U.S. President Barack Obama's national security adviser says the new administration is looking to work with America's friends around the world to deal with the broad array of 21st century problems, which he says land on his desk at a rate of half a dozen every day. Here's our report on insights into White House national security policy-making provided this week by retired General James Jones.
General Jones is reorganizing the National Security Council staff, and merging it with the Homeland Security Council staff, because, he says, he needs a broader and more efficient organization to deal quickly with a variety issues that affect both domestic and international security.
"I've identified some of the multiple threats that face us, and they are constant," said James Jones. "Every single day we're handling a half a dozen serious issues simultaneously. The threats that are coming at us are coming at us in waves. They are very asymmetric, they're very different than in the 20th century."
The retired Marine Corps general says the issues he faces include the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the situation in Pakistan, global terrorism and the nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea. But he also says he faces a daunting range of what he calls "non-traditional" threats.
"It is not just about a war on terror," he said. "It has components relating to proliferation, to climate and energy, economic security, cyber security, the illegal trafficking of humans, narco-terrorism, any number of things."
And General Jones says the United States, and particularly its military, also need to be prepared to continue providing urgent humanitarian relief worldwide, in response to natural or man-made disasters. He says the administration is trying to find international solutions to all the challenges it faces, and he believes foreign governments have been more willing to work with President Obama than they were with former President George W. Bush.
"We are looking forward to engaging the world a little bit differently perhaps, but in a way that is predictable, in a way that is reassuring, in a way that treats our friends and allies with the respect they deserve and the attention they deserve for the issues that face us, which are awesome," said General Jones.
General Jones has been criticized for not appearing in public to promote and explain the president's policies. The presentation to the Atlantic Council was his first public appearance since taking office in January, and he indicated he has spent a lot of time behind the scenes, re-organizing the National Security Council staff to make it more responsive to today's threats.
Last year, Jones led a study for the Atlantic Council which concluded that NATO was "not winning in Afghanistan." At this event, he said it will take a year to determine whether President Obama's new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan will work.
During the event, Jones also disputed claims by former Vice-president Dick Cheney and other Republicans that some of the new administration's policies have made the United States less safe than it was during the Bush Administration.
Jones said President Obama is increasing defense spending, although he is changing its focus more toward today's threats, and is also reaching out to Muslims around the world, and starting new initiatives to deal with cyber security and potential nuclear terrorism. The retired general also defended the decision to close the Guantanamo detention center, saying its reputation likely created more terrorists than the facility ever held.
After commanding the U.S. Marine Corps and later all NATO forces worldwide, General Jones said the most challenging part of his new job is distinguishing between serious threats and truly critical ones, that need his immediate attention, and the president's.
"The most difficult is trying to make sure that we are handling the issues in the correct sequence in relation to world events, trying to figure out the global rhythm, and to figure out where our national interests lie, and what is it that the inter-agency needs to focus on," said Jones.
The reference to 'the inter-agency' reflects General Jones' role as coordinator of national security policy, bringing together officials from the Defense Department with people from the State Department, the intelligence community and other civilian agencies to comprehensively address today's issues. He says his team will never achieve perfection, but...
"We can do everything we can to deter, to prevent, to keep the family of threats that I've discussed at bay, and as far away from our shores as possible, which is why we're engaged in the different parts of the world the way we are," he said.
And General Jones says that is why he returned to a high-pressure government job, after a retirement of only 23 months.