Public–Private Collaboration: The Next Big Thing
Over 25 years ago our defense establishment – pushed by Congress – started the process of creating a “joint” military – where services plan, train for, and execute military missions together. Then about five years after that, mainly because we found we needed better coordination among agencies conducting peace and stability operations, the government started to work on creating an interagency culture and process.

Over 25 years ago our defense establishment – pushed by Congress – started the process of creating a “joint” military – where services plan, train for, and execute military missions together. Then about five years after that, mainly because we found we needed better coordination among agencies conducting peace and stability operations, the government started to work on creating an interagency culture and process.

Business Executives for National Security (BENS) group member meets with Belgian and German soldiers

We, the military, are still honing our joint skills and it’s pretty obvious that the United States has yet to reach interagency nirvana. Unfortunately, the world will not wait for us to ‘figure it out.’ As the globe shrinks, the linkages that determine our collective well-being and global security become more and more complex, or intertwined. Likewise, those linkages are increasingly defined by the influence of non-military enterprises. In fact, I believe that today, the next “big thing” is public-private collaboration.

In a sense, of course, this isn’t new. From the Merchant Marine to the Red Cross, private enterprises have traditionally pitched in to contribute in times of war or humanitarian disaster in order to bring the full measure of the generosity of our citizens to bear. But what is new is the idea of our government seeking to fully engage and partner with the extraordinary capabilities resident in the private sector in our efforts to assure security in the broadest sense.

BENS Group meet with Ukraine military officials

As Commander of U.S. Southern Command, I asked Ambassador Chuck Ford to fill the new position of Business Engagement Advisor. His mission was to tap into the private sector’s desire to help enhance the security of the U.S. The valuable contacts we established through his efforts and the collaborative spirit born from those strategic connections were evident to me early in my tenure there.

Our public-private collaboration efforts ranged from getting the security chiefs of cruise-ship companies in the same room with our operations folks to exchange information and business cards, to bringing CEOs together to exchange ideas on the complex challenges concerning illicit drug financing, logistics, and operations. The interaction continues today, as most notably and recently seen in the collaboration between private and public efforts following the earthquake in Haiti last January.

At U.S. European Command we are also engaging the private sector – corporations as well as non-profit enterprises, non-governmental entities and universities. For example, we are identifying ways to better partner, where legal and appropriate, with private sector expertise in international humanitarian operations in Afghanistan. We are also helping to share information with the private sector in order to ensure an effective and safe environment for their efforts in Afghanistan, and seeking advice and input to ensure strategic communications are undertaken effectively.

Katherine H. Canavan, Civilian Deputy to the Commander and Foreign Policy Advisor, EUCOM leadership and BENS Group met the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev

In order to facilitate this effort, I have a senior civilian advisor in DC, and we are creating a public private cooperation division in our J9 Partnering Directorate.

We hope to explore building sensible and appropriate connections with European private sector actors, from humanitarian relief organizations to business entities, to strengthen the transatlantic bridge with a network of public-private collaborations. An important element of making these connections is to cast a wide net and seek new ideas. We’re open to ideas for partnership not only in the international, joint, and interagency worlds; but with the private sector as well. Let us hear from you!

Adm. James Stavridis
Commander, U.S. European Command and
Supreme Allied Commander, Europe

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