special Envoy Robert Gossende and White House officials were switching policy from the military track to a more diplomatic solution. No one in Washington told General Garrison. President Clinton and Secretary of State Warren Christopher were shocked, they said later, about the fight. Instead of coordinating their activities, the State and Defense departments each went off in their own direction, with grave consequences

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