US Intelligence Agencies Still Working to Get It Right
by Jim Kouri, CPP
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.
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.
Accordingly, the US Congress may want to consider lengthening the terms served by the directors of the intelligence agencies, similar to the FBI Director's 10-year term as was recommended by a panel from the General Accountability Office last year.
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 define, align, and integrate institutional, unit, and individual performance with organizational goals --can provide incentives and accountability for sharing information to help achieve this shift.
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."
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.
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, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.