National Security Today Through 2028: Women Leading the Next Decade

Hillary Dickinson and Alexandra Trent, William & Mary Whole of Government Center of Excellence,; original article contains additional links
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A dearth of near-peer competitors in the post-Cold War era and the September 11th terrorist attacks incentivized more recent American decision-makers to treat non-state actors as the foremost danger to our national security. But in the years since the commencement of the global war on terror, our security environment has changed: near-peer competition from Russia and China; North Korean and Iranian nuclear capabilities; and threats in non-traditional domains like space and cyberspace all threaten American safety.
Such complex challenges cannot be solved in isolation by individual agencies; rather, they require cohesive strategies that involve all stakeholders, public and private. As William & Mary (W&M) commemorates 100 years of coeducation and the inauguration of President Katherine A. Rowe, our Whole of Government Center of Excellence held its Second Annual National Security Conference, “National Security Today Through 2028: Women Leading the Next Decade,” on Thursday, April 4, 2019 to discuss the future national security environment with some of the nation’s top leaders.
The conference brought together over 100 experts from local, state, and federal governments, civilian agencies, and the military, as well as scholars, graduate students, and undergraduates. Together, they illustrated that all of society is needed to create comprehensive solutions to our toughest problems, and female national security experts—in addition to their male counterparts—provide invaluable contributions. Among the key themes of the day were the importance of a shared understanding, the escalation of cyber threats to our national security, and the need to cultivate long-term relationships. …
Surveying Critical National Security Challenges …
Alexis Sullivan, Chief of Staff, Bureau of International Information Programs and former Senior Watch Officer, Operations Center at the U.S. Department of State, emphasized the importance of shared understanding to interagency collaboration. Conditions on the ground must dictate, for example, who participates in a task force responding to a natural disaster. Further, cultural, educational, and public diplomacy [JB emphasis] must be operating at all levels of national security. Recognizing that “humans are humans,” Sullivan emphasized how we are a results-driven species. This drive affects which strategies are executed and who is included. …
The Future of Women in National Security
This year’s conference showcased the instrumental contributions of female leaders to our nation’s security. Throughout the individual presentations, the importance of stakeholder collaboration came up repeatedly. The challenges to America’s safety are too complex to be tackled in isolation. Instead, they require a holistic approach that utilizes a range of expertise. Women are – and will remain – vital to the success of any national security solution, as are our male counterparts.
The conference participants demonstrated deep knowledge and discussed impressive accomplishments achieved while in senior leadership positions. These Herculean tasks, or should we say Athenean, included building coalitions under difficult and time-sensitive circumstances to achieve a mission objective in an efficient and collaborative manner. From drafting the National Security Strategy to heading off the next 9-11, getting the right players around the table at the right time is a prerequisite for lasting success. As W&M nurtures a Whole of Government approach to our country’s security challenges, we will serve as an important conduit with our interagency partners to the endurance of our values, country, and culture.
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