Reorganizing Security; Needed: More Than a Few Good Men and Women

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 18, 2004 | Go to article overview

Reorganizing Security; Needed: More Than a Few Good Men and Women


Byline: Harlan Ullman, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

About making the nation safer from terror attacks, there is one deficiency so glaring that it is hiding in plain sight. That failure pertains to people. The Marine Corps attracted recruits by calling for a "few good men" and, dare we say, women.

One of America's first naval heroes, the redoubtable John Paul Jones, understood that, in estimating the fighting power of a man of war, "men are more important than guns in the rating of a ship." So, as Congress spends the back end of a long, hot summer wrestling with the September 11 commission's recommendations for intelligence reform, what is being done about the most important component of national security - people?

The answer is not much. We may end up revamping our security structure. Yet, we seem indifferent to consider how to attract, retain, prepare and reward sufficient numbers of good people to serve in the broad defense of the nation.

The military is a prime example. With more than 40,000 National Guard members and Reserves serving in the Gulf, many active-duty forces involuntarily extended and the Army badly stretched, the fact is that the all-volunteer force, one positive result of the Vietnam War, is broken. How it will be "fixed" or replaced is not even on the distant horizon.

And what about manning the other agencies of government that play an equally important role as the military in protecting the nation? Customs inspectors, embassy counselor officers, emergency services personnel, law enforcement, intelligence agents and countless others now man the front lines. The United States has never had a professional civil service as have other nations such as Britain and France. The time has come to ask whether this policy makes sense and whether the nation needs a professional national security civil service.

Finally, for instant depression, ask what the government is doing about educating, not merely training, its national security workforce in this brave and frightening new world from the president and members of Congress all the way down the line. Take the rationale for the threat. Many members of Congress and the Executive Branch assert that the reason al Qaeda targets America is simply because they hate us, not that they are advancing a political agenda through using terror. That claim is naive, and its persistence will not bring victory. And officials of any administration often take office with little up-to-date understanding of current issues and events, particularly if appointments are made for reasons of politics or patronage. …

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