The major reason for the nation to mandate reform of the Intelligence Community is that for many years it has not performed well. The reason is not the demise of the Soviet regime. Taxpayers have not been and are not getting their money's worth from this part of government. And, if history is the good guide it usually is, some people in uniform will pay heavy prices in blood one day for the errors of the Intelligence Community and its elected masters in the Executive Branch and overseers in Congress unless major reforms are promulgated soon. The ravages of years of bad leadership will take years to undo under the best of circumstances.
Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture
The strengths and weaknesses of intelligence agencies have major cultural components. Just as there are corporate cultures that financial and business management pundits say contributed in recent years to corporate successes (like Microsoft) and failures (like IBM and Digital Equipment in the early 1990s before more recent recoveries), so intelligence agencies' cultures are behind many of the problems plaguing intelligence in the mid-1990s. These cultures in some cases were created with greater or lesser degrees of pre-meditation by specific individuals. The president and Congress must understand the culture--the disease--before they can prescribe remedial medicine. Reorganizational band-aids will only briefly ameliorate symptoms. They must also understand the disease causing agents--the senior responsible executives--and remove them from the organs of intelligence agencies to prevent reinfection. Former DCI Woolsey said culture was a problem at CIA--the first DCI to do so--but he showed little understanding of it and its manifestations other than those related to the Ames episode. He also did little to change it before his departure. DCI John Deutch noted the importance of changing the culture of the DO in the remarks he prepared for his confirmation hearing (37). He also said after his confirmation that he did not contemplate a "bloodletting (38)."
The Congress and the Commission cannot micro-manage the agencies or make many personnel decisions, but they can clearly identify problems and note areas that require strong remedial action by the president and the DCI. The Congress can make clear that significant improvement in areas of leadership and accountability will play roles in funding decisions for intelligence and administration priorities; that should get the president's attention.
The cultural problems at CIA are severe, and arguably are more serious than elsewhere in the Intelligence Community. Because of the critical roles that CIA performs and the severity of its troubles, CIA should receive the bulk--but not all--of reformers' attention to the dysfunctional aspects of the culture of intelligence.
CIA's Directorate of Operations
The culture in CIA's Directorate of Operations (DO) contains a streak of independence and contempt of accountability has become so strong that radical changes are needed to restore it to status of team player in the Intelligence Community. Perhaps only the United States Navy rivals it as an organization that collectively considers its interests to supercede those of the nation as a whole. A senior Congressional intelligence committee staff member told me in 1991 that the DO is the worst organization in the Intelligence Community at representing its interests on the Hill because it transparently regards Congressional personnel as targets to be recruited. In early 1995, senior DO managers directed their people to try to influence Capitol Hill, through "personal ties" or "working relationships."(39) While the DO claimed its effort was educational, David Holliday, special Assistant to SSCI Chairman Senator David Boren in 1986-91, called the effort "lobbying" and current SSCI Chairman Senator Arlen Specter said:
The C.I.A.'s directorate of operations [sic] would be better advised to improve its reputation and standing by real performance, instead of attempting to rely on factors like personal, school or family ties (40).
Lobbying is in fact an established CIA institution. Indeed, in its extreme forms it might be considered domestic covert action--which is illegal. In 1991, CIA spokesman Peter Earnest called DCI-designate Robert Gates "uniquely qualified," and said "we need him." (41) The Agency reportedly also regularly briefs the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) on issues it wants brought to public attention, and has financial and personnel exchange ties with ostensibly independent groups through which it tries to curry favor and good publicity. These organizations include universities, "think tanks," and the print media, at least. CIA also regularly provides press briefings that contain spin as well as fact (42). Reformers should examine these activities--including their costs, goals, and connections--and recommend procedural or legislative remedies as needed.
The DO jealously guards its information holdings, including those that could be of use to the analytic community. At the same time, in the late 1980s at least, it provided some of this data directly to portions of the policy community because it believed CIA's Office of Soviet Analysis and Office of European Analysis were distorting the contents of its reports to satisfy the ideological views of the offices (43). The offices then were headed by Doug MacEachen and George Kolt, respectively. However reasonable the DO's concerns about politicization were in this case, freelancing of this sort is not appropriate.
The DO often treats its people miserably. I believe this reflects in part a contamination of its own personnel management system by the outlook of an organization devoted to manipulating and using people. This treatment of people generally probably accounts for part of what in 1994 broke into the public domain as a lawsuit alleging sex discrimination by a female former station chief; CIA settled that case in December 1994 with a $410,000 payment to Jeanine Brookner (44). CIA in March 1995 settled another suit involving over 250 other women case officers for nearly $1 million and 25 retroactive promotions (45). But by June, the agreement was on the verge of falling apart as some of the plaintiffs decided they were unhappy with terms of the settlement (46).
Some DO people believe it was miserable internal treatment of Edward Lee Howard that drove him to work for the Soviets after he left CIA--and that senior DO officers fabricated Howard's alleged character flaws after they alienated him. The alleged problems of Aldrich Ames fit the pattern, despite the apparently rigorous investigation of Ames by Inspector General Hitz and the Congressional oversight committees (47). Some senior DO officers, such as former Soviet/Eastern Europe (SE) Division chief Burt Gerber, were involved in both cases.
The DO continues to treat its people poorly--in ways that hurt efficiency and damage already poor morale. In early 1995, despite plenty of warning about impending budget cuts, the DO was recalling case officers in mid-tour and simply telling them, in essence, to cruise the hallways to find a new job. There will not be jobs for everyone, however. Woolsey in mid-1994 said 700 case officers would be cut from a staffing level The New York Times reported in early 1995 to be 6,000 (48). Operations work can be tough, but it need not be made more difficult by poor leadership. The entire DO personnel system warrants evaluation and reform.
Sometimes outside forces cause internal problems. Congress and President Ronald Reagan forced the DO to make a decision that was highly damaging to the whole culture of CIA during the very public and therefore misnamed Nicaraguan Contra "covert" action. As is well known, Reagan directed CIA to support the Contras in their quest to overthrow the Sandinista regime. At the same time, Congressional Democrats opposed the action. The DO's Latin America division and other DO components thus faced contradictory objectives: to fulfill the president's directive; and, to satisfy its normal mission of providing accurate intelligence information to the analytic community.
The conflict arose because satisfaction of the second mission meant providing information to Congressional critics--through the DI and its publications that went to the Congress--that could be used to thwart the first. The DO resolved the conflict by "cooking" its submissions to the DI's Office of African and Latin American Analysis. It was abetted by senior DI officials. ALA analysts' eventual discovery of the deception caused major unhappiness--at both the DO and their own leaders--and a major flight of analysts out of ALA and into other DI offices in the mid-1980s.
The episode is another reason not to conduct public "covert actions." The DO will not refuse to conduct such operations. Congress and presidents thus need greater understanding of the implications of putting CIA in internally contradictory positions.
CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology
The Directorate of Science and Technology (DS&T) has its own set of problems, particularly in the area of personnel management. In early 1995, an employee rated as a middle-level performer received separate visits from two division chiefs who asked her how she was coming on her search for a new job. Alarmed, she went to her own deputy group chief with a point blank question: do I have a job? The manager responded "no." There had been a cutback in authorized strength and a refocus of mission; her skills were no longer wanted. She should look for another job within the Agency. Once again CIA middle managers showed abysmal leadership traits. The woman received no notification, except through the grapevine, and no help in securing a new position. She, like others, was left insecure, preoccupied by job security rather than performing a job, and unhappy by her treatment. It is a wonder that morale is not worse.
The DS&T operates against managers in somewhat different ways. In 1994, a deputy division chief discovered that senior management had filled out paperwork in her name for an application to a rotational assignment to another agency. This manager learned of the move soon enough to retract the "application." In early 1995, a division chief was not so lucky. He was involuntarily reassigned to an assignment that was not to begin until September 1995. He lost his division and had nothing to do for seven months. In response--in a variant of the children's story about the emperor's new clothes--he continued to pretend that he was a real division chief.
CIA's Directorate of Intelligence
CIA's analysis directorate has become so dysfunctional that massive changes are needed. These reflect problems of leadership, management, ethics, integrity, and even the notion of what the DI's mission is. While many fine DI people often do very good work, their efforts have been overshadowed by the problems. Nothing less than thorough institutional change is required. The problems are so deeply ingrained that change will come slowly even if DCI Deutch acts vigorously.
Change in the DI is critical because it has the largest and, in aggregate, finest analytic capabilities in the Intelligence Community, as well as the broadest range of responsibilities and consumers. Analysis organizations filter and evaluate raw intelligence information for consumers. Thus, the overall performance of intelligence depends critically on good analysis. CIA has the largest, most diverse, and arguably best analytic unit in the whole Community--despite its many problems.
Lack of leadership. Most importantly, the DI lacks leadership. The word "leadership" itself is rarely used. The principles of leadership that military people learn in their basic courses are absent for the most part from the DI's executive suites. There is no commonly recognized sense of integrity--either at individual levels or organizationally. Loyalty is uni-dimensional--upward--and heavily oriented towards individuals. Thus, the finding and cultivation of mentors is critical to career "success."
Altered de facto mission. In the 1980s, the DI's de facto mission changed from national service to the advancement of the interests of the organization and its senior officers. While all senior officers of the last decade have denied and presumably will continue to deny this accusation, DI employees widely believe it to be true. So do many consumers.
Perverse incentive system. To further the altered mission of the DI, senior managers changed the personnel system. Loyalty to individuals assumed a much greater role. Attention to intellectual orthodoxy established in offices like the Office of Soviet Analysis became much more important. Those who bucked the prevailing opinions of senior managers, particularly the office directors, learned that they could expect their careers to be ruined. Those who adapted to the new rules, in contrast, experienced often meteoric rises. Many of these "team players" now occupy senior positions in the DI, the Community Management Staff, the National Intelligence Council (NIC), and throughout CIA generally. They remain significant obstacles to genuine reform and improvement in the performance of U.S. intelligence.
Origin of the mess. The most serious institutional problems of the DI began in the early 1980s, shortly after Robert Gates became Deputy Director for Intelligence (DDI). Gates had heard policymakers' complaints about CIA during his tour on the National Security Council Staff in the late 1970s and determined to make changes in DI practices, procedures, and products. In a blunt speech to the DI in January 1982, he outlined the DI's shortcomings and announced a series of changes designed to improve performance (49).
However well intended these changes were, they quickly degenerated into serious problems. Some of the better initiatives--like mandating quick review of analysts' papers--were just ignored by managers. Others were altered in ways that impeded efficiency or allowed senior managers to enforce their analytic opinions through the personnel system. By the late 1980s, Gates' "reforms" had become institutionalized into a new analytic paradigm of tailoring analysis to gain personal and institutional kudos--one that DCIs Casey, Webster, Gates, and Woosley showed no inclination to alter. The decade of growing internal troubles finally broke into the public domain at Gates' 1991 confirmation hearings; dozens of current and former DI people rose to oppose Gates and he felt obliged to note many mistakes in a eight-point mea culpa (50).
Nevertheless, with few exceptions, senior management continues to refuse to accept that serious problems in the DI occurred. One of the exceptions is former DDI Doug MacEachen. While careful not to criticize Gates by name, MacEachen, who was pressed to defend Gates in 1991 against charges of politicization and did so with obvious nervousness, wrote in 1994 about how the Gatesian process of reviewing analysts draft papers and making them into CIA products (the "review process") worked in practice in the 1980s:
Similarly, the complex system of reviewing products was arguably an appropriate tool used by management to impose accountability and greater rigor on the products. Yet, the way that these factors came together should make all of us who were in the DI through it all find some sympathy with the Alec Guiness character in The Bridge On the River Kwai (51).
There is a small but growing literature on the causes and internal effects of these problems (52). I thus will not repeat the history here. Prospective reformers need to be sure they understand the problems before they make reform recommendations.
Reformers should also read a book by Sam Adams called War of Numbers (53). Adams, who left CIA in 1973 after 10 years as an analyst, wrote a critique of the agency based mainly on his unhappiness about intelligence assessments, including those of CIA, of Viet Cong troop strength numbers in the late 1960s. Yet for all of his venom directed against CIA and DCI Richard Helms, Adams portrayed an analytic culture open to discussion and at least moderately encouraging of controversy. The culture Adams vilified was one remarkably open by the standards of 1995--and one that most DI analysts would be very happy to have.
The point bears repetition. Institutional, cultural troubles are heavily at the root of performance complaints about CIA. Any reform effort must understand and address these systemic troubles if "reform" is to have any serious chance of success. Even with a vigorous effort, the challenge of reversing over a decade of institutional shortcomings is enormous--and not certain. It must overcome the opposition of the decade's worth of personnel decisions that have enshrined partisans of the new paradigm throughout management. And it must overcome the opposition, spin, and outright falsification of former intelligence officials who helped create or preserve the mess and are defending their personal reputations.
Identify Responsible Individuals. It is essential that the persons responsible for the ethical, management, and leadership problems at CIA be identified and removed from positions of authority. Some should be punished and a substantial number should be fired. This is an extreme proposal for a federal government agency, but nothing less is essential if CIA is to regain effectiveness and the confidence of policymakers and its own employees. Given the legal attacks on the once-strong powers of DCIs to terminate individuals' employment, special legislation may be desirable to give the DCI short duration powers to fire or force early or involuntary retirement for the many Senior Executive Service (known at CIA as Senior Intelligence Service, or SIS) and GS-15 personnel who must go before real change can occur. A modest variant of the State Department and military officers' "up-or-out" policy is an option for managers, at least.
Barring outright dismissal and the legal messiness that firings might generate, a second-best solution is transfer to innocuous positions physically far from centers of organizational power. CIA has need of receptionists, loading dock personnel, physical security guards, and motor pool stock clerks, for example. Care should be taken, however, not to denigrate the service of regular employees in these areas who do good, respectable work.
The removed and punished individuals should be internally publicly identified. That is, CIA people should know who was removed for cause, and why, even if security or other concerns preclude disclosure of the names to the press. Such internally "public" statements of accountability are essential if any responsible executive, particularly the DCI and president, is to claim any improvement is ethical performance and persuade by now demoralized and skeptical CIA employees that its leaders mean real reform.
CIA will continue to resist calls for such accountability. Tradition has it that senior miscreants are not held accountable for misdeeds. Tradition has it that ascension to managerial ranks means that failure to perform adequately simply means a transfer, not punishment. DCI Gates appointed many of the current managerial problems. He selected for promotion many senior DI managers when he was Deputy Director for Intelligence in 1982-86. DCI Woolsey, despite the revelation of the 1991 Gates hearings, accepted both Gates' appointees and the tradition of minimal senior executive accountability his own discredit during the Aldrich Ames investigation in 1994. Woolsey's acceptance of this part of CIA's culture contributed to his own downfall by alienating many members of Congress.
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has abided by the tradition of non-accountability for years as well. Deputy Inspector General Americo Cinquegrana told me in 1991 that Inspector General Frederick P. Hitz's office would hold no "public hangings" to punish anyone. Further, he confirmed that the OIG would conduct all inquiries to legal standards of investigations. Thus, "proof" was needed to indicate a problem. By maintaining such rigorous standards, the OIG effectively abdicated the traditional role of an inspector general to monitor the general effectiveness of the whole organization and to recommend remedial action when problems became evident. But this decision was not new. Inspectors general had been very ineffective for years (54).
Hitz may never have intended any new performance-related role. According to a DI analyst, word passed through the one DI office's chain of command shortly after Hitz took office in late 1990 that he had told senior DI managers that he wanted a cooperative relationship with them--instantly recognizable code language for a variant of "don't worry, I'm not a threat." Business at usual would continue.
The extent to which Hitz and his office are regarded as irrelevant--or part of the problem--is demonstrated by the OIG's own survey of employee perceptions of CIA's grievance mechanism published in 1992:
The perception that the grievance system favors management surfaced in a substantial number of interviews, according to the inspection team's report to the DCI. Coupled with the perception of bias was a strong dose of fear. The team's report noted that "the eleventh but unspoken commandmant in this Agency is 'thou shalt not whine.' As an organization of doers, employees are loathe to use a grievance system to redress a wrong." (55)
The team's random survey vividly reflected fears and concerns about using the system. It showed that 41 percent of the employees who were aware of the Agency's grievance system had at least one complaint they thought would qualify for grievance action, but that four out of five never took the complaint to a grievance officer (emphasis added).
Reflecting the fear of employees, an economist in the Office of Resources, Trade and Technology--then headed by Rick Stakem--told me in 1990 the DI analyst corps was a bunch of "sacred rabbits." He included himself in that characterization. It should be obvious that fearful employees who believe their bosses are biased are not adventuresome, productive employees. This OIG admission is a powerful indictment of both CIA managers and the Office of the Inspector General.
Even the accused sometimes lament the lack of OIG-imposed accountability that remains an established tradition for senior officers. Then ACIS-chief Douglas MacEachen--a recurrent object of internal criticism and complaint who DCI Woolsey promoted to DDI in 1993--told the SSCI at Robert Gates' 1991 DCI confirmation hearings:
But it's right out of Franz Kafka. Because once you are accused, the Inspector General will never come back and say you're absolved. You will never be definitely acquitted. They will say we found no evidence to substantiate it. Charged but not indicted. Ostensibly acquitted. (56)
Hitz's persistent unwillingness to seriously address management problems--an apparently decent report on the Ames affair notwithstanding--and his concomitant chronic willingness to condone management problems through inaction, has destroyed his credibility as a defender of either CIA personnel or the Agency's integrity. He should be relieved.
Magnitude of the Problem
CIA in early 1995 is in turmoil. Roiled by internal genetic rivalries, external attacks on its mission and budget, and plagued by poor leadership, the agency is adrift. It has a palpable malaise. The unhappiness level of employees well into management ranks is very high. Senior officers are floundering as well. In a rare admission of inadequacy, Executive Director Leo Hazlewood in early 1995 told senior DS&T people that the seventh floor was paralyzed and that their offices should do things that make sense on their own--without senior level permission. While this mess presumably was due in part to the exit of DCI Woolsey and the lack of a permanent DCI, it also reflects the existence of a corps of senior officers so devoid of real leadership skills that it is largely incapable of independent creative action. This lack of leadership is a direct result of the now-common practice--accelerated if not started by Robert Gates--of promoting people adept at sycophancy. With a president reportedly content to get his "intelligence" from CNN, and NSC and White House staffers adroit at keeping the DCI off the president's calendar, there was no one left to pander to. The servants who cloned themselves into the dominant class group of managers had no one to follow. So they, too, floundered.
CIA's problem managers have prospered for so long that they are ubiquitous in senior executive suites and common throughout middle management as well. In the DI, virtually all office directors and deputy office directors should be removed, division chiefs should be thoroughly examined for ethical taint, and some branch chiefs should be removed. The upheaval would be considerable, but it would be relatively short-lived. Some temporary disruption is far preferable to the ongoing malaise that has plagued the DI for a decade.
The other directorates have serious management problems as well, and should have significant turnover. So should the National Intelligence Council. The total number of individuals removed for cause probably should eventually number in the low hundreds. Surgical removal of any fewer will not eliminate the core of the ethical cancer that is eating away CIA--and it would not indicate a serious effort to eliminate management problems. I believe the disease analogy to be a good one to use in the context of CIA culture. Indeed, "cancer" is the word Senator Ernest Hollings used in 1991 to describe CIA's troubles (57).
Identification of these problem managers would be easy for a dedicated group of Congressional or Commission investigators. Despite its reluctance to act, the Office of the Inspector General for years has received volumes of data on troubles through its own "investigations" and employees' complaints directly to it. The files presumably still exist. Random interviews with Agency employees quickly would put investigators on the trails of many miserable managers. Former employees can identify many of the problems without fear of retribution. The establishment of an investigatory staff that could gain the confidence of employees--that is, they would trust its objectivity and the promise that there would not be retribution for contacting the group--would elicit large numbers of complainants. A listing of names and incidents is beyond the scope of this monograph.
It is difficult to overemphasize the extent of unhappiness of CIA employees about their management. The symptoms are legion. In just one manifestation, CIA people are talking to the press in unprecedented numbers, reflecting an evident hope that the Congress will note their frustrations and act further pressure the administration to act competently and decisively. Talking to The Washington Post in early 1995 after Woolsey's resignation, one middle manager put the wide-spread view succinctly; the person said the new director "has to come in with his own team and wipe out the whole top layer." (58) Other internal critics the Post talked with agreed. This view is common among CIA people.
But if there is a purge of senior officials, who will take their places? There are many good people still at CIA who could be elevated to take over vacated executive positions. There also is good reason to bring in a large number of capable leaders from outside the Intelligence Community--with or without intelligence experience. A new senior managerial corps is needed to shake up the established culture. The job will be easier if at least a fair number have no IOUs to pay, friends to protect, or recent heritage to defend.
Other Agencies' Problems
Other intelligence agencies have cultural problems as well. Some are internally dysfunctional. Some translate into overt inter-agency competition that is debilitating to the overall mission of the Intelligence Community.
At the National Security Agency (NSA), for example, bureaucratization has broken into open conflict with CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology. Competition in the areas of functional overlap have crippled cooperation and led, I understand, to significant waste of resources as well.
Perhaps no better tangible example of venal bureaucratic rivalry exists than a poster widely displayed on walls of the National Security Agency's headquarters complex at Ft. Meade, Maryland in early 1995. The 17 inch by 22 inch color poster features a frontal photo of Aldrich Ames in manacles (on the right) with (on the left) a quotation of a Russian intelligence officer: "There are friendly states, but no friendly intelligence services." (59) The poster is so transparently anti-CIA--it features Ames and not any of the several NSA personnel convicted of working for the Soviet Union--that some embarrassed NSA personnel apologized to visiting CIA people who saw it.
At DIA and the military services, there is an element anti-CIA feeling that probably reflects portions of jealousy, lack of understanding, turf consciousness, and animosity toward civilians doing national security work. At the same time, in my experience, most uniformed personnel have little understanding of CIA's capabilities. If anything, the military's view of INR is even more negative--for even less reason.
In the security realm, the conflict between CIA and the FBI is legendary. It goes back years, and has major cultural elements. CIA is mainly "offensively" oriented --that is, toward the recruitment of agents and the gathering of information--while the FBI is mainly "defensively" focused. The mind sets of the functions are very different.
While the details of stories vary and individuals have different perceptions of the root causes of the strife, there is an element of constancy in the anecdotes. Intelligence agencies with different mandates, structures, and cultures fight each other and damage the collective intelligence effort. The nation should be outraged at the inefficiency of this organization and the often small-mindedness of the Intelligence Community's leaders.
Outside Pressure Essential
Presidential, Congressional and public pressure is critical to ensure that these inefficiencies are minimized. Congressional and public scrutiny now is especially important as the Clinton Administration continues to flail in its intelligence policy. President Clinton, National Security Advisor Anthony Lake, Deputy NSC chief Sandy Berger, and former DCI Woolsey all seemingly have failed to understand the nature of the problem or the importance of its solution. In any case, they rather clearly allowed American intelligence to wallow for the first two years of the Clinton Administration.
New DCI John Deutch initially showed greater understanding of the Intelligence Community's internal problems and said at his confirmation hearing that "[s]ignificant change is needed in the intelligence community."(60) This is a good start. But more popular, Commission, and Congressional pressure--as well as better general understanding of the Intelligence Community--is needed to prevent more of what Senator Arlen Specter, chairman of the SSCI, aptly called intelligence "mumbo jumbo" coming from the White House (61).