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August 2, 2004
Bush Adopts The Expanded Bureaucracy Approach

George Bush announced today that he will implement the key recommendation from the 9/11 Commission, creating a new national intelligence "czar" and layering two levels of management onto existing intelligence agencies. However, Bush plans to avoid having the new position placed in the White House in order to maintain more independence for the new organization:

President Bush said Monday he is asking Congress to create the position of a national intelligence director, to serve as the president's principal intelligence adviser. ... The national director of intelligence will report to the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Bush said.

The president also revealed plans to create a national counter-terrorism center. "This new center will ... become our government's knowledge bank for known and suspected terrorists," Bush said.

The reporting structure reverses that recommended by the 9/11 Commission if CNN has its information correct, which I suspect they do not. The commission's org structure for the new intelligence bureaucracy had the CIA director reporting to a deputy NID, who reported to the NID, who then becomes, as CNN says, the President's principal intelligence advisor. It seems odd to have the NID report to the DCI but then put the NID between the two.

In any case, the new structure maintains the existing alphabet soup of agencies that now exist, only funneling them through two levels of national oversight before intelligence flows to the President from a single source. In an election year, Bush probably could not afford to deviate far from the commission's recommendations, but I still think that this is a counterproductive move. It only opens up the White House (regardless of occupant) to charges of echo-chamber intelligence on any issue. I give Bush points for pushing the NID out of the White House to minimize it, but it still creates only a single point of reference for the President.

It's true that the new organization should allow for more information sharing and a more comprehensive look at the disparate threads of information that intelligence necessarily provides, although reforming and consoiolidating the agencies themselves would have done the same thing, and probably more effectively than sticking two more layers of management on top. The point is to move reform forward, and we're doing that pretty quickly, given the time frame from the delivery of the commission's report. It will be equally important to allow for flexibility to ensure that the structure can be changed as problems arise, rather than command slavish devotion to the recommendations as if they were handed down from Mt. Sinai.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 2, 2004 11:16 AM

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