Transition 2001 Update:  Bipartisan Panel Offers National Security Action Plan for the President-Elect

A group of more than 40 distinguished foreign policy and national security figures, organized and led by RAND, released their final report for the President-Elect on November 13, 2000. The report pinpoints "the most important areas and actions for your engagement" during the transition and first few months in office.

Given the uncertainties surrounding the election, copies of the document were delivered to both major party candidates and their national security advisors. The report is notable for the degree of bipartisan consensus achieved on many -- although by no means all -- of the issues that have been a source of contention in the post-Cold War period. It also urges that the next president move rapidly on a number of fronts, including announcement of his foreign policy and national security team by early December. To facilitate recruitment of top-flight people for subcabinet and other posts, the panel suggests reducing impediments to service, including reform of conflict of interest requirements.

Here are some of the report's principal recommendations and warnings:

  • Set an overall direction and begin to build bipartisan support early on. The group advocated a guiding principle of "selective global leadership" coupled with strengthened and revitalized alliances in which our European and Asian allies increasingly share both leadership and responsibilities. "Without our democratic allies, many emerging global issues would likely prove to be beyond our reach," the report declares. In recasting the alliances, it advises support for constitutional revisions that would allow Japan to collaborate in military operations beyond territorial defense. In Europe, it proposes creating a far-ranging strategic partnership directly with the European Union as well as with NATO.

  • Give prompt attention to missile defenses, Arab-Israeli peace, and defense planning. There was agreement among the panelists on the importance of theater and national missile defenses, but no consensus about the precise architecture of a national defense system. The group urged the new president to undertake a comprehensive review of the issue and warned about the consequences of mismanaging it.

  • Seek at least a 10 percent hike in real defense spending, including a $30 billion per year increase in investment (procurement and R&D) plus another $10 billion for targeted military pay raises, for other operational accounts and to meet property maintenance requirements. The alternatives, the panel declares, would be to change the current two-war strategy to do less or attempt a new, higher-risk approach to military operations that places greater emphasis on new technologies. Defense budget revisions must be submitted to Congress as early as April and the Quadrennial Defense Review must be completed by September, the report notes. As those deadlines imply, the new administration must develop at least a rough strategic game plan almost as soon as the president settles into office.

  • Submit an integrated foreign policy and national security budget to Congress that includes explanations of the connections, choices and tradeoffs among the components. With that and State Department reforms as a basis, ask Congress for a "critically needed" 20 percent increase in spending for the State Department, payment of U.N. dues, and other nonmilitary purposes.

  • In addition to the Arab-Israeli conflict, there could be immediate crises involving Iraq, the Taiwan straits, Colombia, and either a crisis or an opportunity in Korea. The panel differed about long-range policy toward Iraq. But it agreed that the U.S. should attack a wider range of strategic military targets if Saddam attempts a military provocation. On Taiwan, the panelists recommended "stating clearly to both parties...that the U.S. firmly opposes unilateral moves toward independence by Taiwan but will support Taiwan in the event of an unprovoked Chinese attack." On Colombia, they advised expanded support for Bogota, development of "a web of cooperation" with concerned Latin American states, but no commitment of U.S. combat forces.

  • The group offered a wide range of suggestions about dealing with "powers in flux." Among the ideas: supply economic assistance to Russia but only with careful monitoring and in conjunction with the Europeans; pursue a mixed strategy - "neither pure engagement nor pure containment" - toward China; increase U.S. engagement with India while stepping up pressure on Pakistan to end support of the Taliban and show restraint in Kashmir; reappraise the dual-containment policy toward Iraq and Iran; place high priority on avoiding political collapse in Indonesia.

The report also developed recommendations concerning the global economy; the "asymmetric warfare" troika of terrorism, cyberwar and weapons of mass destruction; nontraditional problems such as pandemics, environmental problems, international crime, and support for democratic development and international institutions.

"You come to office at a time of double challenge," the group cautioned the President-Elect: "Both to deal effectively with classical problems of power and purpose and to seize the opportunities provided by profound changes - from advances in information technology to 'globalization.'"

The project was co-chaired by a bipartisan trio of Frank Carlucci, Robert Hunter and Zalmay Khalilzad. Carlucci, a RAND trustee, was secretary of defense in the Reagan administration. Hunter is a RAND senior adviser who served as ambassador to NATO in the first Clinton term. Khalilzad, who holds the corporate chair for international security at RAND, was assistant undersecretary of defense during the Bush years.

"We had two goals in undertaking this exercise," Hunter and Khalilzad explain. "We hoped to provide the incoming administration with a running start on key issues. And we also wanted to help the new president forge a set of national security policies that could command bipartisan support."

"If anything," Carlucci observes, "the election squeaker puts an even greater premium on the need for bipartisan policies and consequently on the influence this report is likely to have."

The panel commissioned 30 issue and area discussion papers from RAND staff and others. Both the report and the discussion papers were released at a Monday, November 13 press briefing at the National Press Club (Zenger Room).