Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Rethinking Public Private Partnerships

With the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the world transitioned from “Cold War” to “Boiling Peace.”  U.S. national security interests, policy and structure are still struggling with this transition.  Two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have all but negated the “peace dividends” of the end of the Cold War.  The U. S. Armed Forces have become increasing dependent on an expeditionary strategy to meet their multiple high intensity conflicts and security requirements worldwide.  U.S. Military doctrine stresses rapid response with a “mix and match” force structure unique to each situation.  Operations continue to require lighter, leaner, and more lethal capabilities.

The United States Armed Forces face several problems, however.  First, the conflict they are engaged in are neither light, nor lean.  Second, reconstitution is required immediately.  Third, this will be an expensive shift that must take place in an environment of defense budget austerity. Fourth, these changes in the present environment require new mindsets and paradigms that will be painful for most armed forces to make.   “Peace dividends” such as BRAC in the U.S., have reduced the infrastructure, forcing most armed forces to rethink their strategies for maintaining the flexibility they need to support an appropriate readiness posture.

Beyond defense, the political spectrum also includes Development and Diplomacy as recently noted by U.S. Secretary of State Clinton.  In this era of austerity, there are two more “d’s” to add to the world’s challenges, Deficit and Debt.

Albert Einstein once reflected, “The problems which we now face cannot be solved by the thinking that created them.”  In other words, we must be willing to sacrifice what we are now for what we need to become.  We need to get our public-private-partnerships right.  We have asked the nations’ armed forces to become the diplomats and developers in the nation-building agenda in many parts of the world.  Many countries have turned to public private partnerships through contractors to provide such things as security, reconnaissance, logistics, and training.  Doesn’t that sound like the armed forces job?  This has weakened military professionalism and accelerated improper uses of civilian contractors.  Flip-flopping these roles will not only nurture military professionalism, it will significantly alleviate the pressures of deficit and debt in achieving U.S. and International Defense, Development and Diplomacy.  What is inherently governmental and intrinsically military must be returned to that milieu and those things that business can do best, should be turned over to business (including development, and to a certain extent, diplomacy).

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