Thanks for a well considered post.
By lumping the 15 members of the US Intelligence Community together under "agencies" you give the impression that there are 15 CIA- or FBI-sized organizations. That is incorrect. The size of the organizations varies greatly.
Very true, but in some ways it is the small ones that are more troubling at times. The Department of Energy had intelligence people working on Iraq's nuclear capabilities who had serious doubts, for instance, about the aluminium tubes, and yellow cake stories. Had those people been part of the CIA their views would (hopefully) have been amalgamated into the CIA reports rather than appearing as separate reports from a smaller group to which little creedence was paid.
The question is, does every government department need its own intelligence division, working independently from everyone else, or is it more sensile to avoid that where possible. At the moment the US is slowly but surely growing toward the former.
While there is undobtably overlap and duplication and waste, you haven't explained how moving the boxes on the organizational chart will make the system less wasteful, more efficient, or generally better.
That is a valid question, and most certainly there will still be vast amounts of waste and duplication even if you draw it under one umbrella. Consider, however, the case above with the Department of Energy. The CIA reports are the ones to which serious attention is paid because they are the biggest agency. If you are farming out intelligence tasks elsewhere; and wasting specialists in small intelligence groups which are (accordingly) ignored; and failing to have such experts helping to give the fuller picture at the large agency: bad things can happen.
Another example might be the vast CIA/NSA clash of responsibility. The NSA is responsible for foreign signals intelligence, cryptology, etc. The CIA, wanting to spread its own wings has moved into these areas as well. The CIA is, unsurprisingly, comparatively very bad at it. eause they have their own groups doing such things, however, they don't pay much attention to the NSA. You now have the CIA, which performs active operations, acting on intelligence that is far from the best available.
How should the 15 members of the US IC be divided between the 3 agencies you advocate?
Good question. It doesn't really work if you try shifting people around. Part of the issue here is that the sort of reform I am discussing is not someting that can be achieved in any small time frame - it is rather a theoretical ideal that can only be slowly moved toward. Cosmetic change can occur quickly, real change often requires a long time.
Changing the organizational chart doesn't change the fact that someone ultimately has to decide yes or no on a particular problem. And people will always make mistakes.
No, it doesn't, and particularly with 9/11 I think a lot of the "blame" being parcelled out is a little misplaced. Eventually someone has to make a call, and that's all you can do. You simply cannot always see everything.
At the same time, it is worth remembering that intra-agency communication is almost always better, broader, and more efficient than inter-agency communication. Juggling the organizational chart won't make inefficiencies vanish, but it will help to significantly reduce them.
In short, it's my view that a more rational organizational chart would make sense. But there are real costs in implementing such changes and it's not at all clear, in the details, what the shape of such changes should be.
One of the costs, and the one that hampers any real change being inacted, is that a move towards a more rational stucture would have to be a low and gradual one, with a series of steady reforms over many many years. This is a cost to any politician wanting to inact it: it has no immediate obvious results that can be trumpeted.
I do agree that the costs of change are great, but that doesn't mean change (especially if undertaken gradually) is not worth pursuing.
[ Parent ]