The Senate on How to Fight Terrorism

March 10, 2010 By Hannah Kaye

In a Wednesday morning Senate Armed Services Subcommittee hearing on countering violent extremism, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Combating Terror Garry Reid told Senators, “the best thing you [Congress] could for us would be to expand the resources and the capacity within the diplomatic side of the house and the State Department. We’re arm-in-arm with these folks in the ground and they’re involved in the fight. They’d like to have more, we’d like them to have more. Whatever could be done to build that up would be the biggest thing you could do for us.”

Reid’s remarks were consistent with the rest of the hearing, held by the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities. The State Department’s Coordinator for Counterterrorism Ambassador Daniel Benjamin and Deputy Commander of U.S. special Operations Command General Francis Kearney joined Reid in providing testimony about the interagency approaches being taken to address threats from violent extremists and organizations. Each witness emphasized the importance of civilian-military coordination to achieve success, and highlighted the formal and informal interagency processes at State, Defense, and other agencies that encourage coordination in Washington and on the ground.

Throughout the testimony, witnesses emphasized the importance of interagency coordination, civilian-military cooperation, and partnerships with NGOs and civil society on the ground for making effective progress against extremist organizations and ideology. “The Defense Department understands, perhaps better than anyone, the limitations of military firepower in the complex global security environment,” said Reid said in his opening statement. Benjamin echoed his sentiments, reiterating that carrying out effective counterterrorism strategies “requires us in USG to work across boundaries within our departments and across the interagency, because there are a whole array of different organizations that will be involved in implementing these programs.”