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Grading Federal Agencies: Works Well with Others?

report card
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The news recently about relationships and cooperation between federal agencies sounds like it could have been taken from a kindergarten report card: Government agencies need to learn how to work well with others.

But some agencies have heeded the advice, which in the post-9/11 era many analysts say is key for national security.

The Washington Post reports the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, created in 2006 to better coordinate intelligence gathering and criminal prosecution, while drawing mixed reviews four years after its inception, has also shown results.

The division allowed for “broad national=security investigations” for better integration of both intelligence and criminal investigation methods.

And according to The Post, “justice officials say the division is performing as promised, melding counterintelligence and law enforcement, and helping to prevent attacks.”

Some victories for the division:

  • The foiled attempt to bomb New York City’s subway system last October
  • More defendants charged in federal court in the past year than in any year since 2001

“I think it has resulted in a proof of concept: It turns out it was a good idea to create the national security division,” Attorney General David S. Kris, who heads the national security division, told The Post. “It really works.”

Where the division has drawn criticism is not in the area of data-sharing or cooperation, but in the broader sweep of mission: Some detractors say the division is overly concerned with the criminal process, rather than counterterrorism strategy.

“I am increasingly concerned that they are returning to a law enforcement approach,” Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) told The Post. “They talk a good game, but they treat terrorists as normal criminal defendants.”

Meanwhile, Colin Clark of DoD Buzz sees much room for improvement to fix “broken” interagency cooperation, especially in Afghanistan.

Clark points to U.S. Agency for International Development’s activities in Afghanistan as often overlapping with and sometimes working at odds against the larger mission.

The fix, Clark reports, may be a bill that has got some traction lately in the House Armed Services Committee to improve interagency cooperation, but may receive push-back from the Intelligence Community and others.

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