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Restructuring Intelligence Services

II  Proposed Intelligence Structures

The following figures show a proposed structure for organizing intelligence activities. These are high-level representations which assume most of the existing low-level structure — the CIA, the NSA, various military agencies, etc. — remain in place and are simply tasked through the higher-level structure.

This assumption holds for two reasons: First, it minimizes the bureaucratic inertia which would resist any changes that threatened turf or resulted in low-level organizational upheaval; second it alleviates the legitimate concerns that a highly centralized intelligence structure would ill-serve the low-level operational needs of various organizations that now maintain their own intelligence infrastructures to support their own missions — the military intelligence needs of the various military services, the intelligence support for covert ops required by the CIA, and so on.

The use of multiple agencies with overlapping capabilities and responsibilities also ensures some redundancy in the intelligence system, which decreases the likelihood of institutional tunnel-vision and increases the possibility for second opinions and contrary analyses; it is, of course, also somewhat inefficient in its duplication of resources, but this is a reasonable cost if the benefits can actually be extracted.

But while the existence of multiple overlapping agencies offers some clear advantages, it is easy to miss those advantages if their activities and viewpoints become parochial or if their competition for resources and responsibility/authority leads to the development of superlative political skills rather than superlative intelligence performance. Thus the proposed structural enhancements are designed specifically to address those possibilities.

It is worth noting that the proposed structure is not all that different from the current one. It does separate the role of the director of all intelligence activities from that of the director for the CIA, and it proposes creating a structure for domestic intelligence coordination equivalent to that for foreign intelligence coordination (and maintains a strict separation between foreign and domestic intelligence operations in deference to legitimate concerns about civil liberties and a free and open society). It also specifies a restructuring and augmentation of analytical capabilities.

All that, of course, assumes that, with the new control structure, comes an improvement in the management of information up and down the chain — without that, all other reforms are largely window-dressing. In particular, the new and restructured analytical agencies are specifically tasked with identifying connections and synergies, and must have access to as much intelligence, properly categorized and assessed for reliability, as possible; and, in particular, to support independent assessment, data fusion, and data mining the top-level analytical agencies should have access to raw intelligence as well as to lower-level analyses.

Note that the new director for all intelligence activities operates from within the NSC but has operational rather than policy responsibility (and a certain immunity from political interference). This allows him to function at the policy/operations interface and independent of any particular operational agency. As a result he is in a position to assess the relative performance and effectiveness of the various operational agencies in a non-political way and in light of the strategic intelligence needs of policy makers. In particular, under the current system, that inter-agency assessment can only come from the policy-makers themselves and must, therefore, take place within a highly political environment. The new director does not have direct line or budgetary authority — those are retained with the existing agencies and their controlling cabinet secretaries to preserve the benefits of multiple independent but overlapping agencies — but the new director does set overall strategy, propose general resource allocations to both the President and the Congress, and provide an assessment to the President and the Congress of agency effectiveness.

Note also that the new middle layer — immediately below the new director for all intelligence activities (eg. the FRO) — is an attempt to clean up some of the “left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing” problems that result from having multiple intelligence agencies with overlapping responsibilities. This is a coordination and tasking layer, with neither policy nor operating responsibilities. It is there to provide some small group of people with the specific and solitary responsibility for tracking the “big picture” across the disparate intelligence resources and assessing how they are doing. We should expect that those offices operate in close coordination with each other to integrate the intelligence functions smoothly. Since this layer is organized around operational specialties — e.g. “Reconnaissance” and “Espionage” and “Operations” — it also means that there is a single office, separate from the agencies themselves, that can determine optimal tasking for intelligence activities within those specialties and provide independent assessment of how the various agencies perform those particular specialties.

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