Monday, September 15, 2008

McCain Adviser: Intelligence Community is Bloated

John Lehman, Secretary of the Navy under President Reagan who is now advising John McCain, said the intelligence community is bloated. He spoke at a conference last week sponsored by the National Defense Industrial Association ("New Directions in Homeland Security").

Lehman said he would rather receive a briefing from the New York Police Department intelligence unit than the CIA. Things are worse than at 9/11 in terms of producing usable intelligence for the president.

Lehman's comments come on the heels of McCain's plans for a "New OSS" that would take risks and cut through the bureaucracy that hampers the intell community today.

A New OSS would require its own bureaucracy, so to accomplish the objective of reducing IC bureacracy, something would have to leave--perhaps a chunk of the CIA.

I hear no one saying the Intelligence Community is good as is. Nobody says, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Everyone agrees there are problems, including Rachana Bhowmik, an Obama adviser, who spoke along with Lehman, and wondered about the role of intelligence within the Department of Homeland Security.

Can the "bloated" intell community be reformed without suffering the same problems we saw during the Clinton years? A lot of talk and some effort was made in revamping intelligence after 9/11, but success is a long way off.

In today's Wall Street Journal, L. Gordon Crovitz laments that "intelligence agencies stockpile silos of unshared data in a large bureaucratic structure more suited to a predigital age." Fewer than a third of the FBI's security branch agents have the internet on their desktops! "Washington has build a massive, unwieldy intelligence structure" at the Office of the Director of National Security.

The solution? A New OSS? Perhaps. No one doubts we need new ideas. New leadership? Or a revamped organizational structure that makes it difficult if not impossible for turf wars and bureaucracy to hamper the fight against our enemies? The destination is a known quantity; the path that leads there, uncertain.

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