Interagency Coordination Challenges

Key considerations of interagency operations: Authority, Security, Resources, Trust, Training, Process, Culture, Priorities, Knowledge, Communication

Today, there are many challenges to seamless interagency collaboration. In many cases, these challenges will take years to overcome. The charge to national security professionals is to continuously strive to find cross-agency solutions to these challenges. Achieving our national security objectives depends on it.

Some common challenges that national security professional will face—and must seek to overcome—include:

  • Cultural differences between agencies
  • Constraints on information sharing due to security concerns
  • Lack of familiarity with roles and missions
  • Lack of trust between agency personnel
  • Communication difficulties—e.g., terminology
  • Resource competition and diverging funding authorities
  • Priorities are unclear
  • Lack of protocols or processes to collaborate
  • Lines of authority are unclear
  • Opportunities for cross agency training and experience are limited (and sometimes not valued)
  • Opportunities for cross-agency "practice" activities are limited
  • Agency structural differences (e.g., planning or budget cycles/processes do not align; decision structures are different)
  • Size differences—some agencies don’t have the personnel to support every interagency coordination request—even if they want to
  • Different focus of agency activity (long-term vs. short-term)
  • Concern about who is going to get the credit for success

With an open mindset, time, effort, and a willingness to compromise for the greater good, it is possible to work through interagency coordination challenges. National security professionals are expected to proactively seek out collaborative forums and the support of their department or agency to solve these challenges. Too often the interagency breeds a culture where decisions are "bumped up to the next level" instead of being solved by you, the national security professional.