The national security system is broken and needs major changes, according to a congressionally mandated study released Monday.
The 93-page preliminary report by the Project on National Security Reform repeatedly cites the failure of Washington's national security institutions -- the Pentagon, the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Council and the intelligence agencies -- to work together to combat terrorism, rogue states, natural disasters and other dangers.
The report cites specific examples of where missions have faltered because of the lack of collaboration. One case mentioned is the Coalition Provincial Authority in Iraq and its effort to reconstruct and stabilize the country. PNSR Executive Director James Locher told CNN, "We needed the capabilities and expertise from many parts of the U.S. government and were not able to pull that together into an effective team to undertake that vision in Iraq."
The study identifies seven national security imperatives considered essential to a successful system and outlines how the current structure fails to meet those objectives.
It cites a litany of problems plaguing the U.S. government including: competition among agencies; failure of leadership throughout the system; a focus on day-to-day crisis management rather than long-term planning; an inflexible budgeting process; difficulties in recruiting and retaining personnel; computer systems that don't interact; and partisan turf battles in Congress.
"Without reforms to correct the system's inability to provide a unified effort and full range of capabilities, the ability to generate desired outcomes will continue to deteriorate," the report states.
A final report, expected in October, will outline recommendations for fixing the national security system, including suggested presidential directives and a new National Security Act to replace the one enacted 61 years ago.
Locher said the study is intended to help the next president solve the nation's national security problems. He said the group is working with both presidential campaign staffs as it develops its proposals. "We have the view that at the beginning of the next administration, at the beginning of the next Congress, would be an ideal time to make some of these historic changes," said the executive director.
The Project on National Security Reform is a non-partisan organization made up of former government officials with expertise in national security. It is funded by Congress, corporations and foundations.
John McLaughlin, the former deputy CIA director and a member of the group, told CNN, "The key message is that we have many impressive capabilities in national security -- and they work well individually -- but today's complex problems require more integrated effort and agility than the current system can deliver."
The report barely mentions the post-9/11 reforms already undertaken, including the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the office of the director of national intelligence and the National Counterterrorism Center.
Locher said those changes are still works in progress and represent individual components of the overall national security system. This study, he said, focuses on the role of the highest level of government, the executive branch and Congress, where changes are needed to provide the strategic direction and management necessary for an integrated national security system.
Another project member, former Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Pickering, said in a written statement, "Our national security system is broken and needs fixing."
He said the study's findings will be valuable for the next president and Congress. "This isn't a Democratic or a Republican issue, but a challenge facing our country that must be met by America's leaders on a bipartisan basis," he said