June 11, 2008

Pivot Point: Morning Keynote by Hon. Richard J. Danzig

The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) was honored to have Richard Danzig, former Secretary of the Navy and a national security advisor to President-Elect Barack Obama, provide a speech which complemented the annual event on national security strategy. Speaking from a non-partisan position, Mr. Danzig laid out a thesis offering a shift in perspective on how policy planners, senior advisors, and defense analysts approach their work.

Mr. Danzig explained how bioterrorism is one of the greatest threats to the United States and how a myopic focus on al Qaeda and the Iraq War could be disastrous. He provided a schoolhouse lecture to posit a refreshed way of thinking about this two-headed problem, bioterrorism and Islamic terrorism. Both issues are linked, however, one must cognitively isolate these threats to best defend against them.  Danzig suggested security analysts require a form of “competitive thinking” to find real results. The former Secretary encouraged those in the room to question existing assumptions and norms of our enemies and our own institutions. Knowing one’s shortcomings is paramount when improving a culture of defense analysts who must challenge pedagogy and look to new outlets for gathering intelligence. Solving national security problems will be difficult for the next administration, but Mr. Danzig says problems are best attained with a comprehensive and introspective approach. The government must work collaboratively with non-government institutions, academics, and practitioners to overcome our own strengths and weaknesses and create a winnable strategy for the future. Senior government officials must open the national security establishment to criticism. If we know ourSELFs and encourage oversight, we will invite new thinking and better prepare the war fighter and strategist for blurring battlefield.