March 20, 2007

The Quadrennial Defense Review: A Model for the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review

By Michèle Flournoy

Although the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security are different in many ways, they do share some common challenges – challenges that underscore the need for and importance of priority setting and strategic planning. Both departments are: 

  • Charged with missions that are vital to the health and welfare of the nation --protecting the American people and our way of life is a mission in which we cannot fail; 
  • Facing persistent and resourceful enemies; 
  • Large, complex bureaucracies comprised of a number of diverse and (in some cases, previously independent) organizations with their own cultures, traditions, and ways of doing business); 
  • Responsible for spending billions of taxpayer dollars as efficiently and effectively as possible; 
  • Perennially in the position of having more programs to pay for than budget; and 
  • Trying to balance near-term demands against long-term investments. 

These challenges make it that much more important for each department to have a unifying vision, a strategy for achieving its objectives, and a clear set of priorities to guide resource allocation and risk management. It is difficult, if not impossible, to create these absent an effective strategic planning process. And a quadrennial review conducted at the outset of a new administration can be a critical first step in that process. 

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