- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 20, 2001

The CIA has failed to adequately manage its money and work force and must make improvements or face a diminished role in government, according to the agencys outgoing inspector general.
"Unless these difficult issues are tackled, I worry that the agency could see its usefulness diminish over time," wrote L. Britt Snider, who left recently as the IG, in a Jan. 19 memorandum. A copy was obtained by The Washington Times.
Praising the agency as being "in good shape" overall, Mr. Snider offered unusually blunt criticism of CIA management problems in an indirect slap at CIA Director George Tenet and his top deputies.
The CIA has come under criticism in recent years for underestimating long-range missile threats, missing Indias underground nuclear test and providing incorrect bombing coordinates that led U.S. planes to accidentally attack the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in 1999.
Congress has also criticized the CIA for what it views as inaccurate analysis of China security issues. A 1999 congressional report said the agencys China analysts were guilty of "group think" on China.
Mr. Snider said his office recently investigated a CIA covert action program that "exceeded its mandate." He provided no details.
The CIA inspector general, who is relatively independent within the agency, warned in the end-of-tour memorandum that the agency is running out of money and risks becoming irrelevant because of the explosion of publicly-available information.
"Putting the situation in simple terms, the agency, whose mission is to collect and analyze information, finds itself in the middle of an information revolution that churns on relentlessly in the private sector," he said.
The CIA is no longer "the only game in town" as it was during the Cold War in reporting on the Soviet Union and other closed nations.
"Unless the agency can continue to add value to what customers are increasingly able to do for themselves, the agencys output is going to diminish," he said.
If the CIA fails to produce useful intelligence reports that are unique and based on clandestine sources, "our ability to influence the decision-making process is apt to erode over time," Mr. Snider said.
To maintain its edge, the CIA must harness technology currently in use in the private sector, Mr. Snider said, noting the recent creation of the CIA technology center known as In-Q-Tel. He described the semiprivate office as having an "uncertain" probability of success.
Mr. Snider said because "we thrive on secrecy," it has been difficult to exploit advanced information technology, which benefits from "transparency."
Budget shortfalls also will constrain the CIA. "Given the current budget levels envisioned for the near term … I am not confident that the agency will have the wherewithal to carry on at its current level of activity, much less keep itself at the forefront of technological change," he said.
The problem with asking the White House and Congress for more money is that the agency has failed to show "it has done all it can on its own to manage and conserve its resources," Mr. Snider said. "And at this juncture I think it is a long way from being able to do so."
The CIAs annual budget is classified. Spending for all U.S. intelligence agencies is said to be between $26 billion and $30 billion annually.
A lack of centralized management and control over resources is the main obstacle to better money management, Mr. Snider said. Despite setting up a "corporate structure" with business-style chief officers, CIA directorates remain largely autonomous in controlling funds, he said.
"It is often impossible to know where money is and how it is actually being spent," Mr. Snider said.
Mr. Snider said reducing personnel costs would help, but he noted that CIA employment practice "defies any effort to weed out poor performers," even with CIAs flexible firing power.
CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said the IG noted that the agency is in good shape and that its morale is "higher" than in the past.

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