When the 9/11 Commission’s final report came out in the middle of the presidential election, the reaction was predictable. Both sides used the conclusions and recommendations for political point-scoring, but none more than the John Kerry campaign. Kerry and his allies, and even some Republicans, pressed the White House and Congress to immediately adopt all of the board’s recommendations for revamping the American intelligence community. The Democrats accused George Bush of ignoring the commission’s efforts when he suggested that the government consider the recommendations before immediately writing them into law, and the political momentum forced Congress and the administration into precipitous action instead of rational debate.
As the second part of CQ’s review on the Los Angeles Times article on action in the House Intelligence Committee hearing yesterday, our biggest effort is to keep from saying “I told you so” in every paragraph. A bipartisan vote yesterday finally showed that Washington now realizes that adding two layers of bureaucracy to intelligence agencies has damaged our capabilities instead of enhancing them:
The House Intelligence Committee voted Thursday to withhold funding from the nation’s intelligence director over concerns that his office, which was created to streamline operations in the nation’s spy community, is instead becoming bloated and bureaucratic. …
The move to withhold funding still must be approved by the full House as well as the Senate. But it reflects rising frustration among House lawmakers with an office that was created less than two years ago to solve communication breakdowns and other problems that plagued the intelligence community leading up to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the war in Iraq.
The bill would require the nation’s intelligence director, John D. Negroponte, to present a detailed rationale for any additional increases to his staff or risk losing a portion of his budget. The measure was endorsed by Republicans and Democrats.
“We’re concerned about some of the steps that are going on” at Negroponte’s office, said Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Hoekstra said Negroponte needed to demonstrate that any further expansion would improve coordination among intelligence agencies, and would not amount to “putting in more lawyers and slowing down the process.”
Rep. Jane Harman (DVenice), the ranking Democrat on the committee, cited similar concerns.
“We don’t want more billets, more bureaucracy, more buildings,” Harman said. “We want more leadership.”
More leadership may be what Congress wants, but what they implemented was more billets, more buildings, and lots of additional bureaucracy. The 9/11 Commission took the demonstrated problems in coordination that existed pre-9/11 among the alphabet soup of intelligence agencies and developed the one solution guaranteed to make it worse. Instead of eliminating the needless duplication and artificial divisions between the different groups by merging them into two agencies, one for domestic intelligence and the other for foreign/military intelligence, the panel decided to create two extra layers of bureaucracy as a means of providing better communication. Congress and the White House agreed to create the office of the Director of National Intelligence, who by law would have the president’s ear on all intelligence matters.
Of course, the results were utterly predictable. The expanded bureaucracy did not result in better communication, but instead has guaranteed that two more levels of bureaucrats will tie up any operational intelligence before it gets to the decision-makers. Instead of streamlining the progression of intelligence to the President, it creates extra hurdles for any information to reach his desk.
Now, comically, Congress has realized almost two years later that the collection of bureaucrats on the 9/11 Commission prescribed the hair of the dog that bit us to the bone in the years leading up to 9/11. The ONI has expanded far faster than anyone (in DC) imagined, and now boasts 700 people — hundreds of extra bureaucrats that do nothing to collect intelligence but exist only to push it around Beltway offices.
In fairness, who could have predicted that outcome? Well, here’s where I break my vow:
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
Love Hate To Say I Told You So …
11/27/05: Intelligence Agencies Multiplying Out Of Control
All of this nonsense can be traced back to the formation of a supposedly independent panel while timing their efforts so that their report would get published in the middle of an election. We can also thank the John Kerry campaign for transforming a set of recommendations into the 347 Commandments that somehow garnered immunity from the process of rational debate and scrutiny. Anyone who looked at this document with any careful scrutiny could see that the solution promised more bureaucracy and never addressed the real issues in communication and coordination. We had ten people on this panel who represented bureaucracies their entire lives; when one only owns a hammer, every problem looks like a nail, and this is a perfect example of that wise proverb.
And just for the record … well, you know.