- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 18, 2007

The intelligence community is at a crossroads. Ambassador John Negroponte leaves as director of national intelligence after more than a year and a half spent vigorously laying the groundwork for long-term reform of the intelligence community. Adm. Michael McConnell arrives on the scene with the opportunity to mold these efforts into lasting reform.

As any student of organizational change knows, the transition from the entrepreneurial to the institutionalized stage is a critical one. The following are suggestions for Adm. McConnell to consider as he assumes his new role:

Focus on management: The DNI was created to reform and improve the performance of the intelligence community. The director has the authorities and the stature to lead the agency managers down the reform path in step with one another. But institutional inertia is strong. The DNI should use the considerable authorities he bears — including budget and personnel powers as well as Cabinet rank and access to the president — to push reform forward.

• Match strategies with resource allocation: The DNI should ensure that the allocation of the Intelligence Community’s resources matches the needs of the nation today. Too often, resource allocations reflect institutional inertia and other factors, rather than merit. This need is greatest in the technical collection field, where the most money is. The DNI has initiated an Integrated Collection Architecture to determine which programs deserve support. The new DNI should capitalize on these efforts to rationalize resource distribution — making difficult decisions about supporting those programs where results are most needed.

Attack the root of the information-sharing problem: Perhaps no intelligence community flaw has garnered as much criticism as problems with sharing information. While there has been progress on this front, legal and policy impediments — often based on unfounded myths — remain a major stumbling block to real information sharing. The new DNI should support across-the-board policy changes to clarify ambiguities. The DNI and his staff are uniquely positioned to complete a thorough review of the impediments to information sharing and push for necessary changes, even against agency inertia.

Sustain reforms on homeland security: The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security have some way to go toward achieving their full potential as members of the intelligence community. Yet strides have been made since September 11, 2001. The FBI, for instance, has begun promising reforms to its field intelligence capabilities. The new DNI should continue Mr. Negroponte’s work to support and encourage these efforts, ensuring these important reforms do not falter.

Create a “purple” intelligence community: One of the great goals of the DNI reforms has been to integrate the intelligence community by incentivizing intelligence officers to serve tours in other agencies. This will create a “purple” cadre of intelligence officers comfortable working and sharing with officers from other agencies and organizational cultures. The new DNI has an excellent opportunity to push this reform along. He might consider, for instance, creating an honors program cadre of fresh talent, recruits who would enter government not just as officers of one agency but as intelligence community officers with career tracks designed to expose them to multiple agencies and disciplines. Such a cadre would form a rising and influential block dedicated to integration and bottom-up reform.

Support the troops: Intelligence community officers at all levels will look to the DNI for recognition and leadership. Mr. Negroponte set a high standard for commending the tireless and hidden efforts of the nation’s intelligence officers, often in very difficult or controversial circumstances. The new DNI, a career military officer, no doubt understands the importance of backing up intelligence officers as they take the initiative, engage in dangerous ventures, and work to protect the American people.

Mr. Negroponte’s tenure as DNI was a successful one aimed at laying the basis for long-term reform. Adm. McConnell comes in to the job with the opportunity to deepen and solidify these initiatives. Given the importance of intelligence to our nation’s security today, the country is relying upon him.

Elbridge Colby and Kate Heinzelman were staff members in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and on the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction. The views expressed herein are their own.

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