What's now becoming apparent, following the sudden ouster of CIA
Director Porter Goss, is that similar injections of politics,
bureaucracy and cronyism have damaged U.S. intelligence capabilities.
In 2004, George W. Bush's anger over perceived disloyalty within the
U.S. intelligence community led him to install Goss and a team of
political enforcers who then ripped apart the CIA in a search for an
anti-Bush "cabal." The "cabal" presumably consisted of CIA officers and
analysts who had correctly challenged White House certainty about Iraq's
weapons of mass destruction. [See Consortiumnews.com's "The
CIA, a Bush Family Fiefdom."]
In this guest essay, Ivan Eland of the Independent Institute
looks at this crisis in U.S. intelligence from another perspective, the
ill-conceived idea that the way to streamline the U.S. intelligence
community was to add another layer of bureaucracy:
The failure to detect the 9/11 terrorist plot largely stemmed from
the improper coordination among U.S. intelligence agencies. Responding
to the 9/11 Commission report and the public pressure associated with
it, the Bush administration accepted the commission’s recommendation to
create a new office of Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to
coordinate the cacophony of 15 intelligence agencies, but gave the new
position ambiguous control over intelligence personnel and agency
intelligence budgets—what I then called a hybrid solution.
On Sept. 27, 2004, I wrote a piece entitled, “More Bureaucracy, Less
National Security,” which warned that “the administration’s hybrid
solution—giving us more bureaucracy without much more coordination—is
the worst of all worlds and will decrease America’s security rather than
The piece also cautioned that “while adding another layer of
bureaucracy to exacerbate the original coordination problem, the
administration essentially supports replacing one bureaucratic eunuch
[the Director or Central Intelligence, who was the former titular head
of the 15 intelligence agencies] with another.”
Unfortunately, recent developments in DNI John Negroponte’s quest to
tame the intelligence community have proven my prediction to be
correct. In an April 21, 2006, column in the Washington Post entitled,
“Fix the Intelligence Mess,” David Ignatius noted that “a reorganization
that was supposed to bring greater coordination has instead produced a
layering of responsibilities and bureaucratic confusion.” He added that
“the intelligence reorganization isn’t working. . . . It hasn’t
succeeded in coordinating the various agencies. . . . ”
Ignatius quotes Richard A. Posner, a conservative intelligence
expert, as lamenting, “the reorganization reshuffled rather than
augmented the nation’s federal intelligence personnel.” Posner also said
that the DNI “has become a new bureaucracy layered on top of the
intelligence community, a new agency on top of the 15 or more previously
What a surprise! This wasn’t predictable at the time that Congress
passed the reorganization into law?
As I noted in my previous piece before the legislation was passed,
pressure to “do something” after a crisis leads to reshuffling boxes on
government organizational charts, which usually means an expansion of
government. According to the Washington Post’s national security
reporter Walter Pincus, this reorganization is no exception.
Negroponte’s staff is a whopping 1,539 people just to manage the
hordes of intelligence personnel in the other 15 agencies, roughly
double what was anticipated. Pincus adds that Negroponte’s budget to
manage these people is about $1 billion—a five-fold increase over what
was spent on managing the intelligence community before the
How was the fight against small, agile terrorist groups helped by
piling these added levels of management on top of existing layers of
administration in the huge and stodgy intelligence agencies? Now there
are even two centers in the U.S. government to fight terrorism—the CIA’s
Counterterrorist Center and the DNI’s National Counterterrorism
Center. And exactly how does creating duplicative offices and added
administrative layers improve coordination?
In short, the failed intelligence reorganization needs reorganizing.
As I said in 2004, the 15—now 16—intelligence agencies should each be
streamlined and then consolidated into fewer agencies. As the disputes
over aspects of the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction issue illustrate,
more than one opinion can be a good thing if the policymakers listen to
dissenting agencies (which the Bush administration didn’t); but 16
opinions is overkill.
The re-reorganization should start by drastically slimming down
Negroponte’s new office, which has become a bureaucratic morass in a
very short time. To counter nimble terrorists and better its general
performance—which has recently been abysmal—the bloated U.S.
intelligence community needs to go on a diet.
Ivan Eland is a Senior Fellow at The Independent Institute,
Director of the Institute’s
Center on Peace &
Liberty, and author of the books
The Empire Has No Clothes, and
Putting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy.