COUNTERTERRORISM | Nearly a month shy of the eight-year anniversary of September 11, John Brennan took to the podium the other day at Center for Strategic and International Studies. As the president’s principal advisor on counterterrorism, Brennan offered this key takeaway: It’s time for “new thinking” and a “new approach” to dealing with terrorism and extremist threats from al-Qaida and other international terrorist groups.
“In the years since [9/11], I have seen significant progress made in safeguarding the American people … at the same time I have seen … how our fight against terrorists has led us to stray from our ideals as a nation,” said Brennan, who cited waterboarding. A new approach is needed, he added, based upon an understanding that “military power, intelligence operations, and law enforcement alone will never solve the second long-term challenge we face “” the treat of violent extremism … here … President Obama is bringing a fundamentally new and more effective approach to the long-term obligation of safeguarding the American people.”
The work ahead
For the defense contracting community, Brennan’s talk offered insights into the role they can continue to play in a “multidimensional, multidepartmental, multinational approach” to counterterrorism efforts against al-Qaida and its allies. Those efforts include:
Military investment. The Obama administration is accelerating the increase in the size of the Army and Marines; it is also expanding the Special Forces, and increasing the intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance assets of troops in Afghanistan,” said Brennan. “We will use our military power not only to take down al-Qaida and its allies, but to train and develop the capacity of foreign militaries and security forces, as we are doing from Iraq to Afghanistan to Africa,” he added.
Intelligence preparedness. The administration is continuing to “adapt and strengthen” the intelligence community by “expanding intelligence, strengthening operations, enhancing the workforce with improved linguistic and cultural skills, filling intelligence gaps, improving collaboration across the intelligence community, and promoting greater coordination with foreign intelligence partners,” said Brennan. The administration is also enhancing information-sharing arrangements with allies and partnerships, as well as with state and local officials, law enforcement and first responders.
Bioterrorism. Along with major investments in safeguarding critical infrastructure “” everything from borders to airports “” bioterrorism prevention is also a key focus of the administration, said Brennan. “Our homeland security efforts include working aggressively to prevent and prepare for bioterrorism, which is why the president’s budget makes major investments in our public health infrastructure, including new technologies to detect attacks and new vaccines to respond to a crisis,” said Brennan.
Afghanistan. “We will use our economic power to promote opportunity and prosperity …” said Brennan. “In Afghanistan this means a dramatic increase in our development efforts, working with the government to end corruption, improve the delivery of basic services, and build an economy that isn’t dominated by drugs,” he added.
Pakistan. “In Pakistan, it means a billion-and-a-half dollars in direct support to the Pakistani people every year for education, health care, and infrastructure, as well as opportunity zones to spark development in the border regions,” said Brennan. “And we are harnessing our economic power to make substantial increase in foreign assistance generally, including poverty reduction, global health and food security … as a catalyst for development, good governance, and long-term prosperity.”
For additional insights into what’s next in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, check out our recent interview with Mary Beth Long, former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs under the Bush administration. And to view Brennan’s full talk at CSIS, click below: