Strategy and What Not To Do: The US National Debt as an Example
Strategy is as much about what not to do as it is about what to do. The US Government as a whole (vs. the slices the parties claim as theirs) lacks a sense of strategy. If they had a strategy, they could explain in clear terms what the trade-offs are between programs. But rather than explain, they obfuscate, from the executive and legislative branches at least. Unlike legislators, the Supreme Court is forced to articulate its thinking. That is a good thing, even when you disagree with them.
One area of focus should be discretionary military spending. I’m not sure what wars we plan to fight. I have not had the weapons systems aligned for me the taxpayer to a set of circumstances under which those weapon systems will be used. Why in the current financial straights we find ourselves in, aren’t canceling programs that have no strategic imperative? Ah, because we haven’t created a strategic framework in Washington that allows reasoned argument to say no to things that aren’t strategic. I do understand that working Americans are strategic and that many military investments put people to work, but putting people to work for the wrong reasons in non-sustainable jobs isn’t the right answer. A good strategy would also inform where to invest. But at the first order, it would make those things that don’t make sense very visible.
So my challenge to the White House and the legislators: Let’s stop reacting and create and share a strategy with the American people. Put your priorities in the context of the strategy. Tell us what you think US Inc. should be in the future and how you plan to get us there. No amount of reactionary or populist rhetoric will substitute for meaningful, consistent vision, a strong mission and a plan to navigate forward. Let’s agree on the strategy before we unveil the tactic de jour.
Note: Dear Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. President. This was written during the Obama administration. Chances are it still applies to you. Looking forward to the State of the Union address to see if strategy trumps rhetoric.
Check the US Debt Clock here is see how we are doing.
Did you like Disneyland Resort Strategy? For more serious insights on strategy click here.
War spending + recession is a sure recipe for disaster. But an even bigger uncontrollable contributor will be the rising health care costs. That’s why health care reform has to be central to any long term strategy for debt containment. The administration needs to start by explaining the links in much clearer terms to the public.
I agree with you completely. I was giving a single example where strategy could be used to inform choice. Unfotunately, I don’t believe the Health Care debate has been well informed by strategy, and certainly not executed to one. Health care is a knowlege economy issue at the mercy of industrial age mind sets. By developing, and then selling, a strategy rather than a bill with a set of items in it, the administration and Congress could have had a much more informed debate. I would love to see CSPAN become a learning platform with free in-depth (and I mean in-depth) sessions about the issues, approaches and citizen feedback in real time. These knowledge economy issues need knowledge economy solutions, in terms of immediacy, itimacy and transparency. That’s a strategy the administration would be well advised to consider.