Recent news that DNI Dan Coats is looking for ways to streamline the gargantuan US Intelligence Community have returned the question of how American intelligence should be organized and structured to the fore. While previous efforts at “reform” were largely stillborn and confined to the marginal reshuffling of existing capabilities, the election of Donald Trump to the White House suggests there may be some possibility now that substantive, even radical change, may be possible. Here then are a few suggestions for the DNI as to how to proceed.
Start with recognizing that throwing money and manpower at a problem solves nothing, and that in the world of intelligence it may, in fact, make the problem worse. We do not need legions of bureaucrats, uniformed and otherwise, sitting at flat screen computer monitors in office buildings all across the DC Metro area to gather, analyze and disseminate the intelligence we need. We need much smaller numbers of highly trained and highly motivated personnel operating within systems, which will allow them to do their jobs, move rapidly and take the fight to the enemy.
If you’re looking for a place to begin making cuts, start with the DNI’s office itself. We do not need a huge, cumbersome layer of process and bureaucracy sitting atop the Intelligence Community. It adds nothing but delay and additional layers of management to a system already crushed beneath the weight of PowerPoint presentations, endless meetings and inertia. Disband the entire office and return the mantle of leader of the Intelligence Community to the Director of Central Intelligence.
Gut the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which has become a bureaucratic monster gobbling up resources and producing very little bang for the buck. The entire Defense Clandestine Service should be abolished and its mission handed off to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). DIA’s analytical efforts should be curtailed as well and laser focused on topics not adequately addressed by other entities already.
Conduct a top to bottom review of all other Defense Department entities that have assumed roles in the collection of strategic level human intelligence since 9/11. Outside of the world of counterintelligence virtually every one of them should probably be eliminated. They contribute virtually nothing to the fight and consume vast quantities of precious resources.
Do the same for every other government agency that has decided since 9/11 that they need to play spy as well. Most of the 17 agencies claiming to be part of the Intelligence Community at present do not need any capability beyond that provided by a modest analytical component.
Take a really hard look at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and its efforts to morph into a domestic intelligence agency. The results to date have been decidedly mixed. If we are not going to consider creating an American MI5, a separate domestic intelligence agency, we need to figure out a way to transform the culture within FBI in those components charged with running intelligence collection operations. As it is, FBI is far too slow and far too ponderous to defeat the enemies with whom we are faced.
Put someone in charge at CIA who understands the world of espionage and is not afraid to make meaningful, substantive change. We are in a worldwide knife fight with a host of vicious enemies, and yet our focus in recent years has been on reorganizing headquarters, drawing lines on org charts and introducing business jargon and concepts to the business of spying.
CIA needs to get back to its roots and remember how to conduct the dangerous business of “crawling into the belly of the beast” and penetrating drug cartels, terrorist groups and the WMD programs of rogue states. Mr. Brennan had no idea how to do that. Unfortunately, neither does Director Pompeo. It has been decades, since a spy ran CIA. It’s time to put another operator in charge.
DNI Coats sits atop a bloated, inefficient bureaucracy that is focused on most days more on process than results. That needs to change. Let’s hope the rumors of meaningful cuts are true and that a leaner, more effective Intelligence Community will emerge.