National Intelligence Office Not Doing Much

Several critics are shocked that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, a bureaucracy added on top of the existing intelligence bureaucracies, is making intelligence more bureaucratic rather than fixing the problems with bureaucracy.

A year after John Negroponte became the first director of national intelligence, key lawmakers worry that the spy agency they created is not fulfilling its vital mission. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is “not adding any value” by enlarging the bureaucracy, said Rep. Pete Hoekstra, a Michigan Republican who leads the House Intelligence Committee. “They’re lengthening the time to make things happen. … We want them to be lean and mean.” The agency does some tasks well, Hoekstra said in an interview Tuesday, but is only slowly improving the quality of intelligence. Negroponte was sworn into office last April 21.

Congress created the agency in December 2004 to streamline and centralize control over the nation’s intelligence community. Last month, a bipartisan majority of Hoekstra’s committee asked Congress to freeze part of the agency’s budget until it answers lawmakers’ concerns, including worries that new employees are being hired too quickly. Once a bureaucracy takes root, Hoekstra said, “It’s awfully hard to get rid of.”

Gen. Michael Hayden, Negroponte’s deputy, said the agency is within the limit set by Congress of 500 new positions. About 400 intelligence jobs from other agencies also have moved under Negroponte’s control, Hayden said, along with about 400 staffers at new centers focused on issues such as nuclear proliferation and terrorism. The agency’s staff must have enough power to know what’s happening in the intelligence community, Hayden said. “I’m confident we can do that (without) another layer of bureaucracy.”

But, general, you are by definition “another layer of bureaucracy.”

This was not only ridiculously predictable but widely predicted. Indeed, the proponents of this constantly reminded us that this was the biggest shakeup in the national security apparatus since the National Security Act of 1947. That act, among other things, tried to streamline the military by adding a new bureaucracy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, on top of the existing Departments of War and Navy and, for good measure, split the War Department into separate Departments of Army and Air Force. Shockingly, its goal was not realized.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Steph says:

    Someone should call Al Queda. The slimeball students who participated in this obviously support Al Queda and would support them recruiting.

    Our best are over there fighting. Our worst are here protesting.

    Although they prove having a draft would be a bad idea. Can you imagine these bin laden loving idiots going to war?

  2. legion says:

    Well, it _kinda_ worked, but only by turning the War (Army), Navy, and AF departments into sub-cabinet directorates directly reporting to the SecDef. But that kind of semi-demotion of the existing intel chiefs was never really on the table for ONI, confirming the inevitability of your prediction…

  3. James Joyner says:

    Legion: But that demotion took a second reform act in 1949–which in turn followed the 1948 Key West and Newport agreements. And was followed by acts of Congress in, if memory serves, 1953, 1958, at least one in the 1960s, and finally Goldwater-Nichols in 1986. And about a dozen blue ribbon panels and internal agreements interspersed into the mix, too.

  4. legion says:

    D’oh! You’re right, I should’ve remembered it was more complicated than just the NatSec Act.

    Jeez, does this mean we’re not scheduled to have a functioning intel community until the late teens?

  5. James Joyner says:

    Don’t feel too bad–I wrote my dissertation on defense reform.

    And I think fixing intel will be much, much harder than fixing DoD. As you will recall, we were coming off a big success in 1947.

    Plus, intelligence is just harder than warfighting.

  6. McGehee says:

    Jeez, does this mean we�re not scheduled to have a functioning intel community until the late teens?

    Be more specific: which century are you talking about?