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Michael Tanji of Haft of the Spear has a tough op-ed in The Weekly Standard entitled “Intellipork” calling for financial accountability in the Intelligence Community:

IF THERE IS AN AREA OF GOVERNMENT we should expect to get more than our moneys worth it’s national security. As the recently declassified “Key Judgments of the National Intelligence Estimate on Global Trends in Terrorism” has revealed, for all the money we spend on secret intelligence, the end-result is not very impressive. If there is one criticism of intelligence products held by both ends of the political spectrum, it’s how pedestrian they are: few keen insights, no groundbreaking assessments, and obvious, wishy-washy conclusions. You would think that for a few billion dollars the cumulative effort of 15 agencies would be much, much more impressive. “

Tanji is no Otis Pike or Frank Church looking to slash and burn the CIA for poltical jollies. If anything, he is looking to make sure that every dollar in the IC is wisely spent where it will do the most good.

Amen, brother.

3 Responses to “”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Do you think accountability and a good return on dollars spent is plausible without any competitive institutions/organizations that stimulate innovation and efficiency?


  2. mark Says:

    Hi TDL

    Great question.

    Competition in terms of having multiple intelligence agencies has historically been done for reasons other than “efficiency”.

    It would be more efficient, economically-speaking, to have a single intel agency rather than duplicative efforts spread across 15 but the policy makers would then be hostage to that single agency’s worldview.

    Innovation. I think this would go toward having an agency with a less bureaucratic, less process-oriented and more results-oriented culture along the lines of DARPA. Most congressional oversight, such as it is, revolves around “gotcha” legalistic process questions which breeds a combination of timidity and irresponsibility. (Politicians do not like the idea of a clandestine DARPA because intel agencies engaged in proactive, problem-solving in the field are in effect, making policy. Even the old KGB foreign directorate, which had considerably more “ethical” latitude than the CIA, had to run it’s zanier ideas through a vetting process in the CC and/or Politburo level)Moving towards results oriented oversight might help stem waste and improve product.

    It will be easier to create a new entity than to re-engineer these changes into old bureaucracies. Or to develop private sector equivalents as second-generation think tanks to provide the competitive spur to the IC

  3. Michael Says:

    If I may . . .

    Consolidation (something I support) does not diminish the number of competing ideas. Even within a given shop in a given agency you have multiple points of view. Post-consolidation the views should be just as divergent.

    Competition in the IC has nothing to do with efficiency and everything to do with agency equities. I would much rather see people fighting over ideas than money.

    The IC already has competition in the OSINT world. Secret intelligence is only a slice of the informational pie decision-makers use, so the better it is, the bigger the slice.


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