Flawed by Design: The Evolution of the CIA, JCS, and NSC

Flawed by Design: The Evolution of the CIA, JCS, and NSC

Flawed by Design: The Evolution of the CIA, JCS, and NSC

Flawed by Design: The Evolution of the CIA, JCS, and NSC

Synopsis

Zegart (policy studies, School of Public Policy and Social Research at UCLA) challenges the belief that national security agencies are well designed to serve the national interest. Using a new institutionalist approach, she asks what forces shaped the design of the CIA, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the National Security Council. She finds that blame can be ascribed to features of American democracy which limit presidential power and give Congress little incentive to create an effective foreign policy system.

Excerpt

Everyone knows that national security agencies are important. No president, however skilled, can by himself amass the information and expertise necessary for advancing American national interests abroad. The Founders recognized this executive need almost immediately. In July 1789, before establishing any other Cabinet department, they passed legislation creating a Department of Foreign Affairs. Modern presidents face an even more complex and threatening world: in today's global village of instant communications, nuclear weapons, and increasing interdependence, American chief executives have little choice but to rely on a broader executive branch foreign policy apparatus. Forging American national security policy is a team game.

But organization is never neutral. As any Washington taxi driver can point out, government organization has serious implications for policy outputs. It matters who has the information, who has the jurisdiction, who has the last word. It matters whether intelligence is collected by diplomats or spies, whether international negotiations are conducted through the Department of State or through back channels in the White House. Senator Henry M. Jackson (D- Wash.) put it well in 1959 when he remarked before the National War College, "Organization by itself cannot assure a strategy for victory in the cold war. But good organization can help, and poor organization can hurt" (Jackson 1959). When it comes to selecting, shap-

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