This is a guest note by Dr. Christopher K. Tucker, founding Chief Strategic Officer of In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s Venture Fund. Tucker is also a member of the Board of Directors of the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation.
Leon Panetta Should be Appointed Both DNI and DCIA
Chatter amongst Intelligence professionals is focused on assessing the political environment that the President faces at the moment, and how this will shape his decision regarding the next Director of National Intelligence (DNI).
With the Elena Kagan nomination, the festering oil-induced Gulf ecological disaster, the Euro situation, North Korea/South Korean tensions, an impending Kandahar operation, and November elections – I suspect that the President does not have the bandwidth to go through a controversial DNI appointment. Yet, it is clear that he cares deeply about fixing the deeply pathological issues within the US Intelligence Community.
Today’s signal from Senator Feinstein, Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), that she would like to see the current DCIA Leon Panetta become DNI certainly shines a light on a politically expedient path for the President. Particularly in the face of Senator Kit Bond‘s recent declaration that despite Gen. James Clapper’s years of stellar service, that it was his opinion that the next DNI should come from the national intelligence community, rather than the military intelligence community. It seems clear that Panetta would cruise through appointment. But to miss this opportunity to address the structural problems that plague the IC would be unfortunate.
It is widely recognized that the DNI structure is incapable of achieving the goals that animated the reorganization that first begat it. It was created at a time when the consensus was that the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), which was also dual-hatted, did not pay adequate attention to larger Intelligence Community coordination issues, and that he lacked the authorities to do so. Most problematic, the DCI could not seem to achieve the level of information sharing needed to avert 9/11 in the first place, let alone another 9/11. While all this was true, the DNI role and structure was not much different, except for the fact that the DNI no longer had line responsibility for the behavior of the CIA. Under this structure, the DNI was immediately emasculated and in a vain attempt to be effective, the ODNI structure was evolved into a super-overlay staff function atop of the same agencies that existed just prior.
For all its critics, and despite the last decade of change, the centrality of the CIA has hardly been dislodged. Certainly, the powers of each of the 16 different organizations within the US Intelligence Community have been demonstrated in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and frankly, beyond the view of the mainstream media. But, the CIA’s central position in this ecosystem has remained. And, it must be remembered which agency networks and personnel dominate the DNI’s National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC), National Counter Proliferation Center (NCPC), and the Open Source Center (OSC) – CIA.
To create a DNI that does not have line responsibility for the CIA is befuddling – and bad for our nation’s security.
Many good lessons have been learned from the DNI experience. In my personal observation, the experience has even taught CIA to share information better, and to play better with others. But, the DNI structure as implemented was fatally flawed. If Panetta was dual-hatted as DNI and DCIA, it would be possible to transform the DNI structure into something that could truly tackle both inter-agency and multi-agency integration issues, including the perennial information sharing boogie man. In some important ways, the DNI
could fill an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) type role for the IC, truly exercising the budgetary and regulatory coordination that is needed – to include the currently impossible process of budgetary rescission.
Something Leon Panetta, as a very effective former OMB Director should be able to take on with panache. No doubt, this would require a major blood-letting in the DNI staff. But anything short of that would fail to breed the confidence needed in, and more importantly, within the Intelligence Community.
The President should convene in the White House Situation Room the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the six Congressional committees that provide direction to the IC (HPSCI, SSCI, HAC-D, SAC-D, HASC, SASC) and demand that they support a move to dual-hat Leon Panetta and begin collaborating in the long and painful process of partnering with the DNI to achieve real-time organizational change. This should include strong but streamlined Congressional oversight that will not require that the DNI live on Capitol Hill. We should not have to wait for another Pearl Harbor or 9/11 in order to re-open the issue of IC reform, to critically and proactively re-conceptualize and re-implement this essential public function.
American citizens and the rest of the world that depends on America deserve nothing less.
Dual-hat Leon Panetta.
— Christopher K. Tucker