Bringing National Security into the 21st Century

Bringing National Security into the 21st Century

Two weeks ago, while discussing last November's tragic events at Fort Hood, Defense Secretary Robert Gates proclaimed that the Pentagon "is burdened by 20th century processes and attitudes mostly rooted in the Cold War." This acknowledgement by a wartime defense secretary is yet another stark reminder that the broader U.S. national security system was also designed for a much different era, and stands in need of a holistic review and systemic modernization.

When the National Security Act of 1947 was enacted, the national and global security environments were exceedingly different from those that exist today. Responding to the costly inefficiencies of how the U.S. structured itself for and waged war, President Harry Truman's bold mid-century reorganization of government was designed to meet the emerging Cold War challenges posed by a single nation-state adversary. The world has changed in complexity and speed since then, yet we continue to rely on much of the same architecture to address the realities of the new security environment.

The realization that our government must substantially adapt in order to protect its citizens and preserve the nation's strength seems to come as a perpetual surprise. Each time our venerable 20th-century institutions are confronted by the inherent challenge of responding to contemporary threats with outmoded concepts and cultures, we frantically seek to answer why the system let us down. Most often, bandages are applied as quick fixes in place of the deeper structural and cultural reforms that are desperately needed to replace greatly antiquated and inadequate mechanisms.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review