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The White House Must Delegate More National Security, Officials Say

Author: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Senior Fellow for Women and Foreign Policy
August 4, 2014
Defense One


From the Gaza war to Ukraine, Iraq, Syria and the Afghan elections, there are so many conflicts occurring at once that the Obama administration's tight-gripped method of handling global crises at the top is starting to show cracks.

Former senior Defense Department and State Department officials are saying the growing number of conflicts demanding the attention and leadership of the United States means it is time the White House start delegating more.

"It is hard to handle the volume of what the world is throwing at theU.S. right now if everything has to go up to the most senior levels," said Michèle Flournoy, CEO of the Center for a New American Security and President Barack Obama's former under secretary of defense for policy, in an interview with Defense One.

Critics frustrated at the administration's noninterventionist responses from Syria to Russia have said that the proliferating and worsening conflicts are a sign of America's shrinking global influence. Others, including Flournoy, take issue with the idea of downsized American leadership, but say that it is simply too much work for this or any White House to handle, and that it is time to roll more power down to the professional diplomats, interagency professionals and cabinet members closest to the front lines of any given issue.

"There are some things that needed to be coordinated at the very top within the White House," Flournoy said, "and there is a lot that with some basic guidance you could empower your agencies. Over-centralization in this kind of environment really hampers your responsiveness and limits what you can take on."

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