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Experts Call for Overhaul of National Security System at VOA Briefing

Pickering & Locher cite examples to be improved

Washington, D.C., February 26, 2009 - Two leading foreign policy experts called for the overhaul of the national security system at a Voice of America (VOA) news briefing Wednesday, saying failure to do so could hurt the United States' ability to handle major problems.

"The kinds of setbacks we've had in the last seven or eight years are not a coincidence," said James R. Locher III, director of the Project on National Security Reform (, referring to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, troubled operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the response to Hurricane Katrina.

"They are evidence the system is broken, and if we don't fix it we will have more of these kinds of problems in the future," he said at the VOA (

PNSR, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization funded by Congress, foundations and corporations, works to modernize and improve the U.S. national security system to better protect the American people against 21st century dangers. Last November, PNSR released Forging a New Shield, a report that spells out ways to improve the national security apparatus.

Thomas R. Pickering, former U.S. ambassador to Russia and India and a member of the PNSR's Guiding Coalition, said the group sought to determine "how can we best equip the U.S. Government to deal with the thousand-and-one foreign policy challenges it faces."

Among the recommendations: create a director of national security within the office of the President; empower interagency teams to tackle issues; divide budget resources more equitably between military and civilian branches of government; improve knowledge between agencies and train a cadre of national security professionals. The PNSR has also called for Congress to pass legislation that would reform the National Security Act of 1947.

Several members of the Obama administration worked on the PNSR recommendations before President Obama was elected. They include retired Gen. James Jones, head of the National Security Council and retired Admiral Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence. Locher and Pickering said they were pleased with steps Jones had taken to initiate reform of the national security system.

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. Government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts approximately 1,500 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 134 million people. Programs are produced in 45 languages.

For more information, call VOA Public Relations at (202) 203-4959, or e-mail