- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 14, 2004

With the passage of the intelligence bill by both houses of Congress and the assured signature of the president, an intelligence czar will be created. There are negative and positive aspects to the position of national director of intelligence (NDI). Retention of tactical intelligence with the military commands resolves one key negative aspect of the position.

A critical bureaucratic matter that needs to be addressed is where this director and the staff will sit. It cannot be at CIA because this would immerse the new director into a culture that has been a problem for the intelligence community for years. It also certainly should not be in the Pentagon, because this would also taint the director with accusations of bias. The director could be located at the White House, but this would probably cause conflicts with the national security adviser. Hence, the new director should be at a separate location completely independent of the other agencies. The drawback to this requirement is that it will require a separate staff and infrastructure, which will cost additional money.

A possible positive result of the creation of an NDI over the rest of the intelligence community is that the various agencies could be given more equality under this structure. The CIA has ruled the roost in the intelligence community for decades. This structure could even the field in the bureaucratic turf wars between the agencies.

But more important than this new position is internal reform. The keys to intelligence reform are to streamline the bureaucracy — not expand it — increase the stature and pay of analysts, make regional analysis the centerpiece of analytical focus and truly allow for more diverse analytical judgments, not just lip service.

Hopefully some of this internal reform has already taken place in light of the other recommendations of the September 11 commission. We need more working analysts, not bureaucrats. But becoming a manager is often the only way to advance one’s career because the agencies will not pay increasing salaries for analysts. We need structures similar to the academic community that gives increasing rank, for instance, to professors, which helps to keep them in their areas of expertise. Analysts need to be respected as analysts and kept in analytical positions.

The community itself needs to be reformed starting at the top with the CIA. The culture at the CIA has been a major problem within the intelligence community for years. The old saying that “knowledge is power” appropriately applies to the CIA. By withholding sources from the rest of the intelligence community, CIA husbanded its power over the years. Even in the light of terrorist incidents and after September 11 this parochial mindset still existed at the CIA.

My own agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, had its own problems. With the growth of the agency during the Cold War, management increased but became more remote from ordinary analysts. Growth also meant the creation of new specialty offices dubbed by other analysts as “analytical boutiques” at the expense of regional analysis involving critical regions such as the Middle East. These analysts need to be embedded back into the regional analysis, where they will be in closer touch with other analysts looking at regional issues. Another real problem was constant reorganizations whenever a new director arrived that threw the agency into turmoil and damaged morale.

Congress and the press need to also take some responsibility for what happens in the intelligence world, because pressure from these entities often colors intelligence analyses. A good example of this was the debate about Soviet military spending during the Cold War. As an example, Congress passed legislation based on the Church committee in the 1970s that has hamstrung the collection of human intelligence for decades. Now Congress has created new laws to “fix” the intelligence problems, but many were caused by Congress itself. The press often nitpicks intelligence analyses with leaks of information. CIA and DIA were constantly criticized during the Cold War for their estimates of Soviet military spending. In fact, all published estimates were woefully low. But if analysts had published the true figures the press would have crucified the intelligence community for hyping the threat.

In summary, intelligence reform needs to involve simplifying the structure of the intelligence community, giving more stature to line intelligence analysts and allowing dissenting views to be put forward to policy-makers. Congress and other consumers have often asked for this, but it has not yet happened in the view of this former analyst.

Darl Stephenson is a retired Middle East specialist for the Defense Intelligence Agency. He is also a retired lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve.

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