Whole-of-Society: When Did I Get Drafted?

“Our global reach is being challenged by both symmetric and asymmetric threats in and across space, cyberspace, land, sea, and air.  Combining appropriate whole-of-government and whole-of-society efforts, we will keep our homelands safe by giving priority to technologies and collaborative interagency processes for anti-access/area denial against potential adversaries, including those who attack from the inside.”

This dense bit of gobbledygook was included in the prepared statement of Gen. Charles H. Jacoby, Jr., the commander of U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) in his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on March 6.

In addition to the promiscuity associated with characterizing so many threats to America, two elements caught my eye: “whole-of-society efforts” and “appropriate.”

The whole-of-government approach to homeland security, counter-terrorism, counter-insurgency, and nation building has become the routine since 9/11 and is a no-brainer.  No one agency can do it all, and if our government actually worked, agencies other than the Department of Defense would have both the resources and the capabilities to get the military out of so many areas where it has no business being.

But in an inter-networked world, with so many assets residing in the private sector, whole-of-government has morphed into whole-of-society.

The military defines “whole-of-society” as “bringing in a wide range of perspectives by integrating U.S. and nongovernmental agencies, academic institutions, international organizations, and private-sector partners to better execute … operations.”  This includes entities outside of the U.S. Government, including academia, think tanks, non-governmental organizations, faith-based organizations, private businesses, and international organizations.  When it comes to disaster relief or humanitarian response, there is a definite advantage for all.

NORTHCOM held its first whole-of-society conference in 2008, examining the lessons from hurricane Katrina and the lack of coordination between the private sector and the government. “When something disastrous happens in America – it’s in all of our interests to know each other before-hand so that we can work better together,” the head of the head of the domestic initiative team at NORTHCOM said.

The February 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) Report then stated, under a section “Strengthening Interagency Partnerships,” that:

“The Department of Defense supports the Department of Homeland Security, and other federal civilian agencies, as part of a whole-of government, whole-of-nation approach to both domestic security and domestic incident response.  It is essential that DoD improve its capabilities for contributing to civilian-led activities and operations, supporting “unity of effort” in homeland security. The Department continues to work closely with its interagency partners, in particular the Department of Homeland Security, to build capacity vertically from the federal level down to the local level, and horizontally across the federal government. DoD also values its engagement with stakeholders in the private sector, with nonprofit organizations, and with other elements of the public.” (QDR, 2010, p. 70)

A National Defense Intelligence College conference “Intelligence Support to Combating Terrorism” in August 2010 further looked at the counter-terrorism effort, and made recommendations regarding a ‘broader approach to intelligence,’ according to the College’s annual report.

“Specifically, their new framework consisted of building a common counterterrorism identity based on multilateral education (courses, seminars, workshops, etc.) to foster cooperation, engagement, and knowledge/understanding. Additionally, the Fellows recommended avoiding the dramatization of the “terrorism” label. They emphasized that the fight against terrorism requires a “whole-of-society” approach which includes citizen responsibility and minimizes media sensationalism.”

Whole of society has thus become not just a matter of response and unity of effort but also “domestic security” and “citizen responsibility.”

We may have thought that Total Information Awareness and spy-on-your-neighbors programs found their way to the trash bin of history, but in fact such programs are extensive, organized, growing and increasingly intrusive, from homeland security’s ‘see something, say something’ campaign to state-run intelligence fusion centers to moves afoot on the part of the federal government to mandate cyber security rules for the private sector and even more, to take over control and protection of utilities such as electrical power.

Here’s the future as it’s unfolding: While the government wrestles with the private sector and the utilities over their enlistment in the permanent ubiquitous war footing, NORTHCOM is also examining ways to build self-sustaining ‘micro-grids’ on military bases and federal reservations so that if electrical power is lost, the government won’t be affected.  Under continuity of government programs the federal government has built their own emergency cellphone services so that when your telephone system and Internet goes down in a disaster, theirs doesn’t.  Where is the line drawn between the haves and the have-nots, between what is ‘critical’ to the war effort and what isn’t?  With whole-of-society, I guess the answer is there is no line.

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One response to “Whole-of-Society: When Did I Get Drafted?

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