Many efforts are currently underway to reform and streamline the federal government. Few parts are better candidates for reform than the multi-billion dollar agencies that make up the intelligence community. With aggressive growth but no master plan for several decades, the intelligence community has become a bloated, poorly-managed bureaucracy whose mission has yet to be redefined for the post-Cold War world.
The Intelligence Community. Intelligence is information on foreign events, intentions, capabilities, and personalities that could affect our security. The Pentagon uses intelligence to design weapons, make deployment decisions, and fight wars. The President and other foreign policy officials use intelligence to prepare for negotiations and predict foreign developments that could threaten U.S. interests.
Thirteen civilian and military agencies--not just the CIA--collect and analyze intelligence. Each of our four military services has its own intelligence unit, and the Pentagon has another. U.S. intelligence agencies employ tens of thousands of people and produce dozens of different daily or weekly reports.
Need for Reform. The U.S. needs an intelligence community that gives government officials information that is accurate, relevant, timely, and cost efficient. To meet that challenge in a world far different from the one for which it was created, the intelligence community will require a new mission and substantial organizational change.
From the end of World War II until the early 1990s, U.S. intelligence had one overriding objective: winning the Cold War. By the end of the Cold War, roughly half of all intelligence resources were focused on Soviet bloc military forces. The world has changed dramatically in the past few years, but the mission of U.S. intelligence has been slow to adjust.
Winning the Cold War was so important an objective that almost any intelligence expenditure could be justified. Intelligence programs and spending grew steadily. The number of CIA employees nearly doubled during the 1980s alone.
Our massive intelligence bureaucracy is not well-coordinated. It is a ship without a captain. Agencies often needlessly cover the same topic, wasting money. Sometimes agencies fail to collaborate effectively. That generates intelligence that is lower in quality and less timely than our national security demands.
What Should Be Done? With the President's backing, John Deutch, the incoming director of the CIA, has promised dramatic reforms in U.S. intelligence. The intelligence community is also being carefully examined by a bipartisan commission established by law last year. Several key reforms are needed.
First, we need to redefine the mission of U.S. intelligence--to decide what we want our intelligence agencies to focus on, and in what order of priority. Nearly everyone agrees that intelligence on weapons proliferation, terrorism, and regional wars should be the highest priority after the Cold War. But some officials also want U.S. intelligence agencies to monitor economic, environmental, and other non-military developments. The lack of consensus has permitted the number of intelligence targets to grow in recent years. That complicates coordination and risks spreading resources too thin.
Second, once we have figured out what our intelligence community needs to focus on, we must decide what combination of agencies and resources it needs to do the job. For example, paramilitary covert action should be assigned to the Department of Defense. To ensure that we get all the intelligence we need at a price we can afford, we should subject the intelligence community to a top-to-bottom management review. We must eliminate redundant programs and improve coordination. In general, the intelligence community should be smaller and more focussed on the central issues of national security.
Third, since effective management will require stronger leadership, we should create a new post, the Director of National Intelligence, with authority over key appointments and the entire intelligence budget, which the head of the CIA now lacks. The Director should be in charge of the intelligence community. Our current management system is a recipe for inefficiency. No one person is in charge of the thirteen intelligence agencies.
Fourth, we need to address the politicization of intelligence. Policy officials sometimes misuse intelligence to promote favored policies, and intelligence officials sometimes tell policy makers what they think they want to hear. President Clinton's decision to make the new CIA director a member of his cabinet threatens the necessary separation between intelligence and policy, and should be reconsidered. The CIA director should not be a policy maker, and should scrupulously keep his assessments free of policy considerations.
Fifth, we need to improve counter-espionage efforts. The case of Aldrich Ames, the convicted CIA agent who spied for Russia without detection for nine years, highlighted stunning weaknesses in our counter-espionage system. Congress has approved legislation that makes it easier to monitor the personal lives and finances of intelligence employees, but additional steps may be necessary.
Finally, I have come to the view that fundamentally the culture of the CIA needs to be changed. Within the intelligence community today is an attitude that they know better than the policymakers--including the President and Congress--about what to do to protect national security. Decisive steps must be taken to ensure that intelligence officials are fully accountable to policymakers. The intelligence community must rigorously respect the law, move toward greater openness, and work closely and cooperatively with Congress.
Conclusion: The U.S. must engage the post-Cold War world with a smaller, better, more cost-efficient intelligence community. The challenges that bedevil us today require that our policymakers have the very best information upon which to make the decisions necessary to preserve the national security of the country.