National Security Strategy Roundtable – Ambassador Mushingi’s Remarks, August 6, 2018

Remarks by Ambassador Mushingi
National Security Strategy Roundtable
August 6, 2018

(As prepared)


M. Augustin Tine, Minister of Armed Forces
MG Birame Diop, General Chief of Staff of the President of the Republic,
BG Paul Ndiaye, Director of CHEDS (the Centre des Hautes Etudes de Défense et de Securité),


Good Morning, and welcome to Dakar.  I am excited to be here today to help kick off this truly important event.  The Africa Center for Strategic Studies at National Defense University has organized an exceptional curriculum for the week, and I know it will be of great value for each of you when you carry the messages and lessons of this workshop back to your home countries.

Drafting and implementing a National Security Strategy is paramount to efficiently achieving the security goals of a country.  Nations that lack this guiding document, or those that have a document that is not aligned to their specific security challenges, often have difficulty cohesively executing policy.  There are disparate sectors and agencies with security responsibilities in most countries, creating a complex environment within which to find solutions to security issues.  This complexity mandates the formulation of a guiding strategic document.

The aim of this workshop is to enable participants to provide that guidance, and ultimately to create a framework for a National Security Strategy that will prove useful in the establishment and execution of security policy that is specific to each nation’s particular situation.  To that end, this workshop will consider several questions, including how national security strategy formulation is linked with strategic leadership, issues with resources management, consideration of civilian oversight, and the necessity of external partnerships. However, with my time here at the opening of this event I think it is important that we understand the “why” before we begin to discuss the “how.” By that I don’t mean why are National Security Strategies necessary–I don’t think anyone here would debate their value; rather, I mean why is it so hard to draft and implement one that works?

The difficulty, in my view, and as I think you will find during the first portion of the curriculum, is two-fold:  prioritization and division of labor.  First, a country must have a comprehensive understanding of its security threats and opportunities and, after identifying them, must prioritize them appropriately to create an effective strategy.  Even within the West African region, security issues are not homogenous, and even when an issue exists in multiple countries, it is likely each country will (and should) prioritize and combat it quite differently.

Second, and no less important, is figuring out an equitable division of labor within the bureaucracy.  This returns to the complexity of the environment in which these problems and issues are addressed.  Among the many security institutions and agencies in a country, how is labor divided to ensure budgets and power structures are considered while maintaining as streamlined and efficient a response mechanism as possible?

Bureaucracies create competing agencies that can become territorial within what they perceive as their purview.  This is not a problem of structure nor a flaw in institutions, but rather an issue of human nature—we believe we have a better understanding of our job and can do it better than anyone else.  There is nothing wrong with this idea insofar as it can result in a sense of ownership, but without recognition that national security is a team effort that requires multiple agencies working together, no strategy will ultimately be successful.

Finding your country’s priorities, and determining the optimal division of labor—which the verbiage of the strategy can significantly influence—is your challenge this week.  The degree to which you are successful in these tasks will go a long way toward determining the relevance and success of your country’s National Security Strategy.

You may have recently heard AFRICOM’s continuing motto of “by, with, and through.”  This workshop is an excellent example of the meaning of that motto in practice.  We, the United States, look forward to facilitating the discussion that we expect will lead to executable strategy development; however, we will not provide specific recommendations regarding what parts of the development of a strategic document may be relevant to your country.  It is incumbent upon you all, as experts in the security affairs of your particular nations, to provide those recommendations.

I encourage you to enter this workshop with an understanding of the importance of prioritization coupled with a clear-eyed view of the difficulties manifest in applying appropriate division of labor within your country.  This will help lead to development of a National Security Strategy that is responsive to your nation’s particular security needs, and will ensure that the strategy you develop optimizes the resources available to your country to the greatest extent possible.  Thank you very much for your time, and I hope you have a very productive week.