President Obama appears to have no interest in the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) as a source of accurate information for decision making and policy formulation. John Brennan, his counter-terrorism chief and principal advisor on intelligence issues routinely circumvents the IC when the administration needs strategic intelligence to guide its national security deliberations. During the last two years decision making and policy formulation in the White House (WH) has been informed by having trusted outside advisors develop strategic papers on the subjects under discussion. Bruce Riedel of the Brookings (retired CIA) was called in twice to produce strategic studies of Afghanistan and the al Qaeda Movement. These studies informed WH discussion of strategy and policy including determining if a surge strategy would be successful in Afghanistan. Last August the WH asked for another study on the Magherb that warned of social unrest and the potential of upheaval. Although some CIA analysts did participate in these studies, the fact is that the ODNI, the National Intelligence Council, and CIA did not participate as institutions. The papers produced were not vetted by IC nor did the DNI appear to participate in any of the strategy sessions that the President chaired in the WH.
Intelligence support to military operations (SMO) does appear to have the attention of the WH. Indeed in a recent article in Washington Post, “Personalities over Structures in the Intelligence Community?” Walter Pincus reviewed the changes that were to occur within the National Security Establishment with the retirement of SecDef Bob Gates. Typical of the Post, Pincus did not engage in any analysis and did not address one of the most significant changes, the appointment of Michael Vickers to the post of Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence.
Vickers spent ten years in the U.S. Army Special Forces (1973-1983) and then migrated to a three year tour (1983-1986) at CIA where he directed the transfer of arms and other supplies to the Pashtun Tribes then fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. He then resigned from CIA to follow an academic path that eventually led to a doctorate in political science and from he moved into a prestigious think tank. In 2007 he was appointed Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict.
Although his credentials in the intelligence field are remarkably thin and there is little evidence that he really understands irregular warfare, Vickers represents the growing movement to cast intelligence functions as principally SMO. The reported move of General David Petreaus to be the next director of CIA and the move of his predecessor Leon Panetta to be secretary of defense reinforces this conclusion. So does recent actions by General James Clapper (USAF ret.) who as DNI is also moving to make SMO the central function of U.S. Intelligence. It would appear that even CIA is going to be expected to function in support of military operations.
Phi Beta Iota: Sherman Kent is assuredly turning in his grave. Not only has the current “clerkship” of the US IC set US intelligence back a half century (while spending so much money for no results that they are now a target for cuts), but the “clerkship” of US IC has also wasted a full 20 years during which they had an opportunity to create a Smart Nation and establish multinational information-sharing and sense-making as a foundation for creating a prosperous world at peace. We also note with interest the White House preference for “intelligence” from sources other than the US IC. The US IC is, in one word, corrupt. It lacks integrity.
Other Phi Beta Iota Post by Contributing Editor Richard Wright