Intelligence Spawns Agencies

When retired Navy Adm. Dennis Blair was tossed as Director of National Intelligence, reports stated there were no fewer than 19 intelligence agencies in the United States. (Except for the reports that tallied 16.) Do we know how many there are? India has 24.

Our interest was piqued. Nineteen (sixteen) sounded like a lot to us, so we checked further and found there actually may be 21. Twelve belong to our beloved Department of Defense. Four call the Department of Homeland Security home. Others include the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Agency, both housed under the Department of Justice; the Central Intelligence Agency; and a smattering of others around the City by the Potomac. Whatever the number, just six departments run these agencies, a manageable number.

Four reasonably talented and intelligent individuals have served as Director of National Intelligence in five years. The word is the chief of intelligence lacks authority, but he seems to have been compensated with an unusually large staff.

Is it not ironic that a multi-layered bureaucracy is charged with coalescing and flattening the fractured intel world?

Aside from the director, the National Intelligence Office employs a principal deputy director, a director of the intelligence staff, a deputy director of national intelligence, an associate director, an assistant deputy director and our guess is countless people under the well-titled and we will guess well-paid. Could it be the size and depth of the staff is hobbling the director’s efforts to break through the communication log jam plaguing the world of U.S. intelligence? Can he not break past through his own staff?

We queried our favorite intelligence official. It is his observation the nominee for director of national intelligence, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, Jr., has worked to marginalize the position of National Intelligence Director. If accurate, it makes taking his place at the trough rather interesting. The radical press has reported Clapper is an old Iran-Contra crony, which seems be a red herring. To his credit the well-connected Clapper has been quite the man about intelligence, which may give him an advantage over his predecessors. He is currently undersecretary of defense for intelligence.

We started small: Is agency consolidation within DoD possible? “Maybe,” said our intel deputy, but he admitted changing the vast intel system is daunting. (This almost-defeatist statement is rare for a guy in a cape and phone booth.) Cross-purpose behavior seems entrenched, regardless of the number of agencies.

We deplore the over-used metaphor, “rice bowl,” but out intel deputy says it sums up what is crippling U.S. intelligence, and he does not see it changing.

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