President Barack Obama inherits a U.S. intelligence apparatus engaged in the most significant reform since its creation in 1947. Today’s national security challenges and budgetary pressures require that U.S. intelligence attain maximum effectiveness and efficiency.
The good news is that President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence (DNI) does not need new authorities to undertake the necessary reform. He can use existing authorities to transform U.S. intelligence into the single, networked enterprise it must become. The bad news is that, even under the best of circumstances, this will take time to be implemented and show results.
Intelligence reform is necessary because of the mismatch between 21st-century national security challenges and the 20th-century organization of U.S. intelligence. The first step to understanding why this is so has to start with a history of the evolution of the “intelligence community.”
Historically, the U.S. intelligence apparatus has been a confederation of agencies and entities—now numbering 16—across the Executive Branch and mostly housed within separate departments. The National Security Agency (which collects signals intelligence), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (which collects imagery intelligence), the National Reconnaissance Office (which operates satellites), and the Defense Intelligence Agency are within the Department of Defense. The FBI, located in the Department of Justice, collects and analyzes domestic intelligence. In addition, the Departments of State, Homeland Security, Energy and Treasury each have an intelligence analysis component. The sole independent agency in this confederation was the Central Intelligence Agency, which conducted flesh-and-blood spying (human intelligence) and analyzed intelligence gathered from all sources to inform policymakers. (The CIA also conducted covert action, which is not intelligence collection or analysis but rather a special “no fingerprints” form of policy execution.)
This intelligence apparatus was not created from a coherent blueprint. Rather, it grew haphazardly, beginning with the CIA’s creation by the National Security Act of 1947. Intelligence entities were created for various reasons: to build upon legacy capabilities from World War II, to exploit new technology and to meet departments’ specific needs as they arose.
This sprawling apparatus was nominally led by the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), who was dual-hatted as the CIA Director—“nominally” being the key qualifier here. In fact, the DCI lacked sufficient authority, not least budget authority, over the intelligence confederation aside from the CIA itself. The DCI had to contend with the powerful Secretary of Defense for control of Defense’s intelligence agencies, and he had little influence over the FBI’s intelligence component (which was in any case preeminently concerned with fighting crime). Moreover, the DCI’s dual-hatted role involved an inherent conflict of interest, or so virtually all the non-CIA intelligence entities perceived.
Even the common nomenclature, “intelligence community”, reflected the system’s incoherence. No other part of the U.S. government is called by a term that implies that its components are autonomous, with only weak integration and no single leader.
The Shape of Reform
Aloosely confederated intelligence community was arguably sufficient for the Cold War. The preeminent national security challenge—the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact—consisted of a coalition of lumbering, bureaucratic and technologically-backward states. As a result, U.S. intelligence could operate at a more “deliberate” speed, with each intelligence entity operating with relative autonomy.
But the age of globalization and the Internet requires U.S. intelligence to operate as single, networked enterprise, for the challenges before us no longer break down into the routine compartments we grew used to during the Cold War. Fighting transnational terrorist networks who seek weapons of mass destruction, for example, requires U.S. intelligence to track terrorists on a global playing field. It requires the integration of both collection techniques and analytical skills in ways Cold War problems generally did not.
Moreover, the 21st century is an era of great strategic uncertainty and a wide range of national security challenges, ranging from states like Iran and North Korea to stateless proliferators of weapons of mass destruction to climate-change and pandemic disease. Anticipating threats and assisting policymakers now requires U.S. intelligence to display a level of agility and creativity exponentially higher than what was called for during the Cold War.
A single, networked intelligence enterprise would integrate the 16 intelligence entities on a real-time basis in order to fulfill intelligence missions. Information would travel swiftly across organizational boundaries, as would personnel and resources. Task forces of personnel from across U.S. intelligence would form rapidly to focus diverse expertise on key issues, and funding would move from low priority to emerging high-priority issues.
Thus, the objective of intelligence reform is not just to maximize the performance of each of the 16 entities within the existing intelligence community. Nor are the small number of hot-button issues such as warrantless wiretapping and detainee treatment the real concern. What matters is that the 16 entities must work together to create a whole that is more than the sum of its parts. This is no simple matter. Certainly, it is not a goal that merely passing a law or issuing an executive order can solve by themselves.
On balance, we have made substantial progress since 9/11 toward creating a single, networked intelligence apparatus. Most significantly, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 implemented the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations to create both the DNI as an independent official in charge of U.S. intelligence and the National Counterterrorism Center to integrate U.S. intelligence efforts against terrorism. The act placed the DNI in charge of U.S. intelligence by shifting the balance of authorities from the cabinet Secretaries whose departments contained intelligence entities to the DNI. The act neither removed these entities from their departments and consolidated them into a “department of intelligence”, nor gave the DNI complete control over them—such as, for example, the authority to hire and fire at all levels of personnel. Instead, the act’s underlying principle was to provide the DNI with key authorities to lead U.S. intelligence like a corporate CEO and transform it into a single, integrated enterprise.
The DNI’s key authorities included setting information-sharing, personnel and security standards across the intelligence community in order to facilitate the free flow of information and resources. Most importantly, the act gave the DNI what the DCIs had always lacked: control over all intelligence funding as a hammer to wield over the 16 intelligence entities as necessary. The act was predicated on Washington’s “golden rule”: He who has the gold rules.
The DNI has three authorities over intelligence funding. The first is the power to “determine” the intelligence budget proposal presented to the President for transmission to Congress. Previously, the DCI had to obtain the Secretary of Defense’s sign-off on the budget proposal. The 2004 act gave the DNI sole authority in the expectation that he would use the budget-preparation process to force integration across the intelligence community.
Second, the DNI has substantial authority as regards “execution” of the intelligence appropriation. This represents a huge step forward. But to see why this is so, a little background is necessary.
As everyone knows, Congress considers the President’s budget proposal and then enacts appropriations bills to fund Executive Branch departments. The intelligence appropriation is mostly hidden in other departments’ appropriations bills in order to keep the total amount and the details of the appropriation secret. But because 15 of the 16 intelligence entities are located in other departments, this mechanism gave those departments’ Secretaries greater power over how the intelligence appropriation was “executed”, meaning its timing and specific expenditures. Without responsibility for execution of the intelligence appropriation, the DCI lacked visibility and leverage. He could not tell how intelligence agencies aside from the CIA were spending their funds in a current fiscal year and thus what funding was available for transfer to emerging priorities, and he could not use the flow of funding to force the intelligence entities to improve integration.
The 9/11 Commission had advocated declassifying the top-line amount of the intelligence appropriation due to the public’s “right to know.” More importantly, declassifying the intelligence appropriation would obviate the need for the appropriation to be hidden in other departments’ appropriations. Instead, Congress could enact a separate intelligence appropriations bill (just containing the top-line figure and with the details in a classified annex) that would appropriate the funds directly to the DNI, thus giving the DNI control over execution of the appropriation.
Despite Senate support, the 2004 act ultimately did not mandate declassification of the intelligence appropriation, due to resistance from key members of the House. Thus the act could not provide the DNI with full authority over the execution of the appropriation, and intelligence funding would still flow through the departments. However, the act compensated for the DNI’s lack of total control over funding by giving him exclusive authority to direct “apportionment”, which is the schedule by which congressionally appropriated funds are provided to departments during a fiscal year. This authority means the DNI can, for example, delay funding if an entity has a failing program or is resisting DNI-led integration—a power that gives the DNI significant leverage. The act also authorizes the DNI to conduct audits, giving him visibility into how intelligence entities spend their funds.
The DNI’s third form of funding authority enables him to transfer funds and personnel during a fiscal year in order to meet emerging challenges, something the DCI could not do without the concurrence of the Secretary of the affected department. The DNI may now move $150 million per fiscal year to meet emerging threats, provided that the transfer neither exceeds 5 percent of an intelligence entity’s funding nor terminates a program. The act also permits the DNI to transfer personnel under joint procedures agreed upon with Secretaries, but the Secretaries may not veto the transfer as they could under prior law.
The First DNIs
Even a specifically drafted law is not self-executing, and in as complex an area as intelligence, it is inevitable that personalities and happenstance will shape a law’s implementation. As it happens, the Executive Branch’s implementation of the 2004 act began without the necessary vigor. The first DNI, Ambassador John Negroponte, was an accomplished diplomat and policymaker, but he lacked working knowledge of the U.S. intelligence community and substantial experience in leading and transforming large organizations. Some still believe the rumor that he was offered the position only after other candidates rejected the job as one with insufficient authority. In addition, Ambassador Negroponte’s ability to assert control over the intelligence entities within the Defense Department was frustrated by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who had established a legendary reputation for husbanding Defense Department resources and resisting integration with other departments. Secretary Rumsfeld had also overseen the creation of a Defense Undersecretary of Intelligence, which was widely viewed as an attempt to block the DNI’s effort to gain effective authority over DoD intelligence functions.
Ambassador Negroponte’s service as DNI included the stand-up of basic entities such as the Office of the DNI and National Counterterrorism Center. However, he left to become Deputy Secretary of State in January 2007, after just twenty months, and his tenure was too brief to design or implement reforms fully. Ambassador Negroponte was succeeded by an intelligence reform “dream team.” Retired Admiral J. Michael McConnell, confirmed in February 2007, had decades of experience in U.S. intelligence. Strongly committed to reform, he had served as Director of the National Security Agency (1992–96) and as an executive in a major intelligence contractor for ten years since his retirement. In addition, Secretary Rumsfeld was succeeded by Robert Gates, a former DCI (1991–93), and Defense Undersecretary for Intelligence Stephen Cambone was replaced by retired Air Force Lieutenant General James Clapper, who had served as Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (2001–06). Air Force General Michael Hayden continued as CIA Director, having previously directed the National Security Agency (1999–2005). Both Generals reportedly had favored a stronger DNI during the legislative debate running up to the 2004 act.
With the support of this “dream team”, Admiral McConnell attempted to push intelligence reform as far as possible during the final months of the Bush Administration. His achievements centered mainly on designing an intellectual architecture for intelligence reform.
In July 2007, Admiral McConnell issued a strategic vision for U.S. intelligence entitled Vision 2015: A Globally Networked and Integrated Intelligence Enterprise. The document, modeled on the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s 1996 Joint Vision 2010, articulated a vision of the intelligence community as a far more agile and unified actor. Admiral McConnell also promulgated a hundred-day plan and a subsequent 500-day Plan for Integration and Collaboration to approach intelligence reform methodically. The 500-day plan set forth six objectives in order to create a culture of collaboration, foster information-sharing, improve management capabilities (such as for major acquisitions), and improve collection and analytic capabilities. The plan provided an intellectual structure for considering intelligence reform more methodically.
Another of Admiral McConnell’s significant achievements was facilitating amendments to Executive Order 12333, which delineated the roles and responsibilities for U.S. intelligence and its components. This order, issued by President Reagan in 1981, was antiquated, particularly given the 2004 act. Despite attempts by some intelligence entities to roll back the DNI’s authorities, the amendments to E.O. 12333 generally reflected the 2004 act’s authorities and even broadened them.
For example, while the 2004 act stated that the DNI would “ensure the effective execution” of the budget, E.O. 12333 now reads that the DNI “shall oversee and direct the implementation . . . and execution” of the intelligence appropriation. In addition, while the 2004 act contained relatively weak language authorizing the DNI to “oversee the coordination” of the intelligence community’s varied relationships with foreign intelligence services, E.O. 12333 authorized the DNI to enter into, formulate policies concerning, and “align and synchronize” such relationships.
Finally, Admiral McConnell oversaw completion of the intelligence community’s Civilian Joint Duty Program, which is designed to broaden the experience of intelligence personnel beyond their home entity and facilitate greater integration. This program was modeled on the U.S. military’s requirement that officers serve in positions outside of their military service as a prerequisite for promotion to flag rank. The Joint Duty Program institutes a similar requirement for promotion.
Although 21st-century national security challenges require integration of all U.S. intelligence capabilities, the 9/11 Commission found that there was no place that all intelligence capabilities came together below the level of the then-Director of Central Intelligence. There was no equivalent to the U.S. military’s combatant commanders—high-ranking flag officers with authority over troops from all the military services in their area and responsible for employing those troops to fight wars.
The 9/11 Commission thus recommended the creation of National Intelligence Centers as the equivalent of those combatant commanders. These centers were to have authority and responsibility over intelligence assets for major intelligence missions such as Iran and Russia. They would be separate from the standing intelligence entities and would themselves task collection and analysis back to them. The commission also envisioned the centers conducting long-range, strategic-level analysis in-house to make up for the insufficiency of such analysis conducted by the intelligence entities themselves. The commission’s premier center was the National Counterterrorism Center, intended to lead U.S. intelligence and be the preeminent analytic center for counterterrorism. The 2004 act created this center, authorized the DNI to create National Intelligence Centers for other missions, and permitted the DNI to transfer a hundred personnel to a center during its first year.
A commission appointed by President George W. Bush to investigate the intelligence failures of the Iraq war, called the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, further examined the concept of reorienting U.S. intelligence toward missions. In its 2005 report, the commission endorsed re-orienting U.S. intelligence toward missions, but it also articulated the concept of “mission managers.” The 9/11 Commission’s conception of the National Intelligence Center was that it would conduct strategic analysis in-house, while the Bush Administration commission’s “mission managers” would task out all other analysis to the preexisting intelligence entities.
The National Counterterrorism Center was stood-up and mission managers were appointed for counter-proliferation, counterintelligence, Iran, North Korea and Cuba/Venezuela. Ambassador Negroponte also issued a directive, dated December 21, 2006, on mission manager authorities, which appeared robust: setting priorities for and tasking collection and analysis, determining the effectiveness of U.S. intelligence’s efforts, identifying gaps, and recommending resource allocations.
Objectives and Practical Steps for the Obama Administration
It should be clear that much organizational and intellectual scaffolding for genuine intelligence reform has already been laid, beginning with the 2004 act itself and continuing through Admiral McConnell’s tenure as DNI. The Obama Administration should therefore not seek to reinvent the organizational wheel by engaging in a months-long process of revising documents such as Vision 2015 or E.O. 12333. Rather, it should focus on the arduous task of truly implementing intelligence reform, revising existing reform initiatives only as the need becomes apparent. To do so, the Obama Administration should ensure that the DNI exercises his authorities to their maximum, makes hard choices and breaks bureaucratic china as needed.
One way to structure a more specific discussion of what needs to be done is to employ a time-honored but often neglected method of the enlightened policy planner: to articulate goals. What should the new Administration and its DNI hope to have accomplished by the end of the term, in January 2013?
The sine qua non of success for U.S. intelligence has not changed. It must intercept and neutralize terrorist and proliferation threats, as well as provide timely and relevant intelligence to assist policymakers in exploiting opportunities and responding to challenges. It must do these things, however, in what will likely be an austere fiscal environment. But the DNI’s goals for January 2013 must also include testing the adequacy of the 2004 act as it evolves in practice. Critics contend that the DNI still lacks sufficient authority to achieve the goals of intelligence reform. The debate can be resolved decisively if the DNI uses the authorities in the act and E.O. 12333 to their maximum. Thus by January 2013 the DNI should achieve full control over both the intelligence budget submitted to Congress and the execution of the intelligence appropriation. He should demonstrate that he can use these authorities to make and enforce a variety of difficult or unpopular choices: improving integration, decreasing duplication and cutting underperforming acquisition programs, for example. If additional statutory authorities become necessary, then appropriate legislation should be enacted by the end of 2012, if not well before.
Many intelligence personnel and outside observers currently regard the Office of the DNI as being a bloated bureaucratic layer that does net harm to the agility and capacities of the intelligence community. That accusation must be tested and, if proven, remedied. By 2012, the Office of the DNI should have demonstrated its value to the DNI and U.S. intelligence by developing budgetary, acquisition and other expertise necessary for the DNI to make and enforce his choices. Assignment to the Office of the DNI should be a coveted assignment among intelligence personnel—as a way to benefit U.S. intelligence as a whole and to advance their own careers. Personal and institutional incentives need to be properly aligned, and so a goal of the DNI should be to decide as soon as possible what the right size of his office staff ought to be.
Also, the Mission Managers should become the preeminent officials in U.S. intelligence with regard to their particular missions. They should have clear operational responsibility, authority and accountability for their mission areas. They should be the go-to officials for the White House, political appointees at the departments, and Congress for both the latest intelligence and long-range, strategic analysis concerning their mission areas. They should have a comparable stature in U.S. intelligence to the Combatant Commanders in the U.S. military. As with the Office of the DNI, service on a Mission Manager’s staff should be coveted among intelligence personnel.
Finally, U.S. intelligence should exhibit a culture of integration rivaling the military’s (i.e., “jointness”). Four years is probably too short a time to expect a complete cultural change; that may require a generational shift among U.S. intelligence professionals. However, evidence of the beginnings of a cultural shift would include an explosion of internal articles, lessons-learned sessions, and bottom-up organizational procedures and initiatives concerning integration. All this happened in the U.S. military in the years following the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, which reorganized the Defense Department to foster integration across the military services.
These goals can be achieved if the Obama Administration resolves to take seven steps to drive and sustain real reform in U.S. intelligence.
Step 1: Demand organizational excellence. The Obama Administration’s national security team comes into office after eight years of Republican control of the Executive Branch. Before January 20, most of its members had to rely on public documents for information. Now, with access to classified intelligence products and beset by urgent challenges in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, there is a risk that senior Administration officials will become so engulfed by urgency and information that they will ignore the organizational development of U.S. intelligence.
That would be a mistake. The Administration needs to articulate high expectations for U.S. intelligence. Senior officials should continuously assess its performance, and particularly whether intelligence improves in short- and long-term decision-making. They should refer selected intelligence products to former officials and academics to judge their quality. The White House should thus reinvigorate the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a White House body constituted to provide independent advice to the President concerning U.S. intelligence’s performance, and use it for this and other purposes.
Step 2: Fully exploit DNI authorities. The next DNI should aggressively exercise his authorities under the 2004 act and E.O. 12333, and the President should support his so doing. Failure to exercise DNI authorities would establish the precedent that they are weak or nonexistent in practice. In particular, the DNI should deploy his budgetary authorities as a means to drive greater effectiveness and efficiency within U.S. intelligence.
The DNI should thoroughly review the budget of each intelligence entity and refuse to include any programs in the next year’s budget proposal that fail to correspond to the DNI’s vision for integration. The DNI should also use his apportionment authority to hold entities’ feet to the fire, authorizing the release of selected appropriated funds only once the DNI is satisfied with the pace of integration. Senior Administration officials, in addition to the President himself, need to back the DNI in exercising his authority by, among other things, supporting the DNI in overcoming resistance from any departments. Cabinet Secretaries work for the President and are confirmed by Congress, and they should prioritize national intelligence needs over their departments’ specific needs and ensure that their subordinates do the same.
The DNI should also utilize his authority under E.O. 12333 to “oversee and provide advice to the President and the National Security Council with respect to all ongoing and proposed covert action programs.” Once they begin to receive insider knowledge of U.S. covert action programs, senior Administration officials may be tempted to develop direct relationships with officials handling such action, thus circumventing the DNI. Instead, senior officials should authorize covert action through the DNI to the CIA in order to avoid creating a power center in U.S. intelligence separate from the DNI.
Finally, the DNI should establish a record of supporting the need for any additional authorities. This record would include the intelligence reform gap, the authorities that were lacking, and the resulting ineffectiveness or inefficiency they caused. Such a record would be useful in any future Executive Branch discussions and on Capitol Hill in justifying additional authorities.
Step 3: Declassify the intelligence appropriation and advocate corresponding congressional reform. As noted above, the DNI’s authority to direct the apportionment and audit execution of the intelligence appropriation was a second-best option because the House of Representatives rejected declassification of the top-line intelligence appropriation figure. After the 2004 act, the Democrats took control of Congress and enacted the remaining recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. That legislation required the DNI to declassify the top-line amount of the intelligence appropriation for fiscal years 2007 and 2008 and to continue such declassification unless the President asserts a national security rationale for doing otherwise.
The Obama Administration should continue declassification of the top-line intelligence appropriation amount in order to enable the DNI to receive the appropriation directly from Congress rather than continue having it hidden in a range of departmental appropriations. A direct appropriation would give the DNI full control over the intelligence appropriation and enhance the DNI’s use of funding as a hammer. (No information aside from the total aggregate number should be declassified.)
Concomitantly, the Administration should urge Congress to appropriate all intelligence funding directly to the DNI. A direct appropriation could be contained within the Department of Defense appropriations bill by including the entire appropriation in the one public intelligence appropriations account, the Intelligence Community Management Account. That account currently is only a small percentage of intelligence funding, $725 million for fiscal year 2008 compared to total funding of $47.5 billion.1
However, the Obama Administration should advocate that Congress preferably pass a separate intelligence appropriation bill rather than include the intelligence appropriation in the Defense Department and other appropriation bills. To enable such a bill, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees should create separate intelligence appropriations subcommittees rather than having, as they currently do, the intelligence appropriation handled by the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and other relevant subcommittees. Subsuming the intelligence appropriation in other subcommittees leads to the appropriation being reviewed from the perspective of how well the various intelligence entities are serving their parent departments, rather than how well the intelligence entities are integrating into a single enterprise. Moreover, a separate intelligence subcommittee would also help protect intelligence funding from being bartered away to bolster defense or other spending needs.2
Step 4: “Rightsize” the Office of the DNI. Streamlining the Office of the DNI is both an immediate priority and a goal stretching out to 2012. The 2004 act created the Office to assist the DNI in leading U.S. intelligence and to house entities such as the National Counterterrorism Center. The 9/11 Commission envisioned a “relatively small staff of several hundred people”, but the Office authorized for fiscal year 2007 has nearly a thousand personnel.3
Given the prevalence of contractors throughout U.S. intelligence agencies, the total is likely much higher. The Office has been criticized by Congressman Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, as “large, bureaucratic, and hierarchical.”4
Even the ideal Office of the DNI would likely need more personnel than envisioned by the 9/11 Commission to support the DNI. But a head-count approach to finding the right size is a misleading metric in any event. More important than the absolute size of the Office of the DNI is getting its roles, responsibilities and lines of authority clear. Once that is done properly, the proper number of people needed will become self-evident.
The Office of the DNI has also created friction with other intelligence entities by various data requests. Such friction is to be expected given that the Office is filling a void—that is, managing U.S. intelligence as though it were a single, integrated structure. However, such requests are burdensome, so the DNI should ensure that they are coordinated across the Office to minimize their frequency and provide predictability for the recipients.
Step 5: Continue to orient U.S. intelligence toward missions. The DNI should buttress the Mission Managers by explicitly relying on them to lead intelligence activities on their missions. He should deal directly with them on a sustained basis and support them in overcoming any recalcitrance across the intelligence community. The DNI should also select Mission Managers who have significant stature and the willingness to assert their authorities.
In addition, the Mission Managers should accompany the DNI to brief the President every morning, depending on the subject of the briefing. Doing so would contribute to their prestige and help free the DNI from spending hours preparing for the daily briefings. This would allow the DNI to focus on organizational transformation instead.
The DNI should also produce a mission-oriented budget that illuminates what resources are devoted to each major mission area (in addition to the traditional budget structured along “capabilities”, meaning organizational boundaries). A mission-oriented budget would demonstrate whether resources are aligned with the highest priority missions and identify potential reallocations.5
Step 6: Create a culture of a single, integrated enterprise. Organizational culture derives primarily from organizational incentives. The next DNI should ensure full implementation of the Joint Duty Program so that intelligence personnel acquire experience outside of their home entity. He should be vigilant regarding which positions qualify as a joint duty assignment. The program’s rules apparently permit exemptions and allow intelligence personnel to obtain joint duty credit for certain positions even within their home entity. The DNI should ensure that such exceptions are not abused. Finally, the DNI should track rates of performance to determine whether personnel who served outside of their home entity are on average being penalized rather than reworked in their careers.
Culture is also created by terminology. The ubiquity of the term “intelligence community” perpetuates the notion that U.S. intelligence is a confederation of autonomous entities, however much they cooperate. The next DNI should move to jettison that term (as well as its shorthand form, “IC”), instead referring to it as a single enterprise: “U.S. intelligence.” Doing so would foster the mindset that, despite affiliation with a particular agency or entity, all intelligence professionals are part of a single networked enterprise.
Step 7: Monitor organizational performance and support risk-taking. The DNI should monitor progress in organizational reform and intervene when lower ranking personnel prove reluctant to make difficult decisions. Equally, the DNI should back-up personnel who make difficult decisions that turn out to be defensible but wrong. Two areas to highlight are personnel and information-sharing.
U.S. intelligence (let’s start calling it that right now) has made progress on personnel diversity and language capability, but additional work remains. According to former 9/11 Commissioner Tim Roemer, approximately 27 percent of the 2007 class of the National Clandestine Service (the CIA’s human intelligence arm) are minorities—double the previous year. The 2008 congressionally mandated study of weapons of mass destruction intelligence found that the CIA’s language capability increased by 50 percent since 2003 and that the number of CIA personnel skilled in ten critical languages increased by 16 percent in fiscal year 2007 alone. But it also concluded that serious deficiencies remain. Admiral McConnell reportedly characterized the obstacles as being cultural issues among security clearance decision-makers. The DNI should monitor this issue closely and intervene if he believes progress is faltering unjustifiably.
Progress on information-sharing is also real: The National Counterterrorism Center receives more than thirty data streams.6 On September 15, 2008, Admiral McConnell issued a directive that balanced information technology security with the need to share information—in contrast to the previous directive, which prioritized security. But technology is the easy part; barriers arise from a thicket of laws, policies, security considerations and organizational culture. For example, just because one agency shares information with a second agency does not automatically mean that the second may share it with a third.
The complexity of the information-sharing challenge means that there are likely few intelligence officials with the seniority to make decisions weighing all these factors. The DNI needs to place an urgent and personal emphasis on cutting through this thicket, making difficult decisions and backing lower-level officials who do the same. Problems with information-sharing are often not discovered until they result in an intelligence failure. Thus the DNI should commission tests that plant disparate shreds of information, in a controlled manner, to determine whether U.S. intelligence can consolidate them into a coherent picture.
The Obama Administration does not need to design and implement a major overhaul of U.S. intelligence. Instead, senior officials, beginning with the President himself, need to encourage and support the DNI in building on the existing architecture and exercising the leadership necessary—collaboratively but ultimately decisively—to implement intelligence reform across U.S. intelligence.
“DNI Releases Budget Figure for Fiscal Year 2008 National Intelligence Program,” October 28, 2008. The figure is for the National Intelligence Program.
Reforming the congressional appropriations process for intelligence was advocated by the 9/11 Commission. Subsequently, both the commission created by President Bush to study the Iraq war intelligence failure and a congressionally mandated commission to study weapons of mass destruction proliferation and terrorism recommended appropriations subcommittees for intelligence. See Report of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, p. 90.
Conference Report to accompany the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, Section 104 (December 6, 2007).
Letter from House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Peter Hoekstra to President George W. Bush, May 18, 2006.
Intelligence professionals will understand that producing such a budget is not easy. It involves judgments such as deciding what percentage of a satellite’s cost is attributable to specific intelligence targets. Nonetheless, it can be done within reason.
Statement of David Shedd, Deputy DNI for Policy, at a hearing of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Subcommittee on Intelligence Community Management, December 6, 2007.