Hayden Following Powell Model at CIA?
The Wall Street Journal editors are worried that Michael Hayden will go too far in his efforts to soothe over the tensions created by Porter Goss’ sometimes reckless attempt to shake up the CIA.
A top intelligence service is vital to national security. So we’ve been looking for signs that incoming CIA Director Michael Hayden would lead the agency in the right direction. But so far the Air Force General, who won confirmation Friday in an unexpectedly lopsided 78-to-15 Senate vote, has sent more signals that would soothe the souls of Langley’s uncounted career bureaucrats than push the cause of reform.
We’re reminded of Colin Powell’s inaugural promise on taking over the State Department to “put our Foreign Service officers in charge of the work of the department.” Is his unhappy result what the general now in charge of the CIA has in mind?
We understand the General’s desire not to undermine morale at the agency he’s about to lead. But neither did he have to validate a good deal of the political left’s current, if amusingly ironic, defense of the CIA’s career spooks: the idea that policy makers should only rarely question the careerists’ judgment, and that the careerists’ assumptions shouldn’t be challenged by new blood from the outside.
The irony of using Colin Powell here as an example of how not to treat career bureaucrats is that Powell’s spooks, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), have arguably done the best job of analysis in recent years.
Still, balancing the natural tension between defering too much to the bureaucratic experts on the one hand and throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater on the other is incredibly difficult. Career employees at professional agencies like State, Defense, and the Intelligence Community (which overlaps the first two) both know more about their subject matter than virtually all political appointees and yet are often mired in an organizational culture mindset that creates flawed analysis.
There is, for example, legitimate concern that Don Rumsfeld has gone too far in shaking up the Defense Department culture and ignoring the sound advice of generals who are brilliant and have devoted thirty years or more to their trade. It is also true that these same experts have allowed fifteen years to go by without fixing the military’s obvious inadequacy in transporation infrastructure, Active-Reserve mix problems, and undersupply of linguists, civil affairs, and military police personnel. We will likely never truly know whether Rumsfeld has overcorrected or perhaps been too ginger in his reform efforts.