A Framework for Reform of the U.S. Intelligence Community: Chapter 1

A Framework for Reform of the
U.S. Intelligence Community

Chapter 1: Introduction

The Intelligence Community of the United States has received unprecedented criticism in recent years. Most, though not all, was and is well deserved. The growing body of evidence about problems at the Central Intelligence Agency, in particular, prompted and unusual flurry of high-level government and public scrutiny in 1994.

Frustrated with CIA's analytic performance, Director of Central Intelligence R. James Woolsey's stubborn and sometimes caustic defense of CIA's bureaucratic interests, and Woolsey's unwillingness to punish senior operations officers for lapses in managing confessed spy Aldrich Ames, the Congress in 1994 required President Clinton to launch an Executive Branch reevaluation of the Intelligence Community. The bipartisan legislation, initially proposed by Senator

John Warner (R-VA), was co-sponsored by Senators Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ) and Bob Graham (D-FL). It required the president to name a 17-member commission to investigate and evaluate the roles and missions of the entire United States Intelligence Community, and to report on its findings by March 1996. Clinton announced his nine selections in early February 1995, some two months after he was required by law to do so; the majority and minority leaders of both the House and Senate had previously selected two members each. Clinton named Les Aspin, chair of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) and a former Secretary of Defense, to head the commission (hereafter, "the Commission").*

Both Senate and House intelligence oversight sight committees--the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI)--announced plans in early 1995 to conduct their own hearings. Aspin seemed initially to want to ignore the well-publicized, tangible problems in favor of a more general, and therefore less useful, discourse on post-Cold War intelligence targets(1). Thereafter, I was pleased that he and his staff indicated a greater willingness to examine all aspects of intelligence.

I urge the Commission and the Congress to take broad approaches to their inquiries and to examine issues normally directly under the jurisdiction of agency heads. Major problems exist here. Agency heads, including former Directors of Central Intelligence, either helped created these problems or ignored them. Just as wars are too important to be left to generals alone, the problems of the Intelligence Community call for broad inquiry and very senior-level redress.

In this paper, I concentrate on the roles and places--organizationally speaking--of the analytical functions and components of the Intelligence Community. I focus particularly on the Central Intelligence Agency because it has the major analytic role and capabilities, and because I am most familiar with it. However, it is not possible to talk fruitfully of only one part of intelligence. The collection and analytic functions are intricately linked. The size and functions of the various analytic organizations spring from government-wide bureaucratic interests and conscious decisions about the desirability of competing and overlapping collection and analytic agencies. Security and counterintelligence functions affect both collection and analysis--and have implications for the efficiency of the Intelligence Community generally, including the quality of its personnel.

In addition, discussion of the Community cannot reasonably occur without a general concept of: the nation's foreign interests and thus its intelligence needs; the interplay between the parts of the Community, particularly collection and analysis; and the culture of intelligence, including its organizational mores, values, and institutional interests. The last may be the least well understood outside of the Intelligence Community and the most important for senior decisionmakers, including the members of Congress and the Commission, to thoroughly understand. There can be no meaningful reorganization of intelligence if simultaneous reforms do not also address the systemic dysfunctions that helped reap the Intelligence Community its current harvest of national discontent.

Despite the great increase in information available to the public about the conduct of intelligence, the debate to date about the issues confronting U.S. intelligence has been colored by great misunderstanding. There is enormous ignorance and, worse, dissemination of inaccurate information about the performance and motives of the personnel of the Intelligence Community. In part, this is due to deliberate dissemination of inaccurate information by current and former Intelligence Community leaders who want to put a good "spin" on the agencies' performance and their own reputations. Academic "experts" who never directly experienced the processes of intelligence too often hypothesize abstractly when they should instead have been collecting data. Governmental "experts" now or once in senior policy and intelligence positions continue to demonstrate and to perpetuate ignorance and/or errors.

A few of the many examples from well-known and respected individuals may illustrate the point. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan inexplicably continues to claim publicly that CIA analysts in the 1980s judged East Germany to have higher per capita gross domestic product than West Germany. This simply is not true(2). Angelo Codevilla, an SSCI staffer from 1977-85, presents in Informing Statecraft a fact-rich but stunningly inaccurate assessment of the culture of CIA's Directorate of Intelligence(3). Harvard Professor Ernest May--a long-time student of intelligence and advisor to government on intelligence issues--told a conference in October 1994 that CIA then had 10,000 analysts when DCI Woolsey had in July 1994 indicated only slightly indirectly--by requiring listeners to figure out what number, to be cut by one-third by 1997, would equal 2,000--that CIA at its peak had 3,000 analysts(4).

In addition, then-Deputy Director for Intelligence (DDI) Douglas MacEachen had written shortly before--in a paper prepared for a Georgetown University conference--that the Directorate of Intelligence (DI) then had 2,500 analysts(5). MacEachen also reportedly said his DI analyst corps consisted of a bunch of "19-year olds on two-year rotations.(6)" This is flatly wrong. DI analysts long have mainly been career employees with relatively low attrition rates; attrition still apparently is fairly modest by industry or even government-wide standards despite the plunging morale of the last few years(7). MacEachen's comments--incredibly coming from the man in charge of DI staffing--presumably was designed to deflect criticism of the DI's performance from his office to the backs of the mythical 19-year-olds(8). It reflects a severely deficient sense of leadership responsibility, at the least.

The list goes on. There must be a solid base of accurate information before sound judgments about the state of intelligence can be made. Good decisions about reorganization and reform require an even firmer base of knowledge--and some wisdom as well.

* Mr. Aspin died suddenly in May 1995. As of this writing, President Clinton had not named a successor

1. Walter Pincus, "Search for CIA Director Delaying Major Review of Intelligence, Sources Say," The Washington Post, January 20, 1995, p. A13.

2. I personally worked this area and know that Moynihan is wrong. Moynihan repeatedly has made his assertion, allegedly on the basis of figures in one publication, despite abundant documentary evidence to the contrary and my letter to him informing him of his mistake.

3. Angelo Codevilla, Informing Statecraft: Intelligence for a New Century, (New York: The Free Press, 1992). See chapter 5, pp. 187-239, especially, for an inaccurate assessment of the motives, thought processes, and goals of DI analysts and managers. The rest of the book contains some excellent information and interesting insights.

4. R. James Woolsey, "National Security and the Future of the Central Intelligence Agency," speech delivered at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C., July 18, 1994, p. 19.

5. May orally quoted the number while presenting a paper to a conference on intelligence analysis sponsored by the Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Studies, Ottawa, October 28, 1994.

6. As reported by Robert Steele in OSS Notices, Open Source Solutions, Inc.

7. The DI maintains attrition figures which I have seen. In 1992, I filed a Freedom of Information request to gain release of the already compiled figures. CIA agreed to release the data but has not yet done so.

8. Almost all DI analysts have graduate educations and advanced degrees. Even with the tendency in the 1980s to hire inexperienced people--from travel and work experience standpoints--few analysts are hired before their 23rd or 24th birthdays. Many come to the Agency much later in life.

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