The United States Military Academy Senior Conference is an annual event administered by the Department of Social Sciences on behalf of the Superintendent, USMA. The conference provides a forum for distinguished scholars, practitioners, and government officials to engage in candid discussions on topics of national importance. As 2017 marks the 70th anniversary of the National Security Act of 1947, Senior Conference 53 is the second of a two-part series that examines how the world has changed since the end of the Second World War and provides specific recommendations for reforming our national security institutions and processes.
Senior Conference 53 builds on the conceptual framework developed during Senior Conference 52. Last year’s conference explored changes in the United States’ operating environment since 1947. Several key themes emerged from the conference that lend themselves to more specific, actionable policy recommendations for national security reform. Senior Conference 53 will address three issue areas that merit thorough, informed consideration to achieve effective national security reform.
First, a fundamental pillar of the American system of government is the principle of checks and balances. Constructive collaboration between the President and Congress is critical for effective policymaking in our democracy. How can the strength of our democratic institutions lead to better national security policy? To function effectively, our Executive and Legislative branches require strategies and practices for overcoming political polarization, reducing barriers to information sharing, and clarifying roles and responsibilities.
Second, a key challenge for the U.S. government is planning for the future while managing the present. Policymakers struggle to find the time and space to engage in strategic thinking and forecasting while also managing current and unanticipated crises. Strategic planning is not often integrated effectively into the policymaking process or given serious consideration by decision-makers. Deriving lessons from organizations within the national security architecture that have done this successfully will inform how best practices can be adopted across agencies.
Finally, given the inherent dynamism of the security environment, identifying enduring principles to guide national security reform and promote adaptive institutions is critical for developing consistent and effective national security policy. Leveraging lessons learned from successful cases of reforms implemented over the past decade will guide solutions for the future and for other organizations and agencies.
A group of senior leaders and practitioners will convene to discuss specific cases in each of these broader themes and identify lessons that can be applied more broadly across the national security apparatus. The conference proceedings will be captured in a concise guide distributed to current policymakers responsible for the national security process.
Senior Conference 2017 is made possible by the generous support of the Rupert H. Johnson Grand Strategy Program, Mr. Rob Andy, and the West Point Association of Graduates.