Journal: Silence of the Goats–and Sheep

Intelligence (government), Reform
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Senior Executive Comment & PBI Comment

Acting Director of National Intelligence, David C. Gompert, reaction to the Washington Post series
This morning, the Washington Post began a series of articles on the growth of the Intelligence Community following the terrorist attacks on 9/11. The reporting does not reflect the Intelligence Community we know.

We accept that we operate in an environment that limits the amount of information we can share. However, the fact is, the men and women of the Intelligence Community have improved our operations, thwarted attacks, and are achieving untold successes every day.

In recent years, we have reformed the IC in ways that have improved the quality, quantity, regularity, and speed of our support to policymakers, warfighters, and homeland defenders, and we will continue our reform efforts. We provide oversight, while also encouraging initiative. We work constantly to reduce inefficiencies and redundancies, while preserving a degree of intentional overlap among agencies to strengthen analysis, challenge conventional thinking, and eliminate single points of failure. We are mindful of the size of our contractor ranks, but greatly value the critical flexibility and specialized skills they contribute to our mission.

The challenges that lie ahead are difficult and complex. We will continue to scrutinize our own operations, seek ways to improve and adapt, and work with Congress on its crucial oversight and reform efforts. We can always do better, and we will. And the importance of our mission and our commitment to keeping America safe will remain steadfast, whether they are reflected in the day’s news or not.

David C. Gompert


Q&A on the IC Post-9/11

Truth about Contractors

ODNI Fact Sheet

ODNI Organizational Chart


Foreign Policy: America Is No Longer “Top Secret”

Foreign Policy: Two cheers for bureaucratic redundancy; I said, two cheers for redundancy

ExecutiveGov: ODNI Dispels Myths about Contractors, Intelligence Community

Los Angeles Times: Intelligence chief defends U.S. agencies

New York Daily News: Spy community strikes back at report United States intelligence community is too big, too expensive

The Atlantic: Previewing Priest: Inside the Semi-Secret World of Intelligence Contractors


The note below will explain why I have given up on U.S. Intelligence Reform:

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has produced a series of responses to the Washington Post series on the bloated U.S. Intelligence System. Most of these responses were the usual lame disclaimers and claims of major, but unnamed ‘reforms’ that have been carried out internally. One such response caught my eye under the heading of “Key Facts about Contractors” which was structured as “Myth” and “Reality” sections. In response to the claim in the series that private contractors were performing “inherently governmental” functions (a “myth”) an unnamed ODNI bureaucrat stated, “Core contract personnel may perform such activities as collection and analysis; however, it is what you do with that analysis, who makes that decision, and who oversees the work that constitute “inherently governmental” functions. If the collection and analysis of information to produce intelligence are not inherently governmental functions to our intelligence agencies then I don’t know what his. Intelligence production is what the agencies are supposed to be doing and that involves both collection and analytic operations. To claim that the important part of this process is “what you do with that analysis” is so idiotic as to be mind boggling.

I blame this lunatic approach to intelligence production directly on John Brennan who exercises an inordinate amount of influence on U.S. Intelligence. Brennan has two credos that govern his views of intelligence: target knowledge is irrelevant and any analyst can work any target by using the proper techniques (the generalist versus subject expert); and for this reason contractors can easily fill in or replace seasoned analysts in the production of intelligence. General Clapper, DNI, nominee appears to share these views.

The reason that intelligence reform has never actually reformed the way the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) operates is precisely because of the attitude that collection and analysis are peripheral to any intelligence agency’s mission. Yet it is precisely collection and analysis that finds and connects the ‘dots’ one hears so much about.

The ODNI response to the Post’s series presumably represents the IC views as well. If this is correct then 2010 marks the transformation of the U.S. Intelligence Establishment from a producer of viable intelligence to a gigantic, expensive, but essentially purposeless government-private joint enterprise serving no one but itself.

Phi Beta Iota: The commentator is one of the most experienced retired intelligence professionals around who combines executive service in three of the agencies with an extraordinary commercial intelligence background.  When all this started an Australian journalist wrote that giving more money to the defunct IC was like pouring gasoline on a fire.  In another analogy, the US Intelligence Community is a “dead man walking.”

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