Jim Kouri
Is the Congress castrating the intelligence community to protect Pelosi?
By Jim Kouri
July 14, 2009

In an obvious effort to protect the Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi — whom many believe has been deceptive in her statements regarding the Central Intelligence Agency — House Democrats, with the help of the Director of Central Intelligence Leon Panetta went on the attack over the weekend.

Democrats said that they expect to launch a formal investigation into yet another secret CIA program that was not disclosed to Congress for almost eight years.

House intelligence committee Democrats said the inquiry would examine both the nature of the still-secret program and the decisions to keep congressional oversight committees in the dark about its existence. Over this past weekend, Americans were fed a steady stream of news stories aimed at the Democrats favorite targets — George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

"There's a unique perspective to all of this political bickering: rather than attempting to protect Americans from the threat of terrorist attacks, House Democrats seek political gain by continuing to invoke the names of George Bush and Dick Cheney. They believe hatred of the Bush Administration benefited the left-wing in the last two election cycles, and there is the added benefit of taking the focus off their Queen Bee, Nancy Pelosi, who many believe lied about what she knew and when she knew it," said political strategist Mike Baker.

The United States' intelligence community is undergoing the most extensive — perhaps even radical — transformations since the Office of Strategic Services gave way to the Central Intelligence Agency. Recognizing that people are the critical element in transformation initiatives is key to a successful transformation of the intelligence community and related homeland security organizations.

With the appointment of a political operative — former Bill Clinton smear operative Leon Panetta — rather than a military, intelligence or law enforcement professional as the CIA director, what was supposed to be an apolitical government agency is becoming more and more a hotbed of Beltway politics, according to some observers.

Some critics of the CIA claim that over the years it has become more of a "think tank" than an intelligence gathering and counterterrorism organization. One official alleges that politics within "The Company" resembles the politics exhibited at American universities, with bureaucrats "living in ivory towers far removed from the real world of espionage and terrorism."

Successful major change management initiatives in large public and private sector organizations can often take at least 5 to 7 years to create what is needed to ensure success. As a result, committed and sustained leadership is indispensable to making lasting changes in the intelligence community.

One of the major challenges facing the intelligence community is moving from a culture of "need to know" to a "need to share" organizations, while maintaining secrecy. The experience of leading organizations suggests that performance management systems — that align, and integrate institutional, unit, and individual performance with organizational goals — can provide incentives and accountability for sharing information to help achieve this shift.

Significant changes have been underway in the last 3 years regarding how the federal workforce is managed. The Congress passed legislation providing certain government-wide human resources flexibilities, such as direct hiring authority by agency executives. While many federal agencies have received such flexibility, others may be both needed and appropriate for intelligence agencies, such as providing these agencies with the authority to hire a limited number of term-appointed positions on a noncompetitive basis.

Human capital challenges are especially significant for the intelligence and counterintelligence organizations, such as the FBI, that are undergoing a fundamental transformation in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. For the last 3 years, they have been using the lessons learned from successful transformations to monitor the FBI's progress as it transforms itself from its traditional law enforcement mission to its post 9/11 homeland security priorities — counterterrorism, counterintelligence and cyber crimes.

However, with the arrival of Eric Holder as Attorney general, the transformation may be put on hold since he was one of the Justice Department executives under Bill Clinton who arguably contributed to the US being blind-sided on September 11, 2001.

For example, the FBI has undertaken a variety of human capital related initiatives, including major changes in realigning, retraining, and hiring special agents and analysts with critical skills to address its top priorities. The 9/11 Commission recommended that a single federal security clearance agency should be created to accelerate the government's security clearance process. Several factors must be considered in determining the approach to this process.

The large number of requests for security clearances for service members, government employees, and others taxes a process that already is experiencing backlogs and delays. Existing impediments — such as the lack of a government-wide database of clearance information, a large clearance workload, and too few investigators — hinder efforts to provide timely, high-quality clearance determinations. Valuable lessons from these efforts could help guide the proposed reforms in the intelligence community envisioned by the 9/11 Commission.

Sources: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Homeland Security, General Accountability Office, National Security Institute, National Association of Chiefs of Police.

© Jim Kouri


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Jim Kouri

Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police... (more)


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