Demystifying the Interagency Process and Explaining the Ambassador’s Role
by Ronald E. Neumann
This article is designed to be an introduction to the interagency process and its application in the field for those unfamiliar with the subject.
One great obstacle to understanding the interagency process is the tendency, particularly in the U.S. military, to refer to “the interagency.” To be a fussy linguist for a moment, when “interagency” is used as an adjective to describe a “process,” for example, how paper is handled and decisions are made, it suggests to the unwary or uninformed that there is a thing called the interagency that can be identified as separate. There is no such thing. Grasping that is the beginning of understanding.
In fact, there is not one process but many—formal, informal, and personal. There are a great number of actors in this process, too many for any sort of effectiveness. Cabinet departments, agencies, divisions, and services will all want to play in any discussion that somehow touches on their interests. Everyone wants a hand on the steering wheel, and most want a foot on the break, which is to say they insist their group must concur in order for action to happen. Only a few drivers will be trying to use the gas pedal to get things done.
Membership in the interagency process is flexible depending on the issue at hand…
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|About the Author: Ambassador (Ret.) Ronald E. Neumann is the President of the American Academy of Diplomacy. Ambassador Neumann was Ambassador to Algeria, Bahrain, and Afghanistan as well as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East and a senior officer in Iraq. He is the author of The Other War: Winning and Losing in Afghanistan. Ambassador Neumann holds a B.A. in History and M.A. in Political Science from the University of California at Riverside.|