He did it again; Nick Saban and his Crimson Tide football team have proven that defense and offense win championships. There was a mantra in the South that “defense wins championships,” but when offenses adjusted to that rule of thumb, the wise coaches changed the game. Nick Saban switched from a defensive minded coach to a dual thinker and a master-recruiter. Saban realized that defense was no longer enough and that he needed to invest more money and energy in offensive players. He needed star quarterbacks, soft-handed receivers, and juggernauts in the backfield. He has even invested in the soft skills of football like the kicking positions—although a bit late. So, what does the most amazing football team in America have to do with national security? Everything. That Bama needed to change its strategy to get to the championships was obvious to their rabid fans. While most Bama fans don’t live in the D.C. foreign policy bubble, their football team can serve as an example for U.S. foreign affairs.
Global Fire Fighting Needs a Different Strategy
Everyone in America knows that if you let your apartment complex get taken over by violent criminals and arsonists, one day they are going to kill you or burn the whole damn place down. The same theory holds true for our neighborhood of nations. If America lets Canada and Central and South America fall apart, their citizens will flock to our borders and escape the chaos. The U.S. will eventually burn down with the neighborhood as it collapses under the weight of the issues that spread into our nation. This also applies to nations on the other side of our oceans because this is a highly connected globe.
Our enemies have proven they can score points on us physically, economically, diplomatically, and through numerous cyber means. We cannot be afraid to spend money on offensive teams to stop them before they can execute their next long-yardage play. So, if the Pentagon is on defense and we are willing to pour a ton of money into it every year, who is on offense? If the Pentagon has the defensive lineman, the linebackers and cornerbacks, and an amazing special team’s unit—who do we turn to when we need to score a lot of points quickly? I like to use the term La Medici when I talk to young students about Team America. It includes:Legal, Aid and Development, Military, Economics, Diplomacy, Information operations, Cyber, and Intelligence operations.
This team exemplified in the image above has to be funded in proportion to what America requires to keep itself safe, our friend’s stable, and our enemy’s off-balance. But it is a hard-sell for our government to convince people to send their tax-dollars to other nations in any form. It’s hard to convince Americans to put money into secret programs like the ones in our intelligence community and defense department. We need to have a capability to help other nations on the edge of collapse from becoming our enemies. A few thousand dollars in the hands of smart development, diplomacy, or health experts can be the difference between our neighborhood catching on fire and the fire turning into a massive blaze we cannot put out.
Department of State
Our diplomatic corps is small but potent. They are also not adequately trained in the leadership skills needed to manage all of the tools in the La Medici tool box. That is an easy and low-cost investment. To lead the entire embassy team our diplomats, need to be well-trained coaches. We need hundreds of Saban-like leaders. But State is sorely lacking in their professional development. This is the most offensive group of players we have, and they are constantly blocking and tackling around the globe. We need to strengthen them in every way possible. It is not as much about money as it is about creating a clear professional development path and ensuring they all get a chance to follow it. It will require expanding the size of the actual diplomatic officer corps so they can rotate (like military officers do) from leadership, to staff, to training/education moments throughout their career. The diplomatic squad should be the main effort for the next decade. All the great players we place elsewhere on our team will be worthless if their coach at our embassies is leading them like the Tennessee Volunteers. We need to build a sustainable professional development model and enforce it. Cutting down the number of political appointee ambassadors is not a bad idea either. Coach Saban would not let a 5-foot-6 kid play quarterback if he averaged five interceptions per game, six bungled snaps, and never throws touchdowns—no matter how many donations to the school his parents make.
Cyber Plays Defense, Offense, and Special Teams
The elevation of cyber tools and organizations is a critical step in our foreign affairs effort. This football squad has to play both offense and defense, as well as special teams. They never sit on the bench, so they must be well fed, well trained, and rested between games. Those who avoid improving this part of the team will quickly regret it. Every day we see the results of even the smallest failure in these skills positions.
Lesson for TaxPayers and National Security
Without digging into the rest of the U.S. football team or the vast network that supports our players, it’s important for all citizens, but especially those in national security to closely study the various tools in our toolbox and think about where we get the most benefit for their cost. Think about how we can use spend money wisely on less well-known athletes to score points so that our defense doesn’t have to do all the work. The era in which militaries can keep a nation safe alone is long gone. Our defense must remain strong, and we must recruit the most talented players to our defensive squad; but it must also practice and play often with the other players on the team. Only a strong offense and defense will keep us in the game so we can continue to avoid a losing season. Finally, we must all admit, Saban has also proven that he is the best college football coach in history. Additionally, his dynasty team proved yet again that Ohio State and their conference has no business in the championship games.