August 3, 2004

National Intelligence Director - Addendum

I am concerned that in the "rush to reorganize," the new DNI will focus too much on the Beltway's highest priorities and forget about the myriad other consumers. That perceived lack of focus is what has prompted the Defense Department, the armed services and other executive departments to keep their own intelligence agencies or staffs. It will very tempting to satisfy only national requirements - after all, the person will be a Presidential appointee with Senate advice and consent, just as the DCI is now. However, the new DNI cannot neglect to provide intelligence support to such mundane things as Air Force systems development - what the threats coming down the road are, etc. Those diverse requirements are the reasons we have such a decentralized community now - DOD was (is?) not about to rely on an independent agency to satisfy its requirements. It will certainly be a challenge. I will be curious to see how NSA fares in all this.

I am not sure I would revamp the entire community all at once. I would separate the DCI from the director, CIA and see how that goes. Make CIA act like an equal agency, not the dominant organization. As far as budget authority, that is all overblown. The monies are fenced almost to the line item when they come out of the Congressional committees, so I don't see much change happening there - nor should there be.

What the President proposed today is unsatisfactory. The DNI, or NID, will have no direct control over anything. He/she will "coordinate" on budgets, and funnel the President's requests for information to the proper agency for action. As far as I can tell, CIA will still have all the operational approval and authority, and will still control the NIE process. I suspect that Rumsfeld is behind this - no one wants to give up their own intelligence empire.

The irony: Rumsfeld would be better off if the DNI had real authority. His DOD intelligence agencies would be equal to or greater than the boys and girls in McLean.

The existent dominant position and power of the CIA is the problem, not a real DNI.