Soldiers with then 82nd Airborne Division gather their equipment before boarding a CH-47 Chinook in Nawa Valley, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.

Soldiers with then 82nd Airborne Division gather their equipment before boarding a CH-47 Chinook in Nawa Valley, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston

Political Dysfunction Is a Worse Threat Than Putin, Say National Security Workers

The president has no strategy, the Taliban can have Afghanistan and a nuclear Iran isn’t worth a fight, a new Defense One survey says. By Kevin Baron

The Obama administration has no strategy for ISIS, the Pentagon is not leaving enough troops to protect Afghanistan and Congress isn’t qualified to keep watch over the military and intelligence services, according to survey of federal workers and troops at the Pentagon, and other national security agencies.

It’s a grim report card for Washington, where U.S. leaders have struggled to respond decisively to conflicts from Russia to Ramadi while political leaders have left the national security workforce guessing for a budget and more direction from their leaders.

In a survey of national security professionals in government, Islamic extremism ranks No. 1 among global threats, but the No. 2 choice is a tie between cyber attacks and U.S. political dysfunction.

In fact, political dysfunction ranks ahead of “international terrorism,” “a nuclear armed Iran,” and Russia, China and North Korea, in the minds of these respondents.

The list of mistrust in government leadership is long. Seventy-three percent think Obama does not have “a clear national security strategy.” Not just an ISIS strategy – but a strategy for all national security. Only 26 percent approve of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. And 20 percent of federal workers and troops surveyed think members of Congress are qualified to perform their oversight duties for national security.

If you think DOD and similar workers are inherent war hawks, look more closely.

Half of those surveyed think the U.S. relies too much on the military to achieve foreign policy goals. Short of a direct attack on the homeland or NATO, fewer than half want to use force to fight – not if Iran gets nuclear capability, not to stabilize a Middle East ally, not even to stop genocide.  Even if the Taliban threaten to regain control of Afghanistan, barely one quarter of respondents said they’d support military intervention again.

And Iraq? Was the Iraq War worth its cost? Only 24 percent said yes.

Defense One and Government Business Council, divisions of Atlantic Media’s Government Executive Media Group, sent an email-based survey to a random sample of Government Executive, Nextgov, and Defense One subscribers. Of those, 427 respondents from the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and State completed the survey, including those at the GS/GM-11 to 15 grade levels, active duty military personnel, and members of the Senior Executive Service; 55 percent of respondents are GS/GM-13 and above or the military equivalent; 77 percent are DOD civilians; 7 percent are active duty military personnel. The results have been weighted by service branch and agency. The margin of error is +/- 4.74 percent.

The Current Threat Environment

U.S. National Security Strategy

Spotlight on the Pentagon

The Politics of National Security

Survey Sample Demographics