Released 12 October, 2021.
PROLOGUE: In the wake of the Battle of Mogadishu, Somalia, on October 3-4, 1993, in which 19 American servicemembers were killed and 73 injured, I was tasked to lead an effort to discern the strategic lessons to be learned from the ill-fated US intervention. The study highlighted several shortfalls: the absence of a clear US strategy and whole-of-government plan for the operation, the onset of mission creep as the operation evolved from a humanitarian mission into a manhunt for a notorious Somali warlord, the lack of coordination across the US government agencies and other coalition partners involved, and the failure to maintain proper oversight of execution as one presidential administration transitioned to the next. The study’s recommendations, which were briefed to the secretary of defense, the national security adviser, and other key participants, ultimately led to a more integrated US approach to planning for US operations in Haiti in 1994 as well as a new Presidential Decision Directive 56 (PDD-56), Managing Complex Contingency Operations.
In this context, Len Hawley, a retired Army colonel, who as a civilian served as the director of multilateral affairs, became the National Security Council’s (NSC) point person to lead the implementation of PDD-56. Throughout his tenure in the Clinton administration, Len oversaw the drafting of more than 40 political-military plans for contingencies ranging from East Timor to Kosovo. These plans sought to incorporate
the costly lessons of Somalia in an effort to improve the outcomes and reduce the risks associated with US contingency operations overseas. After 25 years in the Army, Len continued to serve his country as a civilian leader in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the NSC staff, and the 9/11 Commission staff. This article is the last piece Len wrote before he died of complications from leukemia in 2020. It is full of the insights and wisdom of an unsung hero who was an extraordinary public servant, strategic thinker, and beloved mentor and colleague to many. Click here to read the article.
Cofounder and Managing Partner of WestExec Advisors
Chair, Center for a New American Security Board of Directors