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May 6, 2006
Hayden May Have Helped Goss Out The Door

According to news reports over the past day, it appears that Porter Goss got helped out the door rather than leaving on his own accord. According to CNN, General Michael Hayden will get the nod to replace Goss, but an article in the Los Angeles Times this morning says that Hayden and his boss, John Negroponte, had a critical role in creating the opening in the first place. Doyle McManus and Peter Spiegel report that Goss fell victim to efforts by Negroponte and Hayden to win a turf battle over the component intelligence agencies of the National Intelligence directorate:

After a little more than a year in his newly created job, John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, has won an initial battle to establish authority over the vast U.S. intelligence community — Porter J. Goss, who resisted Negroponte's moves to limit the autonomy of the CIA, is gone. ...

When Negroponte took office in April 2005, the veteran diplomat moved quickly to exert his authority over the CIA. He took over the job of giving President Bush his daily intelligence briefing, a task that once allowed CIA directors to bond with the presidents they served. He took a central role in briefing Congress on intelligence issues. He transferred some CIA officers to new joint intelligence centers. And when it appeared that Goss was not fully on board, officials said, Negroponte and his deputy, Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, quietly complained to the White House — apparently contributing to Goss' decision to resign Friday.

Hayden and Negroponte apparently did not want an independent agency reporting their own analysis and using their own people. Instead, Negroponte has stripped the agency of its best staff to join his ever-increasing bureaucracy at the directorate while marginalizing Goss by denying him access to the president. In some ways, this may not be a bad development; after all, one of the main problems in the intel community pre-9/11 was all the bureaucratic barriers between agencies, even those strictly in the civilian sector. If Negroponte wants to create a single agency with one management structure and realign the operational and intelligence units into one organization, that will solve those problems if properly done.

The problem thus far is the growth of the bureaucracy under Negroponte. These may consist of analysts, but creating these positions eats up resources that may be best used in the field. We warned about this aspect of the 9/11 Commission's demand to create the DNI and his directorate, and Congress has watched Negroponte's empire-building with alarm. And according to the LA Times, Negroponte hasn't even begun empire building, as his ambitions have led him into a power struggle with Donald Rumsfeld:

But Negroponte faces a larger and much more difficult challenge: a struggle with Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's Department of Defense, which runs more than 80% of the nation's intelligence budget and is busy expanding its role even further. ...

Already, the Pentagon's intelligence budget dwarfs that of the CIA. Although the budgets remain classified, the CIA is believed to get about $5 billion annually, less than the National Security Agency, which gets $6 billion to $8 billion a year. The Defense Department's National Reconnaissance Office, the operator of military satellites, also gets $6 billion to $8 billion a year.

Other Pentagon agencies have sizable budgets — the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the department's mapping office, has a budget of about $3 billion, and the Defense Intelligence Agency gets $1 billion to $3 billion annually. The individual military services, which all have their own intelligence-gathering operations, also have large budgets.

Negroponte declined to speak about these issues in the wake of Goss' resignation Friday. But in a speech last month, he said — in an implicit criticism of at least some of the intelligence agencies he supervises — that his basic goal is to "optimize the [intelligence] community's total performance as opposed to optimizing its members' individual operations."

"We are in the process of remaking a loose confederation into a unified enterprise," Negroponte added.

His key weapon, he said, would be control over the intelligence budget, which he called "a powerful integrating force." By controlling which agencies and which programs are funded, he said, he can nudge the separate agencies toward greater collaboration.

Negroponte understands the Golden Rule: whoever controls the gold makes the rules. If he succeeds in gaining control over the entire budget, he will effectively control all intelligence for the United States, military and civilian. Again, such an approach has its advantages in efficiency, responsiveness, and coordination. However, it has disadvantages as well, not the least of which is the necessity for an overwhelming management structure and the probability that intelligence biases could threaten all of our operations. Competition does allow for alternate analyses and keeps the intel community from developing tunnel vision.

Negroponte and Hayden have worked for the past year on this consolidation project. It appears that Porter Goss either did not share their vision or their strategy and got pushed out. That won't send the CIA into mourning, but it might signal Rumsfeld that Negroponte wants to step up the struggle another notch. Selecting Hayden gives an indication that Bush may decide to embrace Negroponte's vision for a unified intelligence service and a bureaucracy that supercedes that of the Pentagon on intelligence matters.

That sets Hayden up as a very big target for any confirmation hearings. He already carries the baggage of the NSA surveillance program, which some members in Congress want to use to impeach Bush. Now they can also grill Hayden on Negroponte's collection of power and influence, and those who support the Pentagon will openly challenge the notion of taking oversight of military intelligence away from military command. None of this bodes well for Hayden's confirmation, although none of it has to do with Hayden's excellent qualifications for the position.

We'll see on Monday, of course, who the President has selected. If he has chosen Hayden, then he will have made a brave and bold move. Hayden's appointment would send a message that Bush is more concerned with hiring the most qualified person for the job rather than covering his own butt in the confirmation hearings. Whether that is the right move, considering all of the power-struggle issues with Negroponte, remains to be seen.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 6, 2006 7:17 AM

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