If you google “interagency coordination,” you can probably find a Merriam-Webster definition and then pages of websites for a variety of U.S. federal institutions and international organizations all discussing how they are working with (or trying to work with) their counterparts on major domestic and global issues. During my fall semester at Sanford, I wrote at least two papers that discussed the need for interagency coordination. As an undergraduate, I vividly remember writing a paper related to the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which partially sough to remedy a lack of interagency coordination on intelligence and counterterrorism. Now I’ve gone from writing about organizations needing to work together to seeing it live and in color on a daily basis.
National security is not a single-agency show (regardless of the fact that there is literally an organization named the National Security Agency). While the federal government has given each organization a separate mandate, there is a redundancy in functions and regions covered, and coordinating between these institutions is crucial. In Washington, D.C., it is a universal truth that each organization has its own culture, but that does not preclude them from working together. Interagency work allows groups to fact-check each other and see where interpretations may differ, but it also generates new ideas.
I’ve seen coordination between organizations spawn new product ideas or ways of thinking about an issue. Over the course of the summer, I’ve had individuals challenge and correct me, but they’ve also inspired me to see issues from multiple angles. Experiencing the occasional (but necessary) frustration of disagreement and the mental exercise of changing your perspective has given me a better appreciation for what it takes to give decision-makers what they need to make, change, and implement the best policy possible. Coming out of this summer opportunity, I certainly will never look at group projects the same way again, and even more, I now have a personal definition of policy in action.
Hanging out with some Sanford friends at a Nats game!