Intelligence Community Reforms in the United States
The effects of the World War 2, September eleventh attacks and the war on Iraq initiated a lot of reforms in the American Intelligence community. The Second World War was a worldwide military conflict that lasted for an average of six years. It was the greatest war in the history of the world with the participation of more than a hundred million military troupes. Being a major widespread war, all the participants invested economically and scientifically at the war efforts (Brown 2003).
In the early 1970s, The New York Times carried a story about an operation by the CIA targeting the anti-war campaigners. This report shocked the white house and congress to an extent where the then president decided to launch a commission to investigate the agency. Later on the president shocked the country by revealing information about a possible CIA involvement in assassination plots against foreign government leaders. This immediately prompted congress to set up its own investigations over the agency and even other intelligence departments. The house agreed unanimously to set up the Nedzi Committee although few months later it was replaced by the Pike committee (Haines 1995).
On September eleventh of the year two thousand and three, Al Qaeda terrorists carried out a series of coordinated terror attacks on the United States of America. The terrorists hijacked two commercial airplanes that they later crashed into the Twin towers and the World Trade Center in New York City. This led to the death of all those who were on board as well as many others who were working at the terror sites.
A third and fourth hijacked plane were later crashed into the Pentagon and into a field in Pennsylvania respectively. Every passenger on board was killed in these too. In total an average of 3000 victims and 19 terrorists died in these four incidents. This prompted a response by the United States that was dubbed as the war on terror. They launched war on Afghanistan, specifically on the Taliban who were working with the Al Qaeda. Later on the United States in cooperation with the United Kingdom launched another war on Iraq claiming that Iraq’s possible exploration of weapons of mass destruction posed a serious challenge to their internal security as well that of their allies.
After world war two America experienced a lot of changes politically, psychologically, and economically. Interestingly enough, amongst the western countries, America was the only nation whose economy had not been destroyed as a result of the war. This made the living standards in America much better than any other nation (Brown 2003). The segregation that was very familiar with the US military started fading away leading to the start of the civil rights movement. Since the League of Nations did not manage to prevent the war, after the Second World War the United Nations was formed. Since its formation it has been very active in disease control and provision of humanitarian aid to nations that have encountered distress. The war had a number of social effects on America e.g. more women joined the workforce with many of them also left raped. The war and the attacks on American soil in the year two thousand and one too, prompted a lot of reforms in the intelligence community. This was seen necessary in order to prevent the occurrence of such events in the future (Congress 2004).
The Pike Committee, unlike the other earlier set committees, refused to allow their agenda to be influenced by the government. It started its investigations with an evaluation and assessment of the intelligence budget. The committee found out that the foreign intelligence budget was 300 percent more than what congress had been informed about. The DCI, who was mandated to control the intelligence expenses, was only in charge of approximately a quarter of the entire budget. The biggest chunk of the budget was under the control of the Secretary of Defense. The Pike report therefore recommended that all the intelligence expenses be included in the president’s budget and made public for everyone to know. When the Committee evaluated the performance of the intelligence committee, they found it to be dismal and wanting. They rated the performance of the IC in the prediction of the Middle East war and the Portugal coup as dismal. In general therefore, the committee proposed that the executive and congress role of oversight needed to be enhanced even further, to be able to appropriately monitor the activities of the IC.
The Pike committee of inquiry report was forward looking especially to the public who were tired of the status quo. This is because, even though it had some failures, it brought about change from the past to a new dawn that brought about some hope to the public (Haines 1995). The Pike committee was the first significant inquiry committee to investigate the international community since it was first formed in the late 1940s. The reforms proposed by the committee had great effects on the IC. As a result of the committee findings, congress became more involved in the activities of the intelligence community and therefore provided the necessary control and oversight which had been missing for a long time (Haines 1995).
After the Al Qaeda attacks of September eleventh, the intelligence community faced lots of criticism. People could not understand why the federal bureau of investigations was not able to warn people of the attacks before they happened. The bureau was accused of not working in coordination with the other members of the intelligence community to protect the country from internal threats (Richard Ben-Viniste et al 2003). In response the FBI decided to make major reforms within the bureau to make it an institution with the capacity to protect its citizens from terrorist acts. An upgrade was done to transform its major units into an integrated unit, and this included change in its operational practices and information technology unit. Reforms were introduced to do away with the autonomy of the institutions’ field offices by integrating the units to form a centralized control at the headquarters. It was found appropriate to adopt the traditional intelligence cycle where matters of importance were to be determined by the national officials. An organizational change was also put in place where by new offices were established at the headquarters and the various sub offices.
The office of the executive assistant director for intelligence was formed as well as a field unit to gather, analyze and distribute intelligence data. A joint terrorism task force was formed at the national and regional level that works in cooperation with the FBI to track terrorist risks and distribute information to various authorities that can make essential use of the intelligence information. In January 2003, the then president formed the Terrorist Threat Integration Centre whose responsibility was to analyze and evaluate the terror threat data and was to be headed by a CIA agent. Another major reform that was implemented in the Federal bureau of Investigations was the change in resource allocation. The FBI budget allocation was increased by half since the al Qaeda attacks i.e. $3.1 billion up to $4.6 billion with a major amount being directed towards intelligence and intelligence related matters. With this increase in amount of resources at the bureau’s disposal, plans were immediately put in place to bring in new intelligence staff as well as other related skills staff in areas like language interpretation and information technology. With counterterrorism and cyber crime being of major concern to the bureau, more field agents were also trained and deployed to the institution. New analysts were also brought to the bureau with counterterrorism analysis being there major job description. The institution also changed its intelligence training to be able to deal more appropriately with the ever arising threats that the bureau faces every time. A college of analytical studies was also established to train and prepare new staff with the training program being revised frequently to march up with the changing terrorist threat standards. It is important to mention that the implementation of the new changes to the bureau has not been without challenges. The major challenge that has been faced is in changing the bureau from its usual way of doing business with priority being on criminal investigations to a system that understands the essentiality of intelligence in fighting terror. Even though everyone in America agrees that effective reforms is the way forward to success on the war on terror, the implementation of the changes have been difficult. They argue that employment programs must be reformed to bring qualified and capable experts with a well defined system of promotion, in order to motivate the agents to improve the performance levels. The FBI is expected to work in cooperation and share intelligence with the national and regional agencies to be able to protect the civilians in all regions of the country.
The military spending in America is currently the largest in the whole world. It is more than the rest of the worlds’ total spending combined. Even with this statistics, the American military is still considered to be shrunken, and incompetent. The pentagon on the other hand is considered to be the most poorly managed agency in America. A scoreboard by the Office of Management and Budget in 2006 rated the defense department as unsatisfactory with only the Veteran affairs Department being rated worse than the defense. The incompetent military force as well as the poorly managed pentagon has always been blamed for the disaster in Iraq even though the constitution has mandated the congress with the security responsibilities of the country. One thing for sure is that everyone In America believes the only way out of this mess is reforming all these institutions of intelligence. Major reforms were seen as essential in budget allocation and management, weapons and military policy. After the September eleventh attacks, budgets were changed in the three areas of federal spending for national security. The three categories are; the national defense, homeland security and finally the international affairs. National defense comprises of the defense department, departments concerned with matters of nuclear activities and the smaller military units. It looks more on the offensive aspect of the security program. The homeland security looks at the defensive area of the security program. It involves law enforcement activities that assist in spotting terrorists. The last area of security management is that of international affairs. This looks at the preventive perspective of security. It conducts financial and military assistance as well as exchanging information and financing international unions like the UN. Between the year 2001 and 2006, the yearly security budget allocation increased by 80 percent. On the other hand, the defense budget also increased by an average of 50 percent. The homeland security had its allocation tripled with its spending on other areas other than department of defense increasing remarkably. The allocation going towards the international affairs department increased by an average of 40 percent.This was the largest security budget allocation in the last five decades. All these changes as mentioned have affected the structural and operational aspects of the military unit. Better management and leadership mechanisms have been put in place as well as a fresh flow of ideas. The military is better placed to protect the interests of the country more appropriately.
In 2004 an Act was drafted and enacted by senate and House of Representatives in America. The sole purpose of national security intelligence reform act of 2004 was to drive the reform agenda of the intelligence community and other related affairs of intelligence. One of the proposals of the act was to create the office of the director of National Security in order to have a proper environment for the management of intelligence matters. The holder of the office was to be appointed by the president with the approval of the senate and had to have a vast knowledge and experience in matters of national security. His duties were to chair and head the community as well as serve as the principal adviser to the president, national Security Council and the homeland security on matters pertaining to national security. He was also to head and manage the implementation phase of the intelligence reform program. One of his major responsibilities was to ensure that intelligence was provided to the executive, major government departmental heads, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, top military officials, senate and the House of Representatives. He was to ensure that any important national intelligence was to be gathered and delivered on time, objectively and devoid of political interests. He was to be a very vital part of the security program since he was to have complete access to all national intelligence and any other intelligence that had any relationship with matters of national security. Any intelligence that was gathered by all the other agencies like the federal department was to be availed to him without any delay.
The complete structure of the office was to consist of the director of national intelligence, the principal deputy director of national intelligence, the national intelligence council, the general council, civil liberties protection officer, the director of science and technology, and the national counter intelligence executive. The act also gave room for other offices to be established as per the guidance of the law.
The national intelligence council was to comprise of experienced experts in the field of intelligence with representatives from the public and private sector. The duties and responsibilities of the council were to provide estimates for national intelligence to the government of the United States. They were to assess the national process of gathering intelligence and the necessary resources that were essential for the whole process. The members of the council were to act as the senior advisers of intelligence to the director of the national intelligence.
According to Jack Devine, a writer with the Washington Post, years after changes were made in the intelligence community with intelligence reform act passed, the results are not encouraging (Devine, 2008). Challenges have emerged as a result of the way the intelligence organ is being headed. There was a time when the director of the national intelligence and director of the CIA visited Islamabad to try and convince the Pakistani president to allow more CIA agents in the Northwest frontier which is believed to be holding Osama and the Taliban. After the visit it is reported that they came back without any success on their mission. It was expected that such an important message concerning intelligence would have been aired out by one voice or authority. It therefore became obvious that there was a leadership challenge caused by the reforms that were given birth to as a result of the Al Qaeda attacks.
Before the setting up of the Director of National Intelligence office, a number of intelligence experts had warned the government and the legislature of the possibility of the office becoming unessential bureaucratic organization with unnecessary large working staff (Devine 2008). This point started proving itself when the first holder of the office stepped down to act in the capacity of deputy director of that national institution.
The authority of the office has not been enhanced even though it has reduced the power of the Central Intelligence Agency considerably. On the other side, something notable since the Al Qaeda attacks is that the budgetary allocation for the intelligence department has increased largely (Devine 2008). With this increase therefore, more intelligence analytical and operational positions have been created to try and keep the intelligence community on the alert and up to task. The question therefore on many people’s minds is that has it been able to deliver and enhance the intelligence capacity.
Another question many would be asking themselves is whether the challenge of information sharing that had been mentioned several times after the attacks had been solved. The truth is that the large budgetary allocation designated for intelligence annually has the capacity to acquire the best intelligence capability and an operational structure with the ability to eliminate any kind of threat. Most important question now is whether people are feeling safe at this point in time. It is now nine years since the Al Qaeda attacks but several people still do not feel safe. A number of people who were directly or indirectly affected by the incident have not healed yet from the trauma. Some people still up to this time are not able to walk along the streets without fear of an explosion. It is therefore the responsibility of the intelligence office to encourage and help build the confidence of Americans to be able to deal with their fear appropriately. And therefore this is where many people would want to know if the intelligence community is really making progress in penetrating terrorist groups that pose a daily threat to America and its allies. How much have they done to deal with countries that have proved to pose real security challenges like; Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran.
Many years have passed since the drafted changes were passed by the congress, it is therefore time to analyze and assess the progress of this state department. Some mistakes have been seen since the reforms were passed and before the invasion of Iraq. One of them was the reading that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Till date, several years after the war started, no weapons have been found.
A lot has been said and done in the intelligence community but at the end of the day it is results that count. For example, the misreading by the intelligence community showed how poorly the intelligence community had done its data collection and analysis of facts in Iraq. This event led to public calls demanding that the bureaucratic national intelligence office that was formed after the September eleventh attacks be wiped out and instead, establish a reinvigorated Central Intelligence Agency. Many professionals will agree that the Central Intelligence Agency has greatly experienced a leadership crisis but it still boast of an admirable staff that possesses unimaginable capabilities. This provides the foundation for creating a competent intelligence agency. It is the desire of everyone to feel safe and therefore proper structures have to be put in place that can ensure this. More should be done by the government independently without political interference.
Brown, D. (2003). Globalization and America since 1945. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Central Intelligence Agency. (1995). Looking for a rogue elephant: Pike committee investigations and the CIA (1st Ed.) Washington DC: Gerald Haines.
Congress (2004). Congressional Record. Washington D.C: Government printing office.
Devine, J. (2008). An intelligence reform reality check. The Washington Post. pp. A18, A22-A24.
National security intelligence reform act (2004). Washington D.C: Government Printing Office.
Richard Ben-Viniste et al. (2003). The 9/11 Commission report. Washington D.C: Government Printing Office.