News: State Department veteran blazes POLAD trail for Guard
Story by Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill
ARLINGTON, Va. – A veteran senior State Department officer has proved the worth of foreign policy advisors to the last two chiefs of the National Guard Bureau.
Dr. John Finney was the political advisor or POLAD, advising Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau from 2003 to 2008, and then Air Force Gen. Craig McKinley, the current chief.
“Dr. Finney was a real trailblazer,” said Michael Fitzpatrick, the current foreign policy advisor to CNGB. “He developed a real expertise about how to do it and what it is you do and how to advise and counsel privately, but also how to help organizations understand not just the leader, but the leadership, the whole body of another agency, how to help that whole organization understand State Department, understand the national interest as we see it and understand how the two can link up together at so many different levels.”
Finney – who remains at NGB, where he is now McKinley’s special assistant – had retired from State and was at NGB under contract, brought on by Blum, whom he served as POLAD during the general’s command assignment in Bosnia.
"The critical role performed by our states through the National Guard, in our nation's effort to extend partnership capacity and smart power around the globe, made a National Guard Bureau POLAD an imperative," Blum said. "There could not have been a better qualified or more effective State Department veteran than Dr. John Finney to serve as the first NGB POLAD.
"We simply would not have been able to double the size of the State Partnership Program in only five years, without Dr Finney's magnificent work."
With the elevation of the office of the chief of the National Guard Bureau to a four-star billet, he was able to execute a goal of Blum’s: Get the chief a State Department foreign policy advisor, an active state officer seconded to NGB.
Finney – whose command of foreign affairs is encyclopedic and who still runs ultra marathons as he nears his 70s – was highly qualified to be NGB’s first POLAD: He was the State Department’s director of the program from 2000 to 2004.
A senior foreign service officer for 38 years, Finney’s experience included three years advising the military in Vietnam during the war and an assignment in Grenada after the U.S. invasion.
He served as POLAD to the Pacific commander-in-chief, to the chief of naval operations and to the commander of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division during contingency operations in both Bosnia and Afghanistan.
“I had a career in the State Department that combined work as a political counselor with work in senior U.S. military commands … to try to promote better cooperation and coordination between the State Department and the Department of Defense,” Finney said. “These job experiences reinforced my belief in the importance of having people who can work in this seam between foreign policy and national security policy to help our military commanders understand the requirements of policy and to help our State Department understand the operational requirements of the military commanders.”
Finney’s demeanor lies somewhere between diplomat and professor, his NGB office an oasis unlike those of his military colleagues, stacks of papers, maps, history and geopolitical texts and biographies obscuring every horizontal surface.
He clears a chair for a visitor and recounts the story of the POLADs:
President Franklin Roosevelt appointed the first State Department political advisor during World War II, in 1942.
Robert Murphy was a senior State Department advisor. Roosevelt assigned him as Army Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s POLAD in London as the general planned the war’s first joint operations with the British.
Murphy was at Eisenhower’s side during major military operations.
After the war, he served as POLAD to the general responsible for the occupation of Germany.
“At the same time, we had these large amounts of military forces assigned in Japan and elsewhere,” Finney said. “These military commanders overseas for the first time in our history with large U.S. military formations found they were spending as much time dealing with prime ministers and governors and labor union leaders and mayors … so the State Department decided and DOD agreed to assign POLADs to our commanders.”
The role of the POLAD increased after the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.
“President Kennedy decided, again, that the cooperation between State and DOD needed to be improved,” Finney said. The Bureau of Political-Military Affairs was born.
Vietnam gave the program a further boost.
“The intellectual background for this … can be found in [Carl von] Clausewitz’s analysis of the relationship between policy and force,” Finney said.
“Clausewitz says that war has its own grammar but not its own logic. What he means by that, the grammar of war is the professional expertise … [of] military officers. … The logic of war comes from policy, comes from civilians who oversee the military forces. … This relationship between the logic of war and the grammar of war is central to the successful execution of military and diplomatic actions.”
World War II was a prime example: Military defeat of Germany and Japan turned to strategic success as the United States helped the two countries become democratic allies.
“So that’s what the POLADs do,” Finney said. “They work in this seam between policy and force to make sure that policy understands what the requirements of force are and the people who are executing the force always stay connected to policy.
“They want to help the military commander with the political and diplomatic dimensions of their military responsibilities.”
In his tenure directing the POLADs, Finney built the program from about 13 to about 23 officers, raised the caliber of POLADs to include former ambassadors and lowered the threshold at which they could operate to the brigade level.
He said the POLAD is crucial to NGB.
“Fitzpatrick … is making sure the chief stays abreast of the policy, discussions and debate within the Beltway that are going to have impact on the deployment of National Guard troops overseas,” Finney said. “He can help [McKinley] communicate his views, his contribution to the policy debate.
“Once the decisions are made, he can help [McKinley] understand and execute the policy decisions.
“Then he wants to help [McKinley] stay abreast of developments in those countries where the Guard has a major mission. … He also wants to help [McKinley] in his interactions with senior foreign defense and military officials.
“Relationships are so important. If you don’t have those … it makes it very difficult to carry out and obtain your objectives.”
The appointment of a POLAD and, recently, also a deputy, “Says that the National Guard is a recognized player in the international security environment,” Finney said. “This is recognition of the new role of the Guard: It puts them on a par with the other service chiefs and combatant commanders.”