William & Mary

Whole of Government Center conference focuses on national security

  • National security:
    National security:  Panelist Michael Dick J.D. '06, a retired Marine Corps colonel who currently serves as vice chair of the Virginia Board of Veterans Services and associate director for policy, legislation, and multilateral affairs in the U.S. Department of Justice, gives remarks at the William & Mary Whole of Government Center of Excellence National Security Conference. To his left is retired Navy commander Charlotte Hurd, who now works as a military liaison in the office of U.S. Sen. Mark Warner LL.D. ‘02 (D-Va.).  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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How numerous entities can and should coordinate on national security issues was the focus of the inaugural William & Mary Whole of Government Center of Excellence National Security Conference April 20 at the Sadler Center.

The Whole of Government Center of Excellence is a track within W&M’s Master of Public Policy Program that launched last fall to provide mid-career civilian and military professionals with an interdisciplinary curriculum designed to train them to think holistically when addressing interagency challenges facing national security. 

The conference focused on ways that diverse agencies can work together to address important national security challenges, examining impediments to effective interagency cooperation and strategies for overcoming them. Participants included experts from military and civilian departments, as well as scholars and students. Speakers emphasized that views expressed were their own and not those of their current employers.

Why whole of government?

W&M President Taylor Reveley’s remarks included an analogy likening the need for a holistic approach to governmental cooperation to an octopus needing all of its appendages to lift a large object.

“Why is there a need for a Whole of Government Center for Excellence?” Reveley asked. “Because we desperately need public servants and leaders skilled in taking a multifaceted approach to the world’s problems, and William & Mary is a splendid place for such a center. Our outstanding programs in national security and international relations provide the tools for success, and our institutional heritage of public leadership is unparalleled.”

Attendees listen to panel discussions at Friday's Whole of Government Center of Excellence National Security Conference. (Photo by Stephen Salpukas)W&M Chancellor and former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates ’65, L.H.D. ’98 gave remarks through a video presentation. He described the United States facing multi-dimensional problems overseas including economic, social and security, and said he feels that too often people think the only solution is military force.

“But what is really required is bringing all of the assets of the American government, and frankly the private sector, to bear on a particular problem,” Gates said. “And my concern in recent years has been that when presidents look to the national security tool kit, they’re too quick to pick up the hammer. And there are a lot of other tools in that kit.”

{{youtube:medium:right|AsTzZCPv018, W&M Chancellor Robert Gates '65, L.H.D. '98}}

Whole of government efforts are all about bringing together all of the different tools available to advance American interests, he said.

“So places like William & Mary’s Center of Excellence where you bring in a lot of military, but also from the state department and other departments of the government are really important first of all in this whole of government educational enterprise,” Gates said.

“But also when they begin to look at international problems, I think it takes people outside of the normal lanes of their experience and helps them think about problems in a different way and from a different angle than they have in their career.”

Key contributors

The panel titled “Protecting us then and now: The critical role veterans play in maintaining our national security” provided insights into traits that military veterans bring to tackling security issues.

Michael Dick J.D. '06, a retired Marine Corps colonel, currently serves as vice chair of the Virginia Board of Veterans Services and associate director for policy, legislation and multilateral affairs in the U.S. Department of Justice Office of International Affairs Criminal Division.

“I think the military experience has also been uniquely valuable in encouraging teamwork in the inter-agency environment and the business environment,” said Dick, adding that being able to articulate a mission is critical. “ … Your ability to articulate that and to focus on it and to remind others of it enhances teamwork; it enhances collaboration at all levels.”

Retired Navy commander Charlotte Hurd now works as a military liaison in the office of U.S. Sen. Mark Warner LL.D. ‘02 (D-Va.).

“I come with a little different perspective, mainly from letting you know what skills that a military person brings that are just completely still in existence upon being a veteran — and that’s learning to collaborate, coordinate and communicate,” Hurd said. “That is an inherent part of a military person’s DNA, even when they become a veteran. … One thing a veteran brings is we know how to problem solve.”

Other panel discussions included “National security and sustained outcomes: The importance of integrated whole of government approaches to the warfighter effort”; “Entrepreneurship and its role in supporting national security”; “Foreign aid, conflict, policy interventions and influence projection”; “The need to plan for resilience in Hampton Roads, our nation’s crucial national security corridor”; and “Organizational responses to complex problems.”

Sue Peterson explains the TRIP survey results during Friday's Whole of Government Center of Excellence National Security Conference. (Photo by Stephen Salpukas)Sue Peterson, Wendy & Emery Reves Professor of Government and International Relations and co-director of the Institute for the Theory & Practice of International Relations at W&M, presented results from ITPIR’s Teaching Research and International Policy project. The TRIP project studies the relationship between the academic and policy communities in international relations, to try to bridge the gap between theory and practice of international relations.

Peterson presented results from a 2017 survey of policy officials at the level of assistant director or above who had been in office between 1993 and 2016 in national security, international trade and development.

One of two main points from the results is that contrary to conventional wisdom, policy makers do make use of academic research on international relations in their work, Peterson said. They also want entry-level employees with a diverse range of quantitative skills.

Acting Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Russell Travers ‘78 gave the keynote.

“The challenge that we’ve got … (is) a significant disconnect that exists between the nature of the security problems and the way the United States government is organized to address them,” Travers said, listing counter-terrorism, transnational organized crime, counter intelligence, cyber threats and proliferation threats among existing challenges.

“We’re talking invariably about individuals and networks that can in fact have strategic consequences.”

W&M Professor Stephen Hanson, vice provost for international affairs and director of the Reves Center for International Studies, said the Whole of Government Center is a good start towards interagency cooperation.

“This we hope is the beginning of a very significant new endeavor at William & Mary, and in the country, and that is to begin thinking about how to create whole of government approaches to national security not only just by talking about it, but by doing it,” Hanson said.

“By training the next generation of leaders who are going to understand how to bring the different perspectives of stakeholders at the federal level, at the state level, at the local level, in every branch of the U.S. military, the civilian area, even bringing in academia, which as we know can be sometimes difficult.”

Carlos Hopkins, Virginia secretary of veterans and defense affairs, said that Virginia is leading the way.

“This is a very unique opportunity for Virginia to go out to step forward and be first in presenting this unique master’s program, this unique leadership opportunity,” Hopkins said. “… I look forward to taking a lot of these ideas back and seeing what we can do to help make Virginia truly the most military-friendly state.”