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US Security System Needs Vast Overhaul: Study

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WASHINGTON — In a report aimed at the next president, security specialists are proposing a vast overhaul of the U.S. security system, declaring it problem-plagued.

The report, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, said frequent feuding and jurisdictional disputes among Cabinet secretaries and other agency heads force the president to spend too much time settling internal fights.

Time and money are wasted on duplicative and inefficient actions, slowing down government responses to crises, the report said.

The president and his top advisers focus on day-to-day crisis management rather than long-term planning, "allowing problems to escape presidential attention until they worsen and reach the crisis level," said the report, to be issued later in the week.

The study, mandated by Congress, was undertaken by the Project on National Security Reform. The research was conducted by more than 300 national security experts from think tanks, universities, federal agencies, law firms and corporations.

A final version with recommended reforms, including a proposal for new security legislation, is expected to be issued in October.

"We will approach whoever is elected before the inauguration and will be having discussions with campaign staffs between now and the election," James R. Locher III, executive director of the project, said in an interview.

"We will draft presidential directives that can be imposed by the new president immediately," Locher said.

Thomas J. Pickering, a former career diplomat who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in a statement that the findings would be valuable to the next president and to Congress.

"Our national security system is broken and needs fixing," he said.

"Agencies need to cooperate rather than compete with each other as they work to protect the United States from a broad range of new dangers never imagined" when the national security system was initiated in 1947, Pickering said.

Pickering, former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, and former CIA director John McLaughlin were among 23 former senior officials who oversaw the project and gave the findings their approval.

Congress was not spared criticism.

"Protection of turf and power occurs in the committees of both houses of Congress," the report said.

And national security is adversely affected by congressional committees with overlapping jurisdictions, the report said.

"Congress can now look at the parts," Locher said. "It does not have the ability to look at government as a whole in terms of national security."