Nineteenth, and last, DCI, Porter Johnston Goss
Porter Goss: The Last DCI
The Director will lead a unified intelligence community [and the] authorities
vested in a single official who reports directly to me will make all our intelligence
efforts better coordinated, more efficient, and more effective.
What it fails to do is to create a leader of the intelligence community
who is clearly in charge and as a result is fully accountable.
On 22 July, less than two weeks after George Tenet’s departure, the 9/11 Commission (officially the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, chaired by former Republican New Jersey Governor Thomas H. Kean, with former Democratic Indiana Representative Lee H. Hamilton as vice chair) issued its lengthy final report. Although it covered the traumatic event from several perspectives, it emphasized and drew public attention to the performance of the nation’s intelligence enterprise with respect to the 2001 terrorist attacks. The report detailed a story of missed opportunities and tied the failure to predict and prevent the attacks to organizational problems both within the Intelligence Community and between its organizations and others elsewhere in the executive branch, drawing special attention to the foreign-domestic divide regarding intelligence information.
The report’s major recommendations were to establish a strong “National Intelligence Director” within the White House and separated from CIA to coordinate matters better, and to create a national counterterrorism center. The DCI has “too many jobs,” the report contended, and “what loses out is management of the intelligence community.” The new national director would have two main duties: overseeing intelligence centers and managing the national intelligence program, including overseeing the member agencies of the Intelligence Community. The terrorism center was depicted as a “unified joint command” that would perform both intelligence analysis and operations planning as well as meld various organizations, and it was to serve as a model for future reorganization of intelligence around so-called missions.
Coming just as the presidential campaign was getting under way, the report—and public lobbying by members of the commission, who seemed determined to have their efforts lead to concrete results—sparked a renewed national debate about how American intelligence should be led and spurred actions by both executive and legislative branches of government. The Democratic Party presidential nominee, Senator John Kerry (D-MA), endorsed the commission’s recommendations wholesale, and on 2 August, President Bush called on Congress to implement the main two recommendations of the commission. Although Bush said the office of the new intelligence chief should not be in the White House and described the new official’s budgetary role as less powerful than the commission had wished, his announcement marked the first time any president had endorsed the notion of having a national director for intelligence separate from the head of CIA. The new director, Bush said, should “oversee and coordinate the foreign and domestic activities of the Intelligence Community.” For its part, Congress held extra sessions to deal with the issue under the pressure of a steady drumbeat of calls urging that intelligence legislation be passed as a matter of special priority.
On 10 August, amid widely varying public commentaries on the commission’s recommendations, President Bush announced his nomination of Porter Goss (R-FL), chairman of HPSCI, to be Tenet’s successor as DCI. Noting Goss’s membership on the Aspin-Brown commission in the 1990s, Bush said he looked forward to having Goss’s counsel in implementing intelligence reform broadly even though his remarks emphasized Goss’s role as the new head of CIA. The political atmosphere surrounding the nomination was unprecedented. Never before had a president nominated a new DCI in a presidential election year, and never before had the nominee been an individual occupying elected office.
The president did not wait for congressional action on Goss’s confirmation or reform to issue four executive orders on 27 August dealing with intelligence and terrorism. As if he did not trust Congress to deal with his proposals expeditiously enough, Bush decreed enhanced powers for the DCI in E. O. 13355, “Strengthened Management of the Intelligence Community.” The DCI was now empowered to “determine” as well as develop and present the NFIP, and his participation in developing non-NFIP Pentagon intelligence programs was spelled out. Also, he was to have more of a say in concurring on the appointments of key intelligence agency heads. In Executive Order 13354, entitled “National Counterterrorism Center,” Bush established a new center that was to absorb the functions of TTIC as well as to “conduct strategic operational planning” and “assign operational responsibilities to lead agencies” in carrying out the nation’s fight against international terrorism. The new center, like TTIC, was to report to the DCI. (Two other executive orders created a presidential board to safeguard Americans’ civil liberties and strengthened the sharing of terrorism information within the government.)
In early September, the president sat down with congressional leaders at the White House and urged early action on creating a strong intelligence chief with “full” budgetary authority. The Senate held hearings on Goss’s nomination, where he dealt effectively with charges that he was too “political” for the job, and confirmed him by a 77-17 vote. On 24 September, Goss was sworn in at the White House as the nation’s 19th DCI and became the leader of an Intelligence Community that seemed headed for change.
Goss’s early actions dealt mainly with CIA, which he wanted to become more effective in conducting clandestine operations abroad and improving intelligence analysis at home. The president gave him strong support for this goal. On 18 November Bush publicly directed Goss to oversee 50 per cent increases in fully qualified intelligence analysts and operations officers and in language-proficient personnel and to double the number of officers researching and developing new ways to bring science to bear in the war on terrorism. Goss’s leadership of CIA, however, came under early, low-level attack as accounts of clumsily handled personnel changes and poorly worded internal direction urging CIA employees to “support” the administration seeped into public view. These stories in turn brought forth defenses of Goss’s actions, some commentators arguing that CIA richly deserved a “purge.” Goss speedily replaced CIA’s executive director and operations chief with agency veterans, and in December DDCI John McLaughlin retired. Early in February 2005, CIA’s analysis chief and the chairman of the NIC departed, leaving only the head of CIA’s science and technology directorate as a senior-level carryover from the Tenet period.
The swirl of autumn publicity surrounding Goss had no effect on the advance of intelligence reform. And neither did a sober call for caution issued on 21 September by a bipartisan group of former senior executive branch officials and senators, who put forward some “guiding principles for intelligence reform” and urged waiting until the new Congress could give the issue more careful deliberation. Instead, unusually intense congressional work before and after the November 2004 election came to fruition in December with the passage of a compromise bill that, for the first time, created a “Director of National Intelligence” as well as a “National Counterterrorism Center.”
In reconciling Senate and House versions of the legislation, concern about the new DNI’s budgetary and other authorities vis-a-vis those of the secretary of defense was the final hurdle to be overcome, leaving the newer dimension of increased sharing of domestic and foreign information less prominently examined. On 17 December, President Bush signed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, dispatching the term “DCI” into the realm of history and leaving the word “central” in CIA’s name as a vestige of the one-time “hub” of the nation’s Intelligence Community.
The DNI created by the law is a senior official with “extensive national security expertise” appointed by and reporting to the president, but not located within the White House and not charged with directing CIA or any other community member agency. His first duty is to serve as “head” of the Intelligence Community, and he is also to advise the White House on intelligence matters and to “oversee and direct” the implementation of the “National Intelligence Program” (NIP; the word “foreign” was deleted from the program title). In essence, the DNI takes over the DCI’s community role, now enhanced with some additional authority, and a separate official, also created in the law, becomes the “Director of the Central Intelligence Agency,” reporting to the DNI. The only community-wide functions the head of CIA now retains are provision of overall direction and coordination of national intelligence abroad by human sources and, under the DNI’s direction, coordination of the relationships between US intelligence agencies and the intelligence or security services of foreign governments or international organizations. In a twist reminiscent of the 1946 National Intelligence Authority, the law also creates a “Joint Intelligence Community Council” (chaired by the DNI and made up of cabinet officials) to assist the DNI in his duties.
The law describes the budgetary authority of the DNI in considerable detail in an effort to make it stronger than the DCI’s. The DNI is to “develop and determine” the NIP and to “ensure effective execution” of the community budget. To accomplish those tasks, community member organizations are to make available to the DNI the information necessary to create a consolidated NIP; OMB is to apportion NIP funds for community member organizations at the DNI’s “exclusive direction;” the DNI is to manage NIP appropriations by “directing” their allotment and allocation via department heads; and departmental comptrollers are to allot, allocate, reprogram, or transfer NIP funds “in an expeditious manner.” In building the NIP, the DNI is to seek the advice of the Joint Intelligence Community Council, and in its execution, the DNI is to report promptly to the president and Congress the failure of any departmental comptroller to follow the DNI’s direction in carrying out any part of the NIP. The DNI’s active participation with the secretary of defense in guiding and overseeing JMIP and TIARA funds is spelled out, as is his recommending, concurring, or consulting role with respect to the appointment of various agency heads and his role in approving budgetary reprogramming and transfers within certain limits. Other responsibilities regarding establishing guidance, determining requirements and priorities, and the like are specified in a manner similar to the DCI’s past role.
The DNI’s office includes a principal deputy, up to four other deputies, the NIC, a general counsel, a director of science and technology, and the national counterintelligence executive. The DDCI/CM and CMS are also folded into this office, and up to 500 new positions and more than 100 rotational posts are authorized to give the DNI a staff strength considerably greater than that available to the DCIs. The ADCI positions created in the 1990s are abolished, apparently with the expectation that the new deputy directors will take over the functions the ADCIs have performed. Almost certainly, functions such as handling public and congressional affairs for the DNI will be done by new staff rather than by CIA’s offices for such matters, which performed them for the DCI. The DNI is authorized to set up an inspector general if he wishes, but only for his own office.
The new National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which supplanted TTIC, is to be a prototype for organizing intelligence support to at least some national missions. It is to integrate information, accomplish both strategic analysis and strategic operational planning, and assign roles and responsibilities to agencies. This mixing of policy and intelligence at the national level goes against a cardinal principle ingrained in intelligence professionals since the 1940s, but it fits with the military model of having intelligence and operations seamlessly connected. It is the most concrete step taken to mix foreign and domestic information (purely domestic terrorism is not part of its mission) and to join disparate organizations in common thinking, planning, and acting. In fact, the NCTC was created on 6 December 2004 by executive branch action just prior to passage of the law, but the statute codified its responsibilities. The law commends the establishment of a second center, a National Counter Proliferation Center, after further study.
Will They Work?
The reaction to the advent of the DNI was mixed. Earlier in 2004, several former DCIs had come out in favor of the idea, including Robert Gates, R. James Woolsey, and John Deutch (as well as Stansfield Turner, who had advocated the idea since the 1970s), and their endorsement had added to the momentum that led to the new law. But all of them had qualified their views, noting in addition to the need for adequate authorities that there were natural limitations to what one should expect a DNI to be able to do. Deutch, for example, noted with respect to the analogy often drawn between intelligence reform and DOD reform under the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act that the military services and the joint commands all served under one master, the secretary of defense, whereas the intelligence agencies (which report to various cabinet officers) and any new joint intelligence centers would not. He also doubted how far one could carry the joint command notion in the intelligence field, offering the opinion that what might make sense organizationally for terrorism might not for regional or other issues.
As the reform law took final shape and after its enactment, a considerable range of views emerged. On the optimistic side, the senators most responsible for shaping the DNI position in the legislation (Susan Collins, R-ME, and Joseph Lieberman, D-CT) and university professor Philip Zelikow, staff director of the 9/11 commission, were particularly vocal in highlighting positive changes that they believed the law makes possible. Conceding that the hoped-for improvements remained “potential” steps yet to be realized, Zelikow stressed the ability of the DNI to bridge the foreign and domestic divide and to provide leadership in planning and programming greater integration of intelligence efforts.
Former DCI Woolsey offered the opinion that the DNI’s relationship with the secretary of defense would probably be similar to that experienced by DCIs through the years, which he considered to be generally satisfactory. He also drew attention to the potential for improving the coordination of foreign and domestic intelligence although he warned about the difficulties involved. “Managing along this foreign-domestic fault line,” Woolsey stated, “will be the principal, and hardest, job of the new DNI.”
Other Washington veterans were more skeptical, arguing that unresolved ambiguities placed large question marks over what actually would occur. Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) noted that the law was “complex,” and former CIA general counsel Jeffrey Smith worried that it contained quite a bit of “confusion and contradiction.” “Lawyers across the Intelligence Community,” he stated, “will be arguing about what these provisions mean for many months to come.” Former deputy defense secretary John Hamre warned that “you can count on trench warfare over all the details,” and former ADCI/A James Simon called the budgetary power “pretty thin gruel.” The separation of the DNI from any substantial agency capabilities caused former DDCI Richard Kerr to liken the new intelligence chief to the Wizard of Oz, standing behind a curtain “appearing to manipulate all these things,” but in fact “disconnected” and with “very little involvement in the real substance.” Such comments reflected the caution urged months before by those who believed that a more deliberate legislative effort deferred until 2005 would have helpfully resolved at least some remaining ambiguities before closing on a solution. The remarks also had the common theme that passage of the law and appointment of the first DNI were just the starting points for future changes in Intelligence Community performance.
A particularly critical commentary by federal judge Richard Posner charged that the law recreated precisely the problem the 9/11 commission featured as requiring redress, giving the DNI too many jobs, and that it codified the same—or worse—mismatch of authority and responsibility that has been noted by DCIs for decades. By way of comparison, he pointed to what he saw as a disappointing lack of progress in molding DHS into a coherent whole in its first two years despite the presence of an executive department head who has greater authority over the parts of DHS than the DNI has over Intelligence Community member organizations.
One danger some observers pointed out was that the public might now believe the main step to improving intelligence had been taken. Former INR head Carl Ford declared in commenting on the new law, “The worst thing that could happen is that people begin to believe that this is going to fix the Intelligence Community.” Some observers questioned whether the president would stand behind the new DNI when tough decisions were being made or enforced, and others expressed concern that Congress might now seek to play a greater role in intelligence affairs, possibly increasing the intrusion of politics into national security matters better handled by the executive branch.
End of an Era
On 17 February 2005, President Bush announced his selection of John Negroponte, an experienced diplomat serving as US envoy to the interim government of Iraq, as the first DNI. The president declared that Negroponte would have authority to determine intelligence agency budgets, control collection, ensure sharing of information, and establish personnel standards communitywide. This would, Bush stated, make US intelligence efforts “better coordinated, more efficient, and more effective.” At the same time, the president reassured those concerned about the DNI’s power that the new arrangement left all intelligence agencies “in their current departments.” The president’s evident effort to maintain the new law’s compromise on authority—which promised the benefits of both centralized leadership for intelligence (including DOD intelligence agencies) under the DNI and centralized leadership for DOD (including DOD intelligence agencies) under the secretary of defense—left plenty of room for discomfort by those concerned that the balance of power remained unstable.
In March, even before Negroponte faced Senate confirmation, several important players took initiatives in an effort to shape the future bureaucratic battlefield. On 1 March, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld decreed that his undersecretary of defense for intelligence was the proper point of contact for heads of major DOD intelligence agencies to use in dealing with the DNI, a step that one intelligence official reportedly interpreted as a “poke in the eye of the DNI.” On 16 March, two senators (Saxby Chambliss, R-GA, and Ben Nelson, D-NE) sponsored legislation to create a unified combatant command for military intelligence that would report to the secretary of defense and serve as the single point of contact for the DNI in dealing with military intelligence. Such a step would complicate the intelligence leadership picture for both the DNI and the secretary of defense as well as for the other major military commands. Then on 31 March, the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction issued its report, ascribing ultimate blame for the Intelligence Community’s prewar mis-estimates of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs to “poor leadership and management” and telling the president in its transmittal letter that “only your determined backing” will enable the DNI to address this failing.
On 21 April, the Senate confirmed Negroponte to be the first DNI by an 98-2 vote. It also approved longtime NSA director Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden, USAF, as his principal deputy, having received assurances from him that the DNI would have direct relationships with major DOD agencies such as NSA. Sworn into office later that same day at the White House, Negroponte took on the daunting task of making the new DNI position more effective than the DCI position it replaced. With Negroponte’s investiture, Porter Goss became the “Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.”
Just as Pearl Harbor brought about the creation of the post of DCI, so 9/11 led to its demise. That second traumatic strategic surprise opened a new chapter in the story of US intelligence, a chapter filled with high expectations centered on one accountable senior officer of government. The seriousness and complexity of the issues involved in improving the performance of the Intelligence Community, however, argue for a lengthy process of change destined to continue well beyond 2005. The new DNI, operating outside CIA and with redefined but uncertain authority, will encounter abundant challenges as he tries to bring a new level of leadership and management to America’s intelligence enterprise.