Not unexpected though I would have thought he had a few more months. He was never in it for the long term, so victory cries from the old guard are misplaced and premature. Contrary to popular belief; an appointment isn’t the be-all, end-all job and leaving before your boss’s tenure is up is fairly common.
People thought it was his C/O experience that made him a good candidate for the job. Hardly. He was winding down career number three (give or take) and he harbored no illusions about pulling a Hoover. Money also wasn’t a factor: for what you have to put up with the money is c***. He was, to coin a character, The Man in the Yellow Hat, sent it to shake the trees and round up the s***-slinging primates. Curious specimens like McCarthy didn’t go willingly, and if you’ll recall she had predecessors who had the decency to go out per the DC decorum.
Compare and contrast the agency he is leaving with the one he took over. Some will say that people there are scared and that they’re shaking under the “chill wind” that is blowing through the halls. Nonsense. Most I know are breaking out the champagne. Why? They’ve sat there day after day, doing their thing, watching these mystery operators in the upper echelons pull rugs and chop off knees. They wonder in amazement that the perfectly serviceable assessment they sent up the food chain became this politicized (or worse: vanilla-ized) piece of clap-trap. They pull up your collar and slink away when they are in the presence of outsiders because all they talk about is leaks and scandals. Goss did his best to change all that. For a change the people used to giving people the business are getting it and the long suffering are smiling.
The President’s next move will be telling. I won’t speculate about who will take the reigns, but will point out some things to watch for:
- If it is someone from the old IC guard he is most likely going to squander the opportunity he’s been given. They’ll become a place-holder designed to maintain the status quo. If you think the changes made to date are sufficient, you can sleep easy.
- If it is someone almost entirely political (a’la ICE, FEMA, etc.) he is doing worse than squandering the opportunity, he is going to send things into a retrograde spin.
- If it is someone you’ve never heard of (unless you’re a geek about this stuff), he’s trying to make the most of the forward momentum.
Various outlets are reporting that a decision has already been made on a replacement, which is to be expected. Still, I’d be remiss if I didn’t make the most of this self-indulgent practice and offer some completely unsolicited advice:
(Point of clarification: All examples are realistic but notional)
- Somewhere on Wall Street or Main St. or Silicon Valley there is an executive who used to be in the business. He enjoyed his time but saw greener pastures and took advantage of an opportunity. He’s not a successful intelligence officer, he’s just plain successful. He didn’t get swamped by the .com wave, he rode it to the beach. He knows the issues, he sees the trends, he skates to where the puck will be.
- Somewhere in a military school of higher learning, there is an exceedingly bright field-grade officer who is working on the next concept that will make the OODA loop look like the Roman Tortoise. He is well trained, he is hard working, and he has plenty of office and field time under his belt. Under normal circumstances he’d squeeze out a few more years before realizing that the Services don’t promote geniuses. He’d end up doing his best work out of uniform, writing the books and papers that the next generation of warriors will hold up as tablets passed down from the mount.
- Somewhere out there is an IC critic. A veteran of the service, she rose up the ranks and knows where a body or two is buried. She is a critic but she is not political. She cares about what she did and those on the job. She’s seen her fair share of failures and would cut off a limb to see that they never happen again. She’s hanging out in a think tank or university or four-letter contractor, wishing there were more to this business than . . . well, wishing it would get better.