- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 15, 2007

New U.S. intelligence chief Michael McConnell last week released his plan for the next steps in the continuing reform of the spy agencies he oversees, acknowledging that a key determinant of success will be his relationship with the Pentagon.

During a press rollout for the new plan, Mr. McConnell, who was confirmed in February as the director of national intelligence, or DNI, said that he had only accepted the post after ensuring he and incoming Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates were on the same page.

Mr. McConnell told reporters that, before taking the job, he met several times with Mr. Gates and with the latter’s nominee for the top intelligence post at the Department of Defense, retired U.S. Air Force Gen. James Clapper.

“The reason I’m here is because of that discussion,” said Mr. McConnell, a retired admiral in the U.S. Navy and former head of the National Security Agency.

Mr. Clapper, who was confirmed by the Senate last week, told his confirmation hearing that he and Mr. McConnell had been “professional colleagues and personal friends for more than 20 years.”

“I anticipate a very close, productive relationship with” him, Mr. Clapper said.

Critics charge that, under Mr. Gates’ predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, turf-conscious Pentagon bureaucrats have long sought to block or delay initiatives aimed at strengthening the integration of intelligence agencies.

Mr. Clapper promised a new approach at his confirmation hearing, saying he would restructure his office to align it more closely with the way the DNI’s staff was organized.

“The secretary of defense wishes to synchronize [Defense Department] intelligence with the DNI,” he said, pointing out that eight of the 16 agencies that Mr. McConnell oversees are part of the Pentagon.

“I believe there are improvements that can be made by clarifying this relationship institutionally and partnering with the DNI to manage intelligence as a seamless enterprise,” he said.

Last month, Mr. McConnell announced a redrawing of the organizational chart for his office.

Mr. Clapper said he agreed with Mr. McConnell’s priorities, and pledged to “work cooperatively … to bring them to fruition.” But, in a caveat that some highlighted as a get-out clause, added that he would do so “without compromising the secretary’s statutory responsibilities and authorities.”

Mr. Clapper pledged a review of the military’s role in two issues that have been a particular source of friction in intelligence circles: covert and/or clandestine action and human-intelligence collection, or spying.

He added that “[clarifying] roles and responsibilities in clandestine activities” was a major challenge for the whole U.S. intelligence community.

He also pledged “to conduct an in-progress review of [human-intelligence] activities, both within the department, to include the involvement of Special Operations, and externally with the CIA and the National Clandestine Service.”

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