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“John” on IC Reform

“John Doe,” late of the CIA, sounds off with his ideas on how to shake things up (via Washington Times):

Why not reform the intelligence community to make core functions the centerpiece of a truly effective intelligence service? A small but efficient DNI office can manage the community and serve as the link to policy-makers. It can also be the commanding office which assures officers in the field and working analysts that there is someone in high office who supports them and takes ultimate responsibility for the service. Perhaps most importantly, it should be the birthplace for a new center of intelligence operations.

Worth a full read.

Pretty good ideas all, though his HUMINT roots expose a certain bias. There is nothing wrong with infiltration for example, except for the fact that it isn’t HUMINT. A common refrain in the business; if some thing X is sufficiently not something that has already been defined then it can’t be done. Fought those battles, got he scars. We have ample experience infiltrating and breaking up previously closed and notoriously violent sub-cultures, though doing so in this case requires that we share information, and who wants to do that? Having said that though, he is right in the sense that there are other ways gaining 90% of what you need to know without getting an AQ membership card. The question remains: can we live (literally and figuratively) without that 10%?

“John” is also one of the few who has talked about improving oversight by loosening our ties, so to speak. Today the process is an elaborately choreographed ballet; Members and their staffers get “the right” answers from “the right” people, not necessary “the” answers from the most appropriate people. Read about General Cartwright’s solution to that dilemma (it works, if roughly). If we’re going to be serious about oversight, one side deserves a frank response to its queries; the other deserves the right to speak frankly without fear of retribution.

Oh my word! He dares to call out admin and security! Bravo, sir, bravo! It isn’t that pushing papers isn’t an important job, it just isn’t THE job. Functionally there is no need for paper, yet that .01% of the job that requires paper can eat up 20% of your day. Security also serves an important purpose but check yourself before you wreck us all: keep the perimeter safe, keep out the obviously wrong types, and react swiftly when needed. You can’t read minds, see through walls, or leap tall buildings with a single bound.  Pretending you can makes us that much weaker.

I’m on board with pushing analysts to the pointy end, but I’m not on board with creating an analytical core-within-a-core (which is what I think he is suggesting). That’s just a little too 20th century for me. Blog the current, Wiki the Term and it won’t matter where your ass is relative to the impact you can have on any given mission. PCS-ing your way to a perfect mix of people on the ground is a non-starter for so many reasons.

Good stuff.

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji spent nearly 20 years in the US intelligence community. Trained in both SIGINT and HUMINT disciplines he has worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office. At various points in his career he served as an expert in information warfare, computer network operations, computer forensics, and indications and warning. A veteran of the US Army, Michael has served in both strategic and tactical assignments in the Pacific Theater, the Balkans, and the Middle East.