Senate Republicans Weigh Dismantling CIA

Senate Republicans Weigh Dismantling CIA (AP)

Senate Intelligence Committee Republicans proposed removing the nation’s largest intelligence gathering operations from the CIA and the Pentagon and putting them directly under a new national intelligence director. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., the committee chairman, unveiled on Sunday the most sweeping intelligence reorganization proposal offered by anyone since the Sept. 11 commission called for major changes. In an appearance on CBS'”Face the Nation,” Roberts acknowledged that full details had yet to be shared with either the White House or with Senate Democrats. “We didn’t pay attention to turf or agencies or boxes” but rather to “what are the national security threats that face this country today,” Roberts said of the proposals supported by eight GOP members of the intelligence committee. “I’m trying to build a consensus around something that’s very different and very bold.”


Roberts’ plan would put the CIA’s three main directorates – Operations, which runs intelligence collection and covert actions; Intelligence, which analyzes intelligence reports; and Science and Technology – into three new, separate and renamed agencies, each reporting to a separate assistant national intelligence director. It also would remove three of the largest intelligence agencies from the Pentagon.


Some intelligence officials think Roberts’ proposal is “unworkable and could hamper the nation’s intelligence efforts at a critical time,” said one, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the debate. This official added that rather than eliminating barriers between agencies and bringing functions together, “it smashes them apart.”


The nation’s largest spy agency, the National Security Agency, which intercepts electronic signals around the world, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which analyzes satellite pictures, would be removed from the Pentagon and put under direct control of an assistant national intelligence director for collection. The Defense Intelligence Agency’s human intelligence collection activity would become a separate agency, like the former CIA directorate of operations. Both would report to the same assistant national intelligence director for collection. This official also would have direct line control over the FBI’s counterintelligence and counterterrorism units, although they would continue to operate within the FBI administratively and would still be subject to attorney general guidelines.
The Pentagon’s huge National Reconnaissance Office, which operates spy satellites, would work under an assistant national intelligence director for Research, Development and Acquisition. That same assistant would also run the CIA’s former directorate of science and technology as an independent agency called the Office of Technical Support.

In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last week, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld advised moving cautiously in restructuring the intelligence community. “If we move unwisely and get it wrong, the penalty would be great,” Rumsfeld said. “We would not want to place new barriers or filters between military combatant commanders and those agencies when they perform as combat-support agencies.” Perhaps mindful of that warning, Roberts’ plan would create a separate assistant national intelligence director for military support and a four-star director of military intelligence who would run Defense Department tactical intelligence units and report directly to the defense secretary.

While this radical proposal has little chance of passage, it actually makes a lot of sense on its face. For one thing, it addresses the most obvious concern that I had with the DNI model, which is that it makes no sense to remove tactical level intelligence from DoD. Having a national intel director managing batallion S2s would be silly. A cleaner distinction between operations and analysis, with centralized supervision of each of those efforts, also seems intuitively much more logical.

The bottom line is that a major overheal in the culture of our intelligence agencies is called for. Simply moving the supervisors around will do little to achieve that.

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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. BigFire says:

    As much as it needs to be reform (to get rid of turf war and mini-fiefdom), this does absolutely nothing to cure the problem. If anything, this ‘reform’ will truely elevated the fiefdom problem to a new level.