Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Dual-Hatted Syndrome

Haven't we learned anything from past intelligence reorganizations?

Just two years ago intelligence reform efforts created the Director of National Intelligence and finally broke up the dual responsibilities of the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI)/Director, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This long-standing position raised frequent issues due to the built-in conflict of interest, managed better or worse by successive incumbents. The DNI, currently retired admiral Mike McConnell, is expected to function as the actual head of our intelligence community, independent of potential conflicts of interest or loyalties to any of the intelligence agencies - THE intelligence czar. Meanwhile the Director of the CIA should be able to focus on optimizing the heavily-criticized performance of that agency, unhampered by other responsibilities. We'll see if all this works out as intended.

Last month the Department of Defense created, and congressional oversight committees approved, another dual-hatted intelligence position begging for conflicts of interest and chain-of-command confusion: designating the under secretary of defense for intelligence, currently retired general Jim Clapper, also as the Director of Defense Intelligence within the Office of the DNI. If anything, this seems to deepen the divide between the Department of Defense and the intelligence community. It begs the question of who will actually determine tasking priorities for defense agencies (DIA, NSA, NRO, etc) - the DNI or the Secretary of Defense? Based on the DoD press release announcing this new position, SecDef Bob Gates appears to envision this as an equal, not subordinate function to overall U.S. intelligence activities, supposedly directed and coordinated by the DNI. And Gates has experienced the pros and cons of a dual-hatted DCI and CIA director himself. So much for ONE intelligence Czar!

Perhaps more details will emerge soon and make this all appear more logical.

This initial perspective is based on the DoD news release of 24 May 2007 and intentionally without the benefits of any media "wisdom" on this issue.