Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A plan to reform defense-related intelligence calls for moving more spies and analysts out of the Pentagon and closer to the battlefield to better support troops, Pentagon officials said yesterday.

The reform plan is aimed at modernizing the Defense Intelligence Agency and other military and civilian components that collect, analyze and disseminate intelligence information.

Under the plan, which is in the final approval stages, U.S. combat commanders will set up components in the field that will formalize intelligence activities as part of battle campaign plans.

“The idea is to bring together in one place, for a combatant commander especially, the collectors, the analysts and bring them in contact with his operating forces,” said a senior defense official speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The plan will attempt to create more efficient intelligence activities to deal with threats such as terrorism, insurgency and weapons proliferation.

“The number of things one had to think about were fewer when we were defending the Fulda Gap,” the location in Europe where Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces were expected to invade during the Cold War, the official said. “Neither Afghanistan nor Iraq looked anything like that.”

The new centers will make it easier for combat forces to obtain information and use it for fighting wars, the official said.

A second defense official said the Pentagon has drawn up “campaign plans” for intelligence activities, including one for Iraq, where special Army intelligence teams are on the ground conducting activities in support of the counterinsurgency.

The reforms will increase the number of people assigned to defense intelligence, but at a lower level than the CIA program to bolster the number of case officers, the officials said.

The Pentagon was pressed to improve its intelligence activities after the operation in Afghanistan, which began in October 2001. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was said to be upset that U.S. troops could not be deployed more quickly against terrorists in Afghanistan because of CIA delays in preparing the battlefield.

The reform plan calls for improving human intelligence programs, such as “advance force operations,” secret operations before sending troops, the senior official said.

“Much of what they do, actually, is overt,” the senior official said. “They’re interrogators and they’re debriefers and in some cases they are out in operating locations where they are trying to gain information from the local folks.”

The senior official said all the Pentagon’s new intelligence activities are carried out within U.S. law and that Congress is kept fully informed.

Some changes were made within the DIA to prevent a repeat of the failure to verify Iraq’s estimated weapons of mass destruction programs, the senior official said.

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