There are a few suggestions for reforming the intelligence community. Most of them are really bad bureaucratic plans.
The best ideas reform the funding for intelligence. This would make agencies more accountable and innovative if those responsible for them control the purse strings. Congress, of course, refuses to reform that because it removes power from the Appropriations Committee.
The core issue at stake is the problem of 4th generation warfare. This generally means less centralization, not more.
Here are some reasons why the intelligence community is so hard to reform:
The 9/11 Commission – a compilation of awful ideas – actually had one reform which was genuinely good over the long-term. It is a simple reform that is politically unacceptable to Congress.
The problem is this. The Appropriations Committee controls funding for Intelligence agencies, not the Intelligence Committee. This means that the Intel Committee has no leverage or power over the agencies. The Appropriations Committee has little oversight over reforms. So the Appropriations members leverage the funding to support voters in their district.
The suggested reform creates a new Intelligence Committee with full control over Intelligence Funding. This new Committee would then be equal to the Congressional Armed Services Committee.
Congress does what you would expect from Congress. After spending the election campaign that they will fully implement the 9/11 committee’s suggestions, Nancy Pelosi announced the modified reform. . Funding for Intelligence remains in the Appropriations Committee!
That’s one hellava reform. Thanks, Nancy!
The second problem is bureaucratic restructuring. The worst idea is the new intel czar – the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). The DNI collects information from many intelligence agencies and advises the President on …
Wait. That sounds familiar. That’s the job of the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI). So now we have two intelligence czars with overlapping job descriptions.
The idea that appointing a “czar” will change anything is one of those mythical beliefs that Committees have.
Originally, the CIA was supposed to be a clearing house for all intelligence. It doesn’t work out that way. The CIA just became a rival of the DIA. The US intelligence agencies are better than most counterparts in the world because we never centralized them. We have, literally, dozens of different agencies involved in intel work – but no one controls the funding for them so no one is in charge.
Each intelligence agency has its own separate mission and sub-culture. Some favor different intelligence methodologies than others. The NSA is really low-key and professional Signals Intel analysts, while the CIA are loud-mouthed academic-types who seem to do nothing. Since they have different missions, they frequently disagree over priorities and interpretations of evidence.
There are some rules of thumb. For instance, the CIA is always wrong. The NSA is always right but never tells anyone. The NRO takes fantastic satellite images of our enemies but won’t share it with the military who need it to fight. And so on.
Here’s the list of major intel agencies:
Central Intelligence Agency – All-Source Intelligence
Defense Intelligence Agency – Military Intel
Coast Guard Intelligence – Port and Coastal Security
National Security Agency – Signals Intel
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency – Map Making Agency
National Reconnaissance Office – Imagery Intel
Department of Energy – Nuclear Intel
Department of State – Public Source and Diplomatic Intel.
Department of Homeland Security – Police Intel.
Department of Treasury – Financial Intel.
Federal Bureau of Investigation – Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence.
Some of these, like Treasury, only became widely known recently. Treasury took the lead in counter-terrorism financing and anti-money laundering in the WoT.
The point is, no intelligence czar – DNI or DCI – can honestly act as a head of all these intelligence agencies and departments. They lack control over funding and are unable to command any of the branches. Their jobs are purely decorative. It’s a Washington fantasy – if you make a job, it looks like something is getting done.
Nor is centralization a good idea. The diversity of agencies better enables the US intel community to tackled diverse missions. To counter 4GW threats, the Intel agencies may have to decentralize even further.