Sunday, April 18, 2010

Force-Feeding: Jointness & Career Intelligence Officials

While the military is taking a close eye to jointness, it is far from the only defense community to do so. Such discussions of joint operations should also include the efforts established and implemented by the intelligence community following September 11, 2001. The multi-agency cooperation concept has been the central planning endeavor put forth by the intelligence community since the failures that allowed the attacks. The formation of the Directorate of National Intelligence was an outflow of that concept, which has pushed for not only increased cooperation, but mandatory overlap of intelligence, analysis and even man-hours.
Most readers will know this material already, of course, so I won’t go into historical details (though its difficult for me not to do so, as those who know me will be unsurprised to hear). If you need a refresher on the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, this is pretty good. Not only is this drastic move towards jointness, cooperation and collaboration pertinent because of last Tuesday’s class topic, which focused solely on the military aspects of interagency collaboration, but also because the DNI is currently examining the effectiveness of the community’s mandatory multi-agency experience rule. The office of the DNI provided a press release last week with the details of the rule and why he’s concerned.
Currently, in order for an individual to receive a senior level position in any intelligence agency he or she must spend time working at another agency. Generally this time ranges from six months to one year. The idea behind the policy is that it allows potential leaders the opportunity to see how other agencies operate, and therefore generate improved communication and understanding between those two organizations. Current DNI Dennis Blair says, however, that instead of taking this mandatory time to develop better working relationships or learning about other agency’s methods, most officials see the period as an obstacle, and simply maintain their “old insular, parochial ways” during the interagency period. Blair has made clear that it will be difficult to change this pattern without micromanaging intelligence officials who have already invested years with the community, which would likely prove counterproductive.
To compound the problem, all intelligence agency heads can waive the mandatory multi-agency experience. Though designed as a way for intelligence heads to promote officials who they felt had fulfilled the requirement in some other way (for example, with extensive time outside the community in another defense arena), it has become a way for those close to agency leaders to avoid the inconvenience of the multi-agency service. Former DNI Michael McConnell has opined that only the DNI should be able waive the requirement, and said that the law “has no teeth. There’s no enforcement.”
Blair has expressed hope that while many current career intelligence officials (that is, those who were high-level at the time of the reform act) are having trouble with the implementation of new rules, he doesn’t see that problem spreading into the future. As new career officers come in who expect to do interagency work from the beginning, these conflicts should calm down. Until then, he said his “most important job as DNI is to force-feed them, to speed up this process;” now, I’m young, but my limited experience with intelligence operatives tells me they don’t like to be force-fed anything. We’ll see how that goes.

No comments: