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January 5, 2007
The Predictable Problems Of The DNI

The resignation of John Negroponte has produced criticism of his stewardship of American intelligence as DNI from members of Congress that insisted on creating the position. The Los Angeles Times reports that Negroponte has wanted to leave the position for weeks due to the lack of authority over the component intelligence agencies, although that did not keep Negroponte from doing some empire-building as DNI:

Negroponte's departure as national intelligence director has been rumored for weeks, and officials close to him have said that the career diplomat is eager to return to the State Department, particularly in such a senior role. Negroponte is expected to play a leading role in revamping the State Department's Iraq policy by putting more pressure on the fledgling government there and enlisting more help from regional allies.

Intelligence veterans said it was clear that Negroponte had been chafing under the limitations of his position as intelligence chief. Though the job was created to coordinate the activities of the nation's spy agencies and improve communication among them, it lacks complete authority over those agencies' operations, personnel and budgets.

"He's in charge of everything and in charge of nothing," said Richard J. Kerr, a former CIA deputy director. "He has a whole bunch of independent organizations he's trying to get to work together — a lot by persuasion and some by coercion."

Kerr said that was partly why others, including new Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, had previously spurned the position.

As I warned when President Bush caved into pressure from the 9/11 Commission to create the DNI in the manner he did, this would only result in a larger bureaucracy and only limited success in the kind of interagency cooperation needed. The change only succeeded in creating a new bureaucracy to sit on top of all of the old ones, and left Negroponte with only limited power to enforce policy changes in any of the subordinate agencies. In fact, when he first arrived as DNI, the directorate comprised a few hundred employees, mostly pulled from those component agencies with their extreme displeasure.

How bad has the growth become? Nine months ago, the LAT reported that Congress had momentarily pulled its funding when Negroponte's organization swelled to 700 employees. According to the LAT today, it now employs more than double that number -- and people like Jay Rockefeller and Jane Harman complain that Negroponte is leaving the job of building the directorate "unfinished". How much more "finishing" does it need?

Congress and the 9/11 Commission blew it when they added the DNI and the attendant bureaucracy on top of the American intelligence community, but they simply cannot bring themselves to admit it. It has been a failed experiment in the idea of Security Through Bureaucracy, and even the people most qualified to take the Cabinet-level position want nothing to do with it. Now we have the spectacle of a Cabinet officer resigning to work as a deputy for another Cabinet officer -- because it will have more influence on policy than the Cabinet position he left. How insane is that?

Not insane enough for the creators of the DNI. When word reached them that Bush might nominate Admiral McConnell as Negroponte's replacement, the reaction was, as I also predicted, harsh. Harman called McConnell "one more uniform" and complained of a military takeover of intelligence. The problem Bush faces is that almost no one else has the discipline to stay in a job where they can make little difference in intelligence but garner all of the blame for its failures.

Previous posts on the subject:

07/22/04: Executive Summary Balanced And Disappointing
08/02/04: Bush Adopts The Expanded Bureaucracy Approach
08/23/04: New Intelligence Reorganization Proposal Not Much Better
12/02/04: Tenet Joins Fight Against 9/11 Intelligence Reform
12/08/04: Does Anyone Like This Intelligence Reform Bill?
03/31/05: When Bureaucracies Grow, They Tend To Collide
06/07/05: I Love Hate To Say I Told You So ...
11/27/05: Intelligence Agencies Multiplying Out Of Control
3/31/06: Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 5, 2007 6:03 AM

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» Can The Federal Government Function? from The Strata-Sphere
Captain Ed Morrissey has an interesting post up on the situation with Negroponte and his move from Director of National Intelligence to the State Department. Ed notes there are challenges in getting government to function - but this has nothing to do ... [Read More]

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A short recon of whats out there that might draw your attention. [Read More]

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