- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 23, 2008


More than three years ago, we led efforts in the Senate to pass the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, the most significant reform to the intelligence community since 1947.

The act, passed in the wake of the release of the bipartisan Sept. 11 commission report, was designed to overcome historic stove-pipes and promote “unity of effort” in the intelligence community. The legislation established a new National Counterterrorism Center, mandated improved information sharing, and most notably, empowered a new Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to lead the intelligence community and serve as the president’s principal advisor on intelligence matters.

Since these reforms were signed into law, the DNI has taken important steps to integrate the 16 components that make up the intelligence community. Information sharing has been enhanced significantly, promoting more thoughtful analyses of the threats we face as a nation. Every day, this collaboration provides policymakers, war fighters and intelligence and law enforcement officers the information they need to design and conduct effective operations against our nation’s enemies. The threats posed today by terrorist groups, rogue states and transnational criminal networks are severe and daunting, and the increased effectiveness of the intelligence community is helping us combat these threats.

The decision to create the DNI was not without controversy. Some argued that the DNI, separated from the CIA, would become a new bureaucratic layer with little ability to improve the effectiveness of the intelligence community. Others argued that increased collaboration and integration would lead to “groupthink,” stifling dissent and weakening the competition of ideas that is so important to the art of intelligence analysis. Still others argued that the DNI would have too little authority to manage the intelligence community, particularly the national intelligence components of the Defense Department or, alternatively, that the DNI’s authorities would undermine the Secretary of Defense and degrade intelligence support to war fighters.

Three years later, we have been generally pleased with the results of our reforms. The DNI has taken aggressive steps to integrate the intelligence community, hardly becoming an extra layer of bureaucracy. This alone represents significant change from the status quo. As the 9/11 commission noted when the former Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) was charged with overseeing the broader intelligence community and also running the CIA: “what loses out is management of the intelligence community, a difficult task even in the best case because the DCI’s current authorities are weak.” With new authorities and heightened focus on community-wide matters, the DNI has improved the management of our nation’s intelligence agencies.

The National Counterterrorism Center has strengthened terrorism-related intelligence analysis and coordinated counterterrorism efforts across the federal government. The National Counterproliferation Center and country-focused mission managers have also helped target our nation’s intelligence resources on the most significant threats facing our nation.

The DNI’s efforts have transformed the nature of intelligence analysis and information sharing, using collaborative tools found on blogs, wikis, and social networking sites. These tools are being rapidly embraced by a new generation of intelligence analysts — analysts who reject stovepipes and are comfortable working across component boundaries. At the same time, the DNI has spearheaded efforts to increase analytic discipline. Major analytic products are now rigorously tested, challenged, red-teamed, and vetted before final assessments and key judgments are made. This increased discipline is evident in some recent estimates produced by the intelligence community, such as “National Intelligence Estimates on the Terrorist Threat to the Homeland” and on “Prospects for Iraq’s Stability.”

The DNI has also used the management authority provided by the intelligence reform law to its maximum effectiveness. Of particular note, the DNI used his budget authority to end a wasteful DOD intelligence program that had survived for many years despite significant opposition within the former community management staff of the DCI. Without the additional authorities contained in the intelligence reform law, this failed program may have continued.

More than three years after its passage, the reforms of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act have served the American people well, but much remains to be done. It takes time to fundamentally change bureaucratic cultures and institutionalize new authorities. Congress must closely monitor the DNI’s progress and listen carefully for signs that additional budget or management authorities are needed to ensure the effective operation of our nation’s intelligence components. New legislation may be necessary in coming years; indeed, that is why we promoted additional intelligence-sharing reforms in 2007 legislation that helped implement the remaining recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission.

Our 2004 intelligence reforms are not perfect, but to suggest, as some critics have, a return to failed management constructs of the past is to turn a blind eye to the intelligence failures painstakingly documented by the 9/11 commission. Never again can we allow the stove-piped information, bureaucratic turf battles and fragmented leadership of the past to endanger our future.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine are chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

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