Transforming our minds for the future struggle

On that day, a number of my colleagues and I went to the White House, where President Bush told us: “I have no beaches to storm, no capital to bomb. The enemy lives in caves and tunnels. We’re going to use million-dollar missiles against $3 tents. We are in a new war with new enemies.”
The world had changed. The question was—and remains—whether we are prepared to change with it. One of the major homeland security concerns that I have is that we continue to view the world as a series of 20th century challenges that can be solved with 20th century solutions. Our task—in Congress, the military, the national security community and academia—is to figure out how to win the future.
Question and answers
Actually, the real question is: “How do we exploit the lessons of the past to secure a safer future?” To do this, we need a transformation in the national security community and its amalgam of institutions: State, Defense, Intelligence, Homeland Security, Justice and so on. But it has to be one that does not limit the definition of transformation to hardware. It also has to be about software. We have to give our Americans on the front lines in the war on terror the right technologies and the critical skills and education to help understand the enemy’s intent and willpower. How do we develop this cognitive transformation? We do it in three ways.
First, we need to incentivize education for national security professionals. We have to rethink how we teach our professionals—whether they are a captain in the Army, an intelligence analyst or a new employee in the Department of Homeland Security—to think in unpredictable environments, putting more value in history, linguistics, area expertise, cultural awareness and Islamic studies.
Second, we need to place more value on and invest more money in the undervalued and underfunded agencies that are laboring to predict and understand the enemies of the future.
Third, we need to restructure and elevate the professional importance of cultural affairs in national security. We need to reward and promote those who want careers focusing on the cultural aspect of national security.
Our national security apparatus has to be capable of both preemptive strategies and thoughtful post-conflict operations. An effective strategy is one that will use all of our assets: political, diplomatic, intelligence, economic and, when necessary, military.
History’s lessons
I am confident we can do this because it has worked before. In 1986, Congress passed the Goldwater-Nichols Act, bringing about “jointness” in military operations. Now we need a new Goldwater-Nichols, but instead of “jointness,” the buzzword must be “future, future, future.” We need to combine a technological transformation with a cognitive transformation.
As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I am working to ensure that our military has the necessary cultural tools. In 2004, we made a modest but worthy start, including a provision I wrote in the FY 2004 defense authorization bill directing the Pentagon to report on how our military is preparing soldiers to meet the challenges of a new era.
I also have faith in our ability to change because we always have made the right decisions, reforms and adaptations against our enemies, and against seemingly insurmountable odds.
The world ahead will be filled with other Husseins, bin Ladens and Zarqawis. Our job is to give our people the right hardware and software. I want people to be able to look back on the first days of this dark century and be able to say we made the changes and the investments back then that eventually made our days safer, brighter and better. HST
Rep. Steve Israel is a Democrat representing New York’s 2nd congressional district, which covers parts of Long Island. He is a member of the House Armed Services and Financial Services committees

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