Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Putting Reform in Motion

After months of debate, and investigations by several independent panels, the intelligence reform process is now moving toward the implementation stage. This morning, President Bush endorsed a major shake-up of the intelligence community, endorsing 70 of the 74 recommendations from the Robb-Silberman Commission, which investigated intel failures surrounding WMD in Iraq.

Some of the recommended changes have already been revealed, and more will follow in the coming days. Among the expected reforms:

-- Putting the CIA in charge of all overseas human intelligence (HUMINT). While much of that work is already performed by the CIA, other organizations are also involved in HUMINT, notably the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the military services.

-- Forming a new Counterproliferation Center to coordinate collection and analysis of information on weapons of mass destruction.

-- Consolidating the Justice Department's counter-terrorism, espionage and intelligence units under an assistant attorney general with responsiblity for those particular functions.

-- Implementing new procedures for allowing "dissenting" analysis to reach policy makers, providing alternate points of view.

Perhaps the most interesting reform is in the area of Congressional oversight. The Administration--and the Commission--have asked Congress to change the way it handles intel oversight functions. That may provoke turf wars and budget battles, but it is a reform that is long overdue. As I've noted in the past, Congress (or, at least, key members of Congress) were aware of serious problems in the intel community long before 9-11, but failed to offer reforms, or whithhold money from agencies that refused to fix festering problems.

We'll know more about the intel reform plan next week, when DNI John Negroponte weighs in. Executed properly, the reform plan could go a long way toward correcting current deficiencies in the intel community. But the devil's always in the details, and our intelligence agencies have a long, almost "perfect" record of resisting change. Given those realities, Mr. Negroponte has his work cut out for him...

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