Considerations for Successful Interagency Coordination (1 of 2)

As noted, each of the national security missions described by this lesson requires effective interagency coordination to achieve the desired results. Below are several insights on interagency coordination that can be useful throughout policy development, implementation, execution, and assessment.

  • Common objectives: Identifying and synchronizing agreed upon goals early in the process helps to align agency plans, resources, and activities, even when executed separately. Often, this starts with Presidential guidance.
  • Interagency knowledge: Participants must understand their organization's role in a particular mission and how that role best integrates with the functions of other organizations. This maximizes limited resources and interagency efficacy.
  • Understanding different perspectives: Understanding and appreciating the goals and perspectives of partner organizations is critical to developing effective interagency approaches. Organizations are concerned with minimizing uncertainty, maximizing their autonomy, and increasing (or at least maintaining) their resources and standing. Understanding these individual organizational perspectives is necessary to address problems that span organizational boundaries; Plans, structures, or solutions that ignore organizational dynamics are less likely to succeed.
  • Leadership and accountability: Choosing a leader with interagency experience, an understanding of strategic intent, the ability to act as an honest broker between agencies, and empowering that leader to direct interagency activities is crucial to national security missions. It is also important to develop personal relationships among organizational leaders to enhance interagency cooperation and to hold leaders accountable for achieving desired outcomes.
  • Integrated solutions: To achieve maximum impact, particularly with scarce resources, it helps to develop comprehensive solutions that draw on all national tools. Representatives from all departments and agencies with relevant tools should actively participate in the development of objectives, options, and implementation plans. A side benefit is that integrated packages are more easily promoted with stakeholders (e.g., Congress.)
  • Seams: Very few national security issues neatly fit into one agency's area of responsibility. Identifying areas of overlapping responsibilities early in the process (or prior to an incident) can help departments and agencies identify the most effective use of resources and ensure that agency actions are complementary.
  • Interagency coordination requires a heavy investment in time: Frequent, routine interagency interaction helps to build trust, collegiality, and understanding of agency missions and perspectives, and a shared definition of national security issues. In addition, it takes time to develop the personal relationships that can so often enhance interagency cooperation.

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