In CIA Director John Brennan’s recent speech and Q&A session at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), as well as in his recent address to agency personnel at CIA headquarters, the head of America’s leading human intelligence agency discussed the way forward for the agency, the grand restructuring of its workforce, and how it operates against the myriad challenges to American national security.
Brennan and his leadership team have turned to the CIA’s National Counterterrorism Center (CTC) as the model for how the agency should structure itself to best carry out its role as America’s premiere human intelligence agency. It is a bureaucratic reorganization that was hinted at some months back, and described—and supported—by this author in a previous SOFREP article.
Brennan’s changes are in stark contrast to ideas presented by former Congresswoman Jane Harmon. In a recent piece in Foreign Affairs, she presented, frankly, a naive and sophomoric view of how the country’s intelligence agencies should operate and move forward into the future.
Brennan, a 25-year veteran of the CIA before becoming its director under President Barack Obama, knows the agency and intelligence work intimately. He is not an outsider trying to force change on a recalcitrant workforce, but rather, a consummate insider trying to make his own organization better. Regardless, there will always be resistance to such a bureaucratic shakeup, as people are entrenched in their ways, and some genuinely believe that certain proposed changes might harm their organization.
Brennan’s plan is to oversee the creation of various ‘mission centers,’ based on the CTC model, which will replace the CIA’s traditional geographic divisions in an effort to “push decision-making lower down in the hierarchy.” This will allow those who focus daily on a particular mission (for example, counter-narcotics, counterterrorism, or counter-proliferation) to have a larger say in the execution of that mission.
As this author wrote previously, the ‘centers’ concept is a sound one, and a way for the agency to focus more effectively on its myriad missions. It has been proven remarkably successful, namely against al-Qa’ida in the years following 9/11. CTC has decimated the terror organization through a relentless pursuit by a cadre of officers spanning multiple divisions, directorates, and non-agency organizations.