Sacred Cows and Stubborn Mules: The Imperative to Reform the US Code
Air War College Air University Maxwell AFB United States
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The intent of this paper is to inspire informed, proactive debates on the structure of the US Code USC, the imperative for rapid information sharing among government departments, state and local stakeholders, and US citizens, and the need for an overarching interagency mandate akin to the Goldwater-Nichols Act. Over the next 20 years, machine-speed information sharing will prove critical to security. Rapid technological advances and low-cost, high-yield weaponry will provide state, non-state and individual actors the capacity to threaten US national security. Such attacks and the response to them may infringe upon legal boundaries in ways that cause the US to violate its own traditions. Debate must definitively join or decouple legal sacred cows from their practical impact on information sharing and security. This paper does not advocate specific outcomes to those debates. Instead, it argues that despite concerted government efforts to achieve balance between security and liberty in the daily practice of information sharing, procedures to collect, process, evaluate and disseminate critical security information remain disjointed. As the government reference for consolidated law, USC interpretive clarity is masked by disorganization. That disorder encourages vacillating interpretations as presidents, senators, congressmen and departmental lawyers come and go. Revision of the USC must define and refine the interagency. Without an overarching interagency mandate within the USC, individual departments will continue to depend on work-arounds to meet whole of government ends. While work-arounds have proven to be steps in the right direction, they may gradually erode the intent of the laws they slalom through. In the information realm, achieving synergized, high-speed interagency fusion is a vital national interest requiring proactive legal license.