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Virtual Roundtable on Advancing National Interests in a Changing Global Context

December 28, 2020

December 28, 2020

As the global landscape continues to change, it is vital for the United States of America to engage in the international community. Academy Fellows Arnie Fields and Irving Williamson and the Academy Director of Strategic Initiatives and International Programs, Joseph P. Mitchell, III, discuss the growing threat of cybersecurity, strengthening international organizations, and the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on America's relationship with the rest of the world.

How do we sustain America’s role in the world?

Arnie Fields

We sustain America’s role in the world by:

  • Clearly defining America’s role in the world so that every American citizen and taxpayer and every nation and informed citizen on whom America intends its impact will be able to succinctly articulate America’s role. To this end, America’s role in the world should be a required subject in our United States public education system and commenced at the earliest reasonable level and reinforced throughout the formal education process.
  • Truth, honesty and integrity in our dealings as individuals, communities, organizations, and governments
  • Projecting strong, powerful, and consistent ethical leadership at all echelons of government, the private sector and individual interaction
  • Living up to the Constitution of the United States and all that this nation’s founders intended and for which they risked everything they had, including their lives
  • Living up to the oath of office to which public servants in America commit themselves
  • Respect for the fundamental dignity, welfare and pursuit of happiness of every American citizen and for the legitimate governmental processes designed to facilitate good order and discipline in the execution of public administration and daily living.

Irving Williamson

First, we must build up our domestic economy and take long overdue reforms in the areas of health care, income inequality, infrastructure development, education, social safety nets and competition policy. We also need to pursue policies that encourage firms to have more diverse and resilient supply chains. At the same time, we should not pursue policies that encourage self-defeating and unsustainable protectionism. Good trade policies begin with good domestic economic policies.

Second, from a position of improved strength, we need to reengage with our allies in Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world and in collaboration with them seek solutions to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and long standing conflicts in the Middle East. We will need to take the same reengagement and collaboration approach in figuring out how to make progress on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and strengthening existing international institutions and institutional capacities.

Third, in the area of trade policies, the U.S. is faced with a number of crucial challenges which it must address if it wants to remain a globally competitive country. These challenges include: (a) resolving the trade war with China and regaining U.S. competitiveness in the rapidly growing Asian markets, (b) resolving a series of trade issues with the EU and reaching comprehensive trade agreements with the EU and the UK, (c) WTO reform and revitalization (see below) and (d) launching or making progress on initiatives to strengthen trade with the developing world, such initiatives include the proposed free trade agreement with Kenya and supporting the African Continental Free Trade Area.

On China, the US must establish alliances with like-minded countries and agree on a common approach so that it not trying to confront China by itself. Despite the pressure to resolve domestic problems first, the U.S. should begin negotiations to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s successor, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP-11). This U.S. step is necessary both as a part of its efforts to build alliances to confront China and also to halt the erosion of its competitive position resulting from losing the preferential tariff access to key markets provided by TPP-11 and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement pushed by China. We have the capacity and, with the rest of world moving quickly, the need to address our international trade challenges at the same time we address our domestic challenges.

What international norms for cybersecurity can be developed?

Arnie Fields

The first task is to help the global community (any nation which has a communications system and any nation or individual desiring to plug in to a local, regional or global network) recognize and appreciate the cyber threat and its capacity to be weaponized. With both the public and private sectors so heavily dependent on digital communication systems, cyberattacks can cause emotional and physical harm to individuals and groups and undermine the ability to deliver goods and services with dire effects on the global economy.

Second, it is necessary to establish and enforce international protocols to ensure that those who perpetrate cyber violations are brought to justice quickly. Now, unfortunately, cyber criminals and jokesters are busy at work, doing harm with impunity.

Third, an international cyber force should be established to track down cyber violators and bring them to justice and to help identify vulnerabilities in national and international cyber policies, equipment and networks prone to encourage criminal or malicious activity. For example, in today’s highly advanced cyber community, it is not unreasonable to consider extreme rogue activities with the potential to remotely seize and control civilian aircraft with the intent to kill and destroy. The world may not be far removed from such a global catastrophe. These matters should be immediately addressed and include significantly improved controls on research and development of certain cyber capabilities to which the public has or may eventually have “off-the-shelf” commercial access.

How should we strengthen existing international institutions and institutional capacities?

Irving Williamson

The U.S. needs to take a reengagement and collaborative approach with respect to strengthening all of the international organizations it is a member of. Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) should receive priority attention. With respect to the WTO, first, the Biden Administration should join the near consensus on naming Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria as the next WTO director-general.

Second, WTO members have acknowledged the U.S.’s long-standing complaints about the short comings of the WTO dispute settlement system and its Appellant Body, and some have proposed solutions. The U.S. now needs to engage constructively with the other proponents of reform and negotiate an acceptable solution. U.S. engagement and leadership should also help the WTO play a constructive role in ensuring that members facilitate the trade in goods and services needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and agree on measures to address climate change. U.S. leadership will also help the WTO make progress on agreements in the areas of e-commerce, fisheries subsidies and environmental goods.

Arnie Fields

In my view, the real question is how existing international institutions can strengthen themselves—and what the United States, in concert with other capable nations and institutions, do to help facilitate this process. Arguably, the United States has taken on too many initiatives in the interest of facilitating international institutions and more often at the expense of the American taxpayers who often struggle to see the return on their domestic tax investments, let alone on ambiguous international contributions. America should first strengthen its own institutions so that they exemplify levels of advancement to which international institutions may strive to achieve, and then lend the excess capacity, if any, to others. This nation can no longer—and never has truly been able to—be all things to all people at all times around the globe. We can surely be an example at home so that others may seek to emulate. But wholesale spending internationally without sufficient accountability or calculable return on investment should cease and become a thing of the past, at least until an improved sincere and enduring effort has been put forth to elevate the 34 million Americans in poverty (According to the Department of Commerce in 2019, which were 4.2 million fewer than in 2018).

How do we ensure that organizations, processes, and tools both domestically and internationally (including new ones, if needed) are available for managing current global challenges?

Joseph P. Mitchell, III

The Academy’s Election 2020 Working Group on the Grand Challenge, Advance National Interests in a Changing Global Context, proposed the establishment of a couple of new institutions:

  • A U.S. Global Crises Response Corps, starting immediately with a program focused on health, particularly on Covid-19. The Working Group recommended that this should soon be followed by similar programs for natural disasters, cybersecurity, and other international risks that require coordination across borders. The Global Health Crises Response Corps would offer a rapid response capability that can both deliver U.S. expertise and resources where crises are emerging, can gauge the scope and breadth of risk from crises, and can learn from interventions and responses of others. It would, in turn, help frame our capacity to respond to the associated economic, social and political dislocations. We are confident that this rapid response capacity in health would soon be followed by similar programs on natural disasters, cybersecurity, and other international risks that require coordination and action across borders.
  • A national commission on public diplomacy, cultural exchange, and sustainable development to help American diplomacy present and represent U.S. values abroad. It would be charged with exploring and recommending new approaches for public sector and multi-sector initiatives that represent U.S. values abroad and meet sustainable development goals in light of them. Established as a Presidential Commission under provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, this initiative would engage members of the public, the NGO and philanthropic sectors, and relevant professional associations to help reframe and energize a mission for the future for public diplomacy, and recommend the type of matrix organization best suited for administering these initiatives.

In addition, the Working Group emphasized the importance of increasing management capacity at the U.S. Department of State. This is a broad-based challenge. Now is the time for innovative, promptly implemented experimentation within the civil service sector of the State Department to build the robust, nimble civil service we need in the future. As first steps, the Working Group recommended actions that explore greater flexibility in systems for the domestic service—that is, those positions with the Department of State outside of the Foreign Service. These experimental reforms would be foundational, creating capacity within the Department to pursue its mission with greater flexibility and bringing additional focus on areas within its expertise across the government as a whole.

This proposal would create an exempted service within State’s civil service to which qualified individuals could be voluntarily placed. The exempted service would incorporate the principle of rank-in-person in lieu of rank-in-position. Rank-in-position serves as a barrier to the full development of a strong civilian-based, agile, public service at the Department of State that has the flexibility to build experience and manage events in a cross- agency environment. It would allow flexibility in Civil Service (CS) rotations that draw on current strengths of the Foreign Service rotation system without competing for such positions—creating a more flexible federal workforce within the agency that would increase opportunities for professional growth within the domestic-based civil service at the State Department.

How do we develop leaders with a global perspective?

Arnie Fields

We develop leaders with a “global perspective” by first developing leaders with a domestic perspective. Leaders must believe in and appreciate the nation in which they live and to which they are committed as citizens. Developing a global perspective requires an in-depth understanding of America and physical exposure to no less a microcosm of the world beyond the United States. Total emersion in a region or culture for a defined period of time lends support to this idea but may be an unnecessary extreme in order to improve upon our leaders’ global perspective as we now know it. Classroom and Virtual experiences are helpful but fall far short of that which only the five senses are able to collect, synthesize and bring to bear upon decisions leaders are expected to make. In my view, too much of how we develop leaders with a global perspective is left to chance. As our world becomes more populated, more sophisticated, and more in search of limited resources, civil society may consider taking a page out of the U.S. military playbook regarding leader development, if leaders with a global perspective are believed to be a fundamental prerequisite for global peace and security in the 21st Century and beyond. Identifying leaders early and then setting them on a sustained, monitored and reasonably predictive trajectory of counseling, education, training and exposure are characteristic of the military leadership development paradigm. Some of these principles may be of value in developing leaders elsewhere in the public administration space.

How can governments work with non-governmental organizations as major actors?

Arnie Fields

There is much potential and synergy to be gleaned from governments working with non-government actors. Among the principal challenges in such relationships is defining roles, missions and limits. Other challenges include the tendency of formal government institutions to use non-governmental organizations as surrogates to facilitate initiatives, including political agenda, that would otherwise violate formal government ethics, rules and regulations, and thereby the public trust if executed inside formal public institutions. Non-government institutions are challenged to maintain their political neutrality when inside the public administration sphere. In this regard, total and unadulterated transparency is an absolute imperative if the two actors—government and non-government—are to be perceived as just and effective in their delivery to the people.

What is needed to align teaching, research, and lessons learned to the changing reality of globalization?

Arnie Fields

First, nations need to decide if their individual sovereignty is of high enough value that it be sustained throughout the globalization phenomenon. In other words, are globalization and nationalism mutually exclusive? Is there any existential value in accepting one or the other—or is the imperative to sustain nationalism and struggle through the globalization dynamics likely to make classic nationalism a thing of the past? Once these fundamental ideas are sufficiently addressed, humanity may be ready to discuss how teaching, research and lessons learned regimens should be aligned to address the way ahead.

What impact does the Covid-19 pandemic have on this Grand Challenge?

Arnie Fields

COVID-19 should have no more an impact on this grand challenge than on any of the other eleven. The challenge is for nations and institutions to avoid the tendency and potential desire to seize the moment during this period of uncommon global destress in order to capitalize on humanity’s vulnerabilities so as to infuse a pre-existing agenda for which COVID-19 has now provided a windfall opportunity. Ergo, we find ourselves back at question one where the vital role of honesty and integrity at home is the cornerstone of public administration and America’s role in the world.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

Arnie Fields. Senior Advisor, United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, Department of Defense; Former Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR); Deputy Director, Africa Center for Strategic Studies, National Defense University, Department of Defense; Chief of Staff, State Department's Iraq Reconstruction and Management Office. Former positions with U.S. Marine Corps: Deputy Commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces in Europe and Africa; Director of Marine Corps General Staff at Headquarters Marine Corps; Commanding General, Marine Corps Bases Hawaii; Inspector General, U.S Central Command; Commander, Central Command’s Forward Headquarters; Chief of Evaluation and Analysis Division, Plans and Interoperability Directorate, Joint Staff, Pentagon; Commander, U.S. Marine Combined Arms Training Base at Mt. Fuji, Japan; Commanding Officer, Marine Corps Support Activity and Central Data Processing and Analysis Center; Commanding Officer, Motorized Infantry Battalion, Golf War

Joseph P. Mitchell, III. Director of Strategic Initiatives and International Programs, National Academy of Public Administration; Member, National Science Foundation Business and Operations Advisory Committee; Associate Director, Office of Shared Services and Performance Improvement, General Services Administration; Director of Academy Programs, National Academy of Public Administration; Project Director, Senior Analyst, and Research Associate, National Academy of Public Administration.

Irving Williamson. Former Chairman and Commissioner, U.S. International Trade Commission. Former President, Williamson International Trade Strategies Inc.; Vice President for Trade, Investment and Economic Development Programs, Africa-America Institute; Deputy General Counsel, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative; Manager, Trade Policy, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, and Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Department of State.