Pubdate: Wed, 21 Jul 2004
Source: Newsday (NY)
Copyright: 2004 Newsday Inc.
Author: Elaine Kamarck
Bookmark: (McCaffrey, Barry)
Bookmark: (Terrorism)


Spy Czar Plan Provides No Reforms

Proposals to Create a New Intelligence Post Would Simply Add to Bureacratic 

Barry McCaffrey is a retired four-star Army general, aggressive,
outspoken and tough as nails. When he retired from the Army, President
Bill Clinton appointed him the nation's drug czar - overseeing the
50-odd federal agencies involved in the "war on drugs."

The thinking when the office was established in 1988 had been: Let's
create a job that doesn't actually run any of these agencies but has
the responsibility of melding them into a coherent war. The drug czar
was given authority to "certify" the drug interdiction, rehabilitation
or prevention budgets scattered around the government. Most of the
money that came under the war on drugs was controlled by the Pentagon.

The drug czar's staff consists of a few hundred people begged,
borrowed or stolen from the rest of the government. So it is a
testament to McCaffrey's toughness that he took on the Pentagon with
its 1 million-plus people. In 1997, for the first time in the history
of the office, a drug czar actually refused to "certify" a line item
in the Pentagon budget. What happened? Bureaucratic war. The defense
secretary and the drug czar had to duke it out in front of the
president - who split the difference.

Why am I telling you this small story from long ago? Because this week
the 9/11 Commission will come out with its report. Most of it will be
enormously useful to the hard work of government reform.

But one proposal that is already getting a great deal of attention is
likely to be, at best, a diversion from the real work of reform and at
worst could actually complicate an already bad situation. This
proposal would create a director of national intelligence. In a bill
pending in the Senate, this person would "supervise" the elements of
the intelligence budget and "approve" the budget submissions of the 15
agencies that constitute the intelligence community. A House bill adds
that this person would "direct the tasking" of intelligence chores to
the 15 agencies. This person would have Cabinet rank.

Hmmm. Does this sound familiar? Every time Washington officials need
to wage a new war - whether against drugs or terror - they always
start by creating a position that sounds powerful but lacks power.
McCaffrey, probably the best drug czar we've ever had, tested its
powers - once. That's about all you can do in one of these jobs.

People who work for the president and who are constantly starting
fights that the president must broker find they don't work for the
president for long. Tom Ridge started out as the homeland security
czar and found himself falling quickly into bureaucratic oblivion
until Congress gave him a real department and real command.

It is likely that an intelligence czar would do one of two things.
Either he or she would end up rubber-stamping the intelligence budgets
submitted by the agencies ostensibly under his or her control, or he
or she would end up in a series of fights with the secretary of
defense that would end up having to be brokered by the president. The
same goes for "tasking" of assignments. Imagine the intelligence czar
fighting to spend money on the collection of information in one arena
against the secretary of defense, who would argue that intelligence
was needed in another arena in order to protect American troops.

The story of 9/11 is a story of government agencies that didn't talk
to each other and of an intelligence community that was so wrapped up
in its own addiction to secrecy that it didn't know what it actually
knew. The combination of bureaucracy and a culture of secrecy is a
deadly one. The proposals to create a director of national
intelligence threaten to layer upon this community the very last thing
it needs - more bureaucracy - as Acting CIA Director John McLaughlin
pointed out this week.

Government reform is a tricky business. Things that sound large and
substantial appeal to politicians because, well, they sound large and
substantial. Real reform frequently has nothing to do with what the
politicians do. Rather, it has everything to do with reevaluating core
operating procedures in the organization - such as the culture of
secrecy and the relationship between collectors (spies) and analysts.

In the case of the intelligence community the challenge is to
transform itself from a bureaucracy that was pretty good at tracking
the Soviet Union to an organization that is flexible enough to watch
for trouble that is likely to come from the most unexpected of places.
A director of national intelligence is unlikely to do that. 
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