Twelfth DCI, Adm. Stansfield Turner, USN (ret.)
Stansfield Turner: Ambition Denied
The Intelligence Community and its leadership arrangements are now at a crossroads.
This assessment appears in a short essay on the development of the Intelligence Community that DCI Bush’s office provided to the transition team preparing for Jimmy Carter’s administration. It credited the 1971 Schlesinger report with “greatly” advancing the notion that the community “was an inter-related whole which required enhanced centralized management” and asserted that, as of 1976: “The idea of an Intelligence Community as a coherent whole with some kind of management body at its head is now generally accepted. It is also generally recognized, however, that the DCI’s perception of the need for these management arrangements and those of the many elements of DOD are quite different.” In illustrating this point, the paper cited the CFI experience of 1976: “The result has been some compromise, some logrolling, some inattention to many important issues, and generally difficult procedural arrangements.”
“A major question to be considered by the new Administration,” the paper declared, “is whether to abandon the effort of the last few years to centralize management control under the DCI or whether to continue to pursue this goal.” But it did not see abandonment as a realistic option in view of the “major expectations” now held in Congress. The issue was whether to improve in small but useful ways, building on the CFI approach as Bush was contemplating in his last months in office, or to reorganize in a major way, almost certainly inviting legislation. The paper presented as the best option a consolidation of the major national programs of NSA, the NRO, and CIA under the DCI, with DIA probably remaining part of DOD and with special consideration given to DOD’s wartime responsibilities. Achieving this major change, the report concluded, would require White House leadership and “a heroic bureaucratic struggle.”
Heroic or not, Stansfield Turner indeed attempted the bolder course. The result was a tumultuous period of bureaucratic conflict that revealed the limits of what an ambitious and energetic DCI could achieve even with the advantages of a degree of presidential backing and a political atmosphere conducive to change.
Enter the Admiral
Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter had made intelligence something of a campaign issue. Thomas L. Hughes, who had served as head of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research in the 1960s, was approached by Vice President-elect Mondale and offered the job but declined. He was sought out again when the first public choice, former White House speechwriter Theodore Sorenson, ran into trouble seeking congressional approval. Again he declined, but he suggested to the White House search team the name of an Annapolis classmate of the president’s, Stansfield Turner, who had been a Rhodes Scholar and had reached four-star rank in the US Navy.
Turner describes in his memoir being called back from duty in Italy to interview for the job with the new president and vice president. He was disappointed not to be selected for a senior military position (he wanted to be chief or vice chief of naval operations) and let the president know his preference. But the president had made up his mind, and Turner—consoled with the prospect of reporting directly and even frequently to the president—dutifully promised that he would do his best. The president stressed the community-wide nature of the job, and when Turner asserted that the DCI had inadequate authority to really manage the community, the president indicated he would “change the rules” if necessary to enable him to do so.
President Carter made a strong personal statement of support for the DCI’s community role at Turner’s swearing in ceremony at CIA headquarters on 9 March 1977. Batting “right out of the ballpark” a softball question about whether the DCI was really in charge of the community, Carter told the Intelligence Community leadership that Turner was indeed his man and the person who was going to coordinate them all. In DDCI Hank Knoche’s view, “that was a good sendoff for Turner” at the outset of his tenure. Turner’s recollection of the incident was that the president made clear he was “the” head of the community, not just the “titular” head, and in his memoir he listed his community “hat” ahead of his CIA hat in spelling out his duties. The president stressed that he had personally charged Turner with bringing together the entire community of “previously autonomous” elements and that President Ford’s executive order had “started” the process of closer coordination but would be strengthened in the future. He also abolished PFIAB, in effect underscoring his confidence in his new DCI (as well as in his own ability to oversee intelligence without a stable of private advisers).
Turner’s Relationship with CIA
Turner certainly aimed at community leadership from the outset. He did so, however, lacking a supportive and happy relationship with the one agency he commanded outright. Prior to Turner’s taking office, acting DCI Knoche arranged a series of dinners for Turner to get to know the agency’s top-ranking officers and major issues. In these initial encounters, Turner found the CIA seniors difficult to understand. He sought clarity and simplicity; they seemed to him unclear and indirect. On a professional level, he immediately developed a distrust of their competence, and on a personal level, he felt unwelcome. After two of the dinners, he canceled the rest. They and he simply were not on the same wavelength, and Turner’s installation of a group of close associates from the Navy as top aides in the DCI’s office made the CIA seniors feel more distant from their new boss.
Turner’s style was to them a shocking turnaround from Bush’s. Bush had accepted their professionalism and offered them support in dealing with the outside political environment. Turner made it clear that he believed he and his assistants could improve significantly on what others had done before him and show CIA and the community a path to more effective performance. Once on board, he moved to cut back the Directorate of Operations, eliminating jobs more quickly than CIA’s planners had recommended. He also challenged CIA’s analysts, sending them a paper bluntly setting forth two questions to be addressed: “(1) Why the products of the Community—and in particular the CIA—are shallower, more often wrong, much less relevant than consumers need and can reasonably expect, and (2) What a determined Director might do to achieve an order of magnitude improvement in the quality of estimates and analyses used in policymaking.” This kind of directness reflected self-confidence on Turner’s part and was probably a purposeful instrument of leadership, but it did not foster links between Turner and the professionals in the community, especially in CIA.
Turner’s confrontational style raised the temperature in CIA, and the DDCI held extraordinary auditorium sessions to explain the new boss to agency employees. It also allowed Turner to portray himself as a DCI who would not bias his decisions in CIA’s favor just because he headed it. Turner did not, however, distance himself from running CIA by leaving its management to his DDCI. He did not get along well with Knoche, who left in the summer of 1977, and when he did get the DDCI he wanted, Frank Carlucci, he continued to involve himself in CIA’s management as well as pursue his community management initiatives. Indeed, he found CIA quite deficient in terms of modern management techniques and sought in various ways to deal with that problem. For Turner, CIA was less a solid base from which to operate than another community element needing his leadership.
Admiral as Analyst
One of Turner’s closest aides has asserted that, in order to understand Turner’s actions as DCI, it is useful to recognize that he was, first and foremost, an analyst, seeking out and putting forth provocative ideas to spur reaction and debate. He wanted to challenge conventional thinking, and he prided himself on his ability to take new conceptual directions. He was self-confident intellectually, and he seemed to believe he could improve matters by bringing others to a more rigorous examination of basic thinking on all kinds of matters. When the subject was the world outside the United States, he would engage analysts in vigorous debate with the aim of making them come up with a higher quality product.
Turner took that same conceptual, challenging approach in dealing with issues of leadership and management at CIA and within the Intelligence Community. For example, exposed to the perennial issue of national versus tactical intelligence, he wrote to John McMahon, the acting head of his IC Staff: “I am unpersuaded that there is such a thing as departmental ‘intelligence.’” He had reviewed what had been explained to him and concluded: “I don’t see that there is then any difference between departmental and tactical intelligence.” The need of the secretary of defense for tactical intelligence, he thought, should not be “obfuscated by the use of some term such as ‘departmental.’” Having worked over the concept to his satisfaction, Turner asked the staff to take action: “I propose that we do away with the term departmental intelligence entirely. I am sorry if this runs contrary to JCS publications but I don’t see that the Intelligence Community is bound by the JCS.” He proposed a statement for NFIB to consider issuing that would promulgate basic definitions of intelligence to standardize terminology throughout the community.
This instance—simply one item in an ongoing exchange of views of the sort Turner fostered—reveals Turner’s urgent desire not only to understand and to challenge, but also to resolve perceived problems with solutions of his own making. In this case, he was willing to brush off decades of use of a settled definition (reference to “departmental intelligence” was included in the 1947 National Security Act as a clear limiter of the DCI’s authority) and the views of the JCS (a critical customer of intelligence as well as a powerful player affecting DOD intelligence activities) in an effort to bring the bureaucratic world to the point where he had arrived, i.e., the “right” answer. It was of a piece with another characteristic of the admiral’s, an uncompromising honesty (which in some contexts took on a moral tone). Serving the truth was a guideline that affected Turner’s management actions as well as his substantive duties.
Options for Change
The Carter administration in its initial weeks—before Turner took office—chose to undertake a study of the intelligence business under Presidential Review Memorandum 11, “Intelligence Structure and Mission.” This NSC-centered effort brought forth consideration of the same range of options that had been reviewed earlier in the decade by Nixon and Ford. The main issues were by now familiar ones. Should the DCI have greater budgetary or line control within the community? Should the DCI give up his CIA hat in order to enhance his community role?
They were new challenges to the admiral, however, and his staff inundated Turner with studies and briefings to inform him. One of the best of these declared: “At present the DCI has a newly strengthened but still fragile and difficult role.” Turner welcomed and responded to ideas, even those with which he disagreed, but he held firm views on organization, management, and leadership. The central issue for Turner was control, the issue he had highlighted in his initial conversation with Carter, and he remained persuaded it was the key in his initial months on the job. He decided to go ahead and make a clear bid for direct line control over the main national intelligence capabilities—basically NSA and the NRO in addition to CIA—with the one person who might be able to make it happen, the president.
One week after Turner entered upon duty, James Taylor, CIA’s comptroller, prepared a memorandum for DDCI Knoche on the control issue with which Turner was grappling. He pointed to the complexities involved but felt it was worth it to try to improve the DCI’s position by “taking advantage of the President’s deep personal interest in the management questions surrounding the Intelligence Community.” At the same time, he cautioned that if Turner got what he wanted, it would “make him responsible to the nation’s military as well as to its civilian leadership, and there is doubt in my mind as to whether that is desirable.” Such a change would build into the DCI’s role “a fundamentally different responsibility…which may raise serious and basic issues about his objectivity.” Whether the DCI ever considered this possibility, he did not hesitate in pursuing his quest.
An analysis prepared to support Turner’s bid asserted that the Intelligence Community “looks more cohesive and manageable” from the outside than was in fact the case. Turner said he “had not realized that the ability of the DCI to weld together diverse agencies and functional collection systems is so closely linked to a collegial, ‘management by committee,’ process and the corresponding requirement for broad Community consensus.” “It is not that the intelligence community functions so poorly,” Turner thought, “but rather that it does not work as well as it might.” His greatest concern was that his responsibilities did not match his authorities, a familiar refrain. For example, he could deliver on major national intelligence analytic products given his command of CIA and the NIOs, but he could not protect intelligence sources and methods adequately outside CIA. Regarding resource management, he felt that as long as the secretary of defense managed major portions of the NFIP, “there is no possibility that the DCI can speak effectively for the Community before Congress.”
On 6 July 1977, just four months after he had been sworn in, Adm. Turner laid his cards on the table. He wrote to the president reminding him of their initial meeting during which he had raised the issue of inadequate DCI authority and telling him his experience in the job had confirmed his earlier view. He portrayed the community as “moving gradually towards a more centralized intelligence authority for 30 years.” “What is needed to complete the process,” he declared, “is explicit authority to control budgets and execute day-to-day operations,” specifically with respect to NSA and the national reconnaissance programs. “Only full control of these key collection agencies will do the job.”
Turner knew that the key equities involved other than his own were DOD’s. He drew an analogy between the DCI’s situation and that of the nascent secretary of defense in 1947 and asserted that fears that a strong civilian secretary would emasculate the military services had proved unfounded. As for DOD’s current interests, he told the president that they would not be adversely affected even as the DCI did a “better” job of protecting “the larger interests at stake.” In the earlier analysis he had prepared, Turner had actually gone further, stating that out-sourcing the intelligence function might make sense for DOD: “Placing clear responsibility upon the DCI for fulfilling the Secretary of Defense’s requirements, I believe, would result in closer attention to DOD requirements than occurs in the present competitive atmosphere.” He did not support this conviction with specific reasoning, but he certainly hit the bulls-eye in terms of addressing the main concern about which both the president and the secretary of defense would have to be reassured before granting his bold request.
In his letter to President Carter, Turner declared that DOD should not be making judgments about balancing the “national strategic needs of consumers such as yourself” against legitimate tactical military needs. He thus reintroduced the need for tactical and national intelligence activities to be considered together (while declaring that he did not wish to command the tactical ones himself) outside DOD, which had been broached by President Nixon in 1971 but soft-pedaled by President Ford in 1976. He also missed an opportunity to point out that the secretary of defense, like the president, has “national” responsibilities and information needs and so logically would not shortchange himself or the president in that regard in meeting tactical requirements.
To Turner’s dismay, the president said no to his request for full control over other agencies. In his memoir, Turner casts the decision as part of a “three wins, one loss” story: “Having enhanced the DCI’s authority over code words, budgets, and tasking, Jimmy Carter walked away from a fourth request I made.” As to why this happened, he presents first a simple reason: “Presidents want to have multiple sources of information, and the NSA is a particularly intriguing one.” He then goes on to state that no president can allow too much power over sensitive information to accrue to one official against the possibility, however remote, that abuse of that authority might occur.
Whatever the reasons, the decision was final. Turner would spend the next three years working with what he was soon to gain in enhanced authority, but without the big prize denied to him. His bid, as the reasoning he provided points out, was a logical outgrowth of trends up to the point he became DCI. His boldness in making it, however, underestimated the degree to which the DCI should expect presidential approval for a change that other top-level officials do not support.
The “Three Vice Presidents” Solution
In May 1977 Turner was considering whether to adjust existing staffing arrangements for community affairs or adopt a so-called “Three Vice Presidents” approach. He moved quickly toward the latter solution. Turner saw resource management, collection, and analysis as the basic functions of intelligence and thought that a senior manager reporting directly to him should head each one. He also thought of “support” as a fourth such function and in some documents accorded CIA’s deputy director for administration (DDA) a community “hat” as a kind of community vice president for support. Turner believed he could make the community more responsive to central leadership via these senior executives, and to the extent that his scheme brought change, all the better as far as Turner was concerned.
Jack Blake, CIA’s DDA, probably spoke for other CIA officers as well as himself in expressing skepticism about the new top-level management design: “Stan: Based on my association with you I am of the opinion that your thought processes are more concerned with conceptual development and policy formulation than they are with the management and administrative considerations necessary to transpose concept and policy into reality.” He warned Turner that the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, which had been adamant about the independence and size of the IC Staff, might look askance at the reform, which in effect split that staff in two (the collection elements were thought of as now more separate from the resource management elements and likely to move to a new tasking center) and appeared to reduce its size. Blake recommended further dialogue with Congress.
Others thought Turner’s idea reminded them of the original conception of CIA in the 1947 law as an institutional instrument to be used by the DCI in fulfilling assigned community-wide intelligence missions. A member of Turner’s IC Staff suggested that the new deputy arrangement would involve CIA’s deputy directors more in community matters and thus “the CIA in considerable measure actually would become a Community activity.” Indeed, a chart prepared in 1978 depicted the community by showing a set of six “deputy directors” under the DCI and DDCI: the three new community vice presidents and the three heads of CIA’s directorates for administration, operations, and science and technology (the fourth CIA directorate, intelligence, was implicitly accounted for under the community vice president for analysis). Another fear was that the authority of the new deputies, who became members of NFIB, and the strengthening of the DCI’s staff, which grew larger, would lessen the influence of the heads of the various intelligence agencies.
The White House study of intelligence concluded with a presidential decision “to centralize the most critical national intelligence management functions under the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI)—tasking, resources, and national analytic production.” Turner thus had gained presidential endorsement of his three vice presidents model and the 1970s focus on improving intelligence “management” reached its peak. “Left unchanged,” the White House stated, “are operational and support activities as they are performed adequately today.” Also unchanged—like “departmental intelligence” in 1947—was “the basic structural continuity of the intelligence community.”
The president’s action certainly seemed to strengthen DCI leadership of the Intelligence Community in the three areas Turner stressed. The DCI was to have “full control” of the new tasking mechanism and “sole responsibility” for the production of national analytic intelligence products. Most important to Turner, he was given a “mandate to manage the budgets of all predominately national intelligence activities,” with “full and exclusive authority for approval” of the NFIP prior to its presentation to the president, reprogramming of NFIP funds, and monitoring the implementation of the programs. Turner felt especially good about the endorsement of his program and budget authority, and he thought of his resources deputy as his “central” vice president.
With this White House approval in hand, Turner wasted no time hiring outsiders to serve as his three vice presidents. Dr. Robert Bowie of Harvard, a Turner choice already on board as of April 1977 as the top deputy for national intelligence, became the community deputy for analysis, or national intelligence, in the fall. To serve as deputy to the DCI for collection, Turner selected Lt. Gen. Frank Camm, USA (ret.), with whom he had worked under Alain Enthoven some years before. Camm was on board by the fall of 1977, working out his brand new role, the most novel and potentially the most far-reaching of the three community deputy positions. Turner’s selection as the new resources management chief, John Koehler, a budget-smart civilian from outside the intelligence business, could not come until February 1978. His arrival coincided with that of Frank Carlucci as DDCI and completed the topside turnover, creating a new leadership lineup unconnected with Bush’s changes and singularly responsive to Turner.
Another formal codification and promulgation of the new approach to DCI community leadership came on 24 January 1978 in the form of Executive Order 12036, “United States Intelligence Activities,” which replaced Ford’s Executive Order 11905 and encompassed Carter’s August 1977 decisions with respect to Turner’s initiatives. Later in 1978, the administration at the working level considered working with Congress to incorporate changes regarding the Intelligence Community into law. A favorite notion at the time was to establish a “Director of National Intelligence,” or DNI, to head the community. In the end, however, no congressional action ensued.
Implementing the New Plan
With his new senior managers in place, Turner wanted to connect his new top-level structure with the machinery in the engine room. In January 1978, in his first annual report to Congress, he promised better long-range planning and more integrated collection strategies and declared that he was “optimistic that we will have in the year ahead greater stability than has characterized the Community over the past several years.” Stability, however, took a back seat to implementing his new management scheme.
In February 1978, Turner held a conference of his community deputies to sort through implementation issues. His new structure altered the previous arrangement whereby the DCI had a single deputy for community matters in charge of the IC Staff and support to the various DCI committees. Now the interagency committees were to report to the new vice presidents, and Turner seemed pleased at this prospect: “One thing I have never fully understood in this past year is all of the numerous committees that we operate—not just COMIREX, SIGINT, and HUMINT but literally dozens of others. It seems to me that as you settle down into your jobs you are going to have to see if each of these committees doesn’t best fit under one or the other of your purviews.” They readily agreed that committees dealing with topics such as science or atomic energy should report to the analytic deputy, and those dealing with the collection disciplines would report to the collection deputy.
Some functions, however, did not fall naturally under one community deputy. One participant noted that analysts would want to maintain direct contacts with collectors and not rely on the new collection deputy’s organization as their only communication channel with them. CIA’s DDO had to point out that since there was a national-level mechanism for counterintelligence, it would be inappropriate to centralize treatment of that issue within the human source intelligence committee. There was talk at the meeting of “little NFIBs” chaired by the different deputies, although some expressed doubts about their effectiveness (would the level of representation be high enough?) and even their legality (could anyone other than the DCI or DDCI chair an NFIB meeting?). Unsurprisingly, meeting participants devoted a fair amount of time to discussing action flows among the community deputies.
This “decentralization” element of Turner’s reform was quite a course change. Although to his mind Turner had created a neat and lean top management structure, he now had to deal with four designated community deputies instead of one. It became his responsibility to coordinate their activities, including resolving disputes among them. For example, participants at the meeting agreed that evaluations were a critical management tool but debated without resolution how they should coordinate conducting them. All the deputies wanted some kinds of evaluation done within their organizations, and Turner found himself having to referee the issue. In October 1978, Bowie sent Turner a memorandum asking him to resolve a dispute he was having with Koehler regarding an evaluation he was conducting: “I think the situation calls for action by you to set the matter straight.”
Turner’s changes caused others, aware of his desire to exercise strong personal leadership, to fear a possible overcentralization of DCI staff activities. “These arrangements unfortunately contain the seeds for the development of a whole new central DCI group of staffs,” Richard Lehman warned Bowie. “This is something we don’t need,” he continued, and it probably meant that “decentralizing to the functional deputies to the maximum” was the best direction to take. The changes indeed required considerable enlargement of the DCI’s staff capabilities. By mid-1978, Congress had approved a sizable increase in the IC Staff’s budget and increased its manpower ceiling substantially over the plus-up accomplished just two years before by Bush (many of the “new” positions were reprogrammed from CIA). In approving this expansion, the new SSCI said it “had reservations about the magnitude of the growth in the intelligence management structure” but wanted to support a stronger DCI community role and thus granted the DCI considerable flexibility in both the size and the organization of his own staff. In order to support the staff’s independence from CIA, however, the SSCI tried to insist that all DCI staff personnel be charged against IC Staff (i.e., not CIA) positions and financed within the authorized funding for the staff (it even added positions to cover full-time staffers who were working on the staff on a non-reimbursed basis).
Congress had come to view the move of the IC Staff from Langley to downtown Washington, which had been planned by DCIs Colby and Bush, as an important symbol of the DCI’s independence from CIA in fulfilling his community role. Within two months of Turner’s arrival in March 1977, the IC Staff moved into the former Selective Service building just a half-block from the Old Executive Office Building (now designated the Eisenhower Building). Adm. Murphy left in May 1977, two four-star admirals at Langley being excessive in the eyes of both the Navy and others; John McMahon acted in his place for the rest of 1977 until giving way briefly to William Kvetkas, the senior budget officer, before Koehler’s arrival. Koehler, Turner’s main vice president as resource management deputy, moved into the new quarters to take charge of the staff elements handling the DCI’s program and budget functions, and he also served as the DCI’s representative on important panels in other departments such as DOD’s Defense Systems Acquisition Review Council.
Working out the new system took time. The new resource management staff and collection tasking staff were not formally declared open for business by the DCI until 26 September 1978. The timing did not affect basic ongoing functions at working levels, but it did reflect practicalities that required the attention of the deputies themselves and sometimes the DCI. For Turner, it was worth it because he believed that he was painting a new canvas, or, as a notetaker recorded his words at the earlier gathering: “It was now clear that the basic nature of the relationships in the Community was being altered and we were forging an entirely new kind of Community.” Although in retrospect this appears to be an overstatement, Turner certainly had done a great deal in his first two years in office to assert strong personal interest in and control over the main community functions for which he was responsible.
Congress, exercising its new oversight mechanisms, watched Turner’s reforms carefully. An Arthur D. Little management study of the IC Staff done in late 1979 for Congress pointed out that “although the Congress has insisted that there be a community-wide staff known as the ‘Intelligence Community Staff’ separate from CIA and other components of the community, the ‘Intelligence Community Staff’ does not as such exist.” Instead, there were now separate resource management and collection tasking staffs. Noting the “vice presidents” concept Turner had implemented, the report said that the division of responsibilities “does not provide a clear location for the performance of the cross-program planning, evaluation, and policy development functions mentioned earlier,” nor did it aid in developing community-wide security policies. Turner was satisfied with his new management design, however, and operated with it for the rest of his tenure.
Establishing a Collection Czar
Turner believed that control over the “tasking” of intelligence collection programs belonged at the top, and he wanted to have a single manager for that function who would report to him. He had not been DCI for a month before he asked Adm. Murphy: “Where is my authority to task NSA and NRO spelled out? Is it absolute or collegial?” Murphy told him that it was not collegial but was “limited to defining the job that needs to be done [the DCI’s long-recognized duty of setting priorities and requirements].”
Turner’s emphasis on this issue is reflected in the fact that the organization he created for fulfilling this function, the National Intelligence Tasking Center (NITC), was established in the new Carter Executive Order on intelligence. Neither the new analytic organization nor the new resource management structure was set up by presidential order. Placing this responsibility in one person posed problems. In approving this step, Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s national security adviser, sensibly wondered how the heads of NSA or the NRO would react to taking orders from a collection deputy rather than from the DCI.
Establishing this center took quite an effort. Its senior officers were supposed to be the collection equivalents of the analytic NIOs. They were to operate on the community level and deal with individual topics comprehensively, developing collection “plans” or “strategies” that cut across all the collection disciplines. How much the tasking operation was to run the overall requirements process was one issue, and another was how much they were to evaluate the performance of collection in satisfying the requirements. Some staffers argued that both of those functions belonged outside the tasking center, but they were included within it when it was instituted in the fall of 1978, a full year after Camm’s appointment. Turner’s request for scores of more positions for NITC caused Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) to question him about the need for them, urging him not to overreach and set up a structure that might “collapse of its own weight.” In justifying the positions, Turner argued that he was trying to redress several inadequacies and ensure sensible tradeoffs between systems, use of the “best mix” of collectors, and due consideration of information already collected.
Turner’s collection tasking initiative caused angst in DOD, concerned that its equities not be damaged by a DCI-centered mechanism. One option called for locating the NITC in the Pentagon. Turner wanted Camm to have an E-ring office, not the National Military Command Center location offered, which Turner thought would make his three-star officer too subject to pressure from four-star JCS demandeurs. Turner notes in his memoir that resistance to his leadership in this area persisted throughout his tenure, and his files reflect unsettled issues connected with it late in 1980.
Ultimately, Turner’s collection scheme resulted in a topside reorganization of value mainly to himself. He retained the DCI collection discipline committees, which connected the new top-level staff strategizing with the actual collection efforts. Thus, the collection managers operating the machinery down in the engine rooms throughout the Intelligence Community felt little if any impact from the new scheme. The chairman of the SIGINT Committee at the time, Maj. Gen. John Morrison, did not recall any significant impact from the new mechanism. The reactions of others were more negative. Edward Proctor, former DDI at CIA, then posted in London, recalled that: “It was a disaster…. The staff generated a lot of paperwork without improving collection tasking. It was like the ant sitting on the log as it is being propelled down the river thinking he is piloting the log.”
The episode reflected a built-in aspect of DCI leadership dynamics: the DCI’s position was purposely designed to have him play a top-level role with respect to the community and not get involved in the activities of the organizations he putatively heads. Thus, relating general DCI guidance to individual activities in the various agencies was problematic. In this case, it was difficult to identify beneficial improvements in efficiency or cost savings.
When asked in an interview if there was any resource area where Turner made a particularly significant difference, William Kvetkas, chief budget officer in the IC Staff for both Bush and Turner during 1976–79, replied without hesitation: “analysis”; he would approve “anything requested for analysis.” Turner wanted innovation in analytic techniques, improved quality, and greater emphasis for this area of intelligence. In this regard, he resembles Colby more than Bush, although he involved himself personally far more actively in the community’s analysis than either Colby or Bush. He personally designed and wrote his own approach to preparing the annual estimate of Soviet offensive strategic nuclear forces, and he supported the writing of a major NIE on Soviet foreign policy that surrendered less to consensus-building than was usual for such papers.
From Turner’s perspective, the NIOs and the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence performed the same mission, producing national intelligence, arguably the prime responsibility of any DCI. DDCI Knoche noted that the DCI thought it “makes no sense to have distinction between NIO’s and DDI.” Acting on that notion, Turner created the National Foreign Assessment Center (NFAC), an entity that gave pride of place to the NIOs. Knoche interpreted it to mean that the DI was being removed organizationally from CIA. Robert Bowie took on the title Director, NFAC, and both the NIOs and the DI office chiefs reported to him.
Bowie thought that his job of providing national intelligence was best served by a small, independent, high-quality staff, and he accepted the merger of the small NIO shop he already headed with the large DI reluctantly. The move reinforced the NIOs’ dependence on CIA’s analysis that had grown up in preceding decades and was at times of concern to NIE customers. In 1979, CIA veteran analyst Bruce Clarke replaced Bowie as head of NFAC, and another longtime CIA analyst, Richard Lehman, became the chairman of the National Intelligence Council (NIC), a new name for the aggregation of NIOs.
NFAC was the easiest “reform” Turner dictated. It affected only elements at CIA headquarters at Langley, and even there it amounted basically to a name change. It addressed a DCI responsibility—producing national intelligence—that neither Turner nor the administration wanted to change. Community participants continued their normal roles of contributing to and coordinating NIEs without significant change except for Turner’s unusual personal involvement in one area, and DI analysts continued their research and current intelligence tasks. CIA professionals were told that the “new structure is intended to remove organizational barriers which artificially segmented the process of producing national intelligence,” but the real problem Turner hoped to address with his change was the one that had animated Schlesinger, improving quality.
Turner’s bid for control over the national intelligence agencies having failed, he set about making the most of the budgetary powers contained in the president’s decisions. John Koehler, his deputy for resource management, worked hard to get fully on top of his job. He and his chief deputy, William Kvetkas, gained presidential praise for Turner when OMB judged the NFIP budgets they prepared as the second-best and then, the following year, the best “zero-based budget” submissions.
The senior NSC group responsible for making final intelligence program recommendations for presidential approval, now called the Policy Review Committee (Intelligence) or PRC(I), functioned like the CFI had in 1976. With the promulgation of Turner’s new “full and exclusive” budget approval authority in Executive Order 12036, however, the process became more DCI-centric. Turner was adamant about his personal authority and responsibility for budget decisions and, as he once told Brzezinski, did not want meeting minutes reflecting collective “approval” authority for the group he chaired: “The PRC(I) could be in favor of them or against them [DCI actions or decisions] and could advise the President that I had done the job well or poorly, but had no authority to approve or disapprove my budget.” For all his authority, however, Turner still depended heavily upon the budget inputs and recommendations of the various programs, and Kvetkas was unable, years later, to recall readily any major program decision made differently because of the new process.
In the end, of course, Turner’s program authority was really a recommending one; it was the president’s budget that went to Congress. On several occasions during Turner’s tenure the president, accepting the views of Secretary of Defense Harold Brown, made final decisions on major intelligence programs that went against the DCI’s recommendations. Carter himself took a strong interest in intelligence, and members of his NSC staff on occasion complained that they needed to be involved earlier in considering intelligence resource issues, “prior to DCI program decisions and prior to DCI submission of the budget to the President.” They also felt that the link between requirements established by consumers of intelligence and the programs in the budget had not been well enough made in that first year. As late as mid-1978, Turner was soliciting views from Brzezinski on how best to use the PRC(I) in reviewing the NFIP (and receiving from him the advice that it should stick to broad concerns rather than budget details).
In a report summarizing activities during 1978, Turner compared the new PRC(I) system for budget preparation favorably with the Bush-era CFI. “Previously,” the report asserted, the DCI-chaired committee had established the NFIP budget “by consensus trading.” The new process, he believed, had “made it easier to define the national intelligence goals” and to prioritize budget items. In integrating program submissions, “rather than simply interleaving them on an equal basis,” Turner said, judgments were rendered as to overall community needs. “The new process also makes it easier to surface objective, analytical comparisons between competing or overlapping programs as a check that my judgment of budget priorities is not skewed from that which would best serve the country.” In the first year, the report stated, the PRC(I) members had concurred in the budget (although it was noted they could send separate recommendations to the president), and “overall, this first experience with the new budget preparation process went very well.”
Relationship with Defense
DOD naturally was Turner’s chief partner in reaching agreement on an NFIP to present to the president. The senior OSD official who offered comments on Turner’s first annual report was none other than Adm. Daniel Murphy, now retired from the US Navy and serving as a deputy under secretary of defense for policy. Turner himself remained an active-duty admiral until the end of 1978, serving out his DCI term as a civilian. Murphy gently pointed out word changes DOD wanted such as replacing “formulation” with “approval” in describing the DCI’s main budget role, inserting the word “national” occasionally to highlight the DCI’s main area of authority as distinct from military, and directing the new tasking center “to task” collectors rather than “to organize and manage” their capabilities.
Turner years later defined the chief difference he had with Secretary of Defense Harold Brown as flowing from differing corporate viewpoints and centering on “operational” versus “managerial” control. On the “tasking” of intelligence operations, including collection, Turner’s role was strong and accepted by Brown and DOD. On the managerial front, however, Brown insisted on a strong voice regarding important intelligence program issues despite Turner’s “full and exclusive” approval authority for the NFIP. Turner felt frustrated by Brown’s decision on one occasion to move a program out of the NFIP and then to form the “tactical intelligence and related activities” (TIARA) budget aggregation, thus distancing some intelligence activities from Turner’s influence.
Turner’s efforts to sway Brown on resource issues tended at times to fall more into the vein of acknowledging Brown’s appeal rights than his earlier contributions to the process. On one occasion, Brown speculated that a recent national reconnaissance program decision made in the PRC(I) had perhaps been a mistake. He explained the mix of national and tactical needs the relevant program addressed and asked if some trade-off might be discussed that involved considering regular DOD military budget items against NFIP items. Turner rejected any such possibility, arguing that programs could be traded within the NFIP or within non-NFIP DOD, but not between the two. The inevitable result of disputes doggedly pursued was White House brokering of final decisions.
Turner used his bilateral discussions with Brown to try to gain acceptance of other ideas as well. He did not hesitate to ask for change where he thought it would be useful. He and Brown disagreed about the definitions of “national” and “tactical” intelligence, sparred about Turner’s suggestion that DIA’s analysts move to CIA headquarters in Langley, and negotiated over how large a space would be needed in the Pentagon for the new NITC. In the end, Turner judged that his debates with Brown were businesslike, and Kvetkas does not recall acrimony between them over resource issues. Harold Saunders, a senior Foreign Service officer who took part in meetings involving the principals in the Carter administration, recalled that: “They profoundly disagreed with each other about intelligence community funding and organization, but they did so in a gentlemanly way.”
But other senior aides, in looking back, believed that Turner’s differences with Brown caused real damage. John Koehler described their disagreements to Turner’s successor as “sharp and prolonged” and as “destructive to the staff relationships.” Gregory Treverton, an NSC staff officer at the time, felt that Turner “paid a high price” in his relations with Brown because of his reach for stronger budgetary authority.
Setting Community Priorities
Turner issued the same kinds of guidance as his predecessors. He put his own stamp on them, however, often asking that they be shortened, made more punchy, and reflect his own sense of priorities rather than those that emerged from the IC Staff’s rendering of community consensus. The PRC(I) reviewed his revised version of the National Intelligence Topics (NITs) that had replaced Colby’s KIQs, for example, and Turner went forward in 1978 with his own revision of the DCI Goals and Objectives document published by Bush in the fall of 1976. His priorities also were incorporated into the regular lists of various kinds of requirements lists as they were updated.
In his report on 1978, Turner claimed that the new NITs “have greater import because the intelligence users participated in their formulation and because they provide more detailed, specific guidance.” At the same time, he noted that the first updating exercise in December “was, frankly, not very successful” because the “high-level attention” achieved in August had not been repeated. Turner was learning how difficult it can be for DCIs to obtain comprehensive substantive guidance from top-level policymakers. The report noted that the effort to implement this system of conveying users’ information needs had created “a greater perturbation” to the intelligence system than would be the case in the future, a pattern reminiscent of Colby’s initial experience with the KIQs. The collectors were using the NITs to adjust the various collection priority lists, the report concluded, but it noted, again “frankly,” that there was “still difficulty in obtaining the necessary redirection of effort” from intelligence producers.
Turner also reviewed a “United States Intelligence Strategy” that his IC Staff had drafted as a novel initiative to gain for the DCI the high ground in strategic planning for the Intelligence Community. Turner, who received the paper in October 1977, returned his comments to his staff in February 1978. He called it “thought-provoking” but remarked that it was “much too long to receive any reasonable amount of high-level attention” and asked that he be engaged in the development of any such work at an earlier stage. These comments suggest that he saw such products as more useful in portraying intelligence programs outside the community than in guiding the community itself.
Turner avidly pushed an initiative to establish a new community-wide special access control system. He wanted to reform the welter of separate security compartments that had grown up around various intelligence programs, particularly in the collection disciplines, and in 1978 formed an NFIB working group to examine the issue. This effort prompted early in 1980 a presidential decision creating a new system called APEX, but it was not implemented by the end of the Carter administration and died soon thereafter. Although not consequential at the time, this initiative reflected both Turner’s persistence and his comprehensive approach to attempting community-wide intelligence reforms.
Turner also achieved agreement between CIA and NSA in integrating CIA’s SIGINT activities within the overall Consolidated Cryptologic Program, for which the director of NSA was responsible. This built upon an agreement reached in January 1977 that resolved how the organizations would handle covert SIGINT operations and was welcomed by VAdm. Bobby Ray Inman, USN, NSA’s director. Turner may have been denied the control over NSA he had requested, but he understood the value of practical solutions worked out bilaterally as well as the advantages of central control.
Frustration on Leaving…
“Twice in the early weeks of your Administration you urged me to be ‘bold’ in designing a proposed reorganization of the Intelligence Community. I was. You, in turn, were not when the final decision was made on the new Executive Order.” With this seemingly bitter thought, Adm. Turner dictated a “private—no distribution” note to himself a month after President Carter had lost his bid for re-election. The use of “you” suggests it was for possible use in a conversation with the president, but Turner may simply have wanted to record his own sense of frustration at the end of his tenure as DCI.
Turner reflected that “almost every President has walked up to the brink of giving the DCI control over the Intelligence Community. All have walked back from that brink.” Turner believed that what Carter had granted him in terms of budget and collection tasking authority “was the furthest any President has gone. I believe it is inevitable that we will go further in the future.” The high points, he recalled, were when the intelligence agencies pulled together. The low ones were when they acted independently of the DCI.
Turner mused that maybe he had gone for the gold too early. “It was unwise and overly demanding,” he wrote, to ask for too bold a strengthening of the DCI’s authority, “before you [President Carter] had had several years of experience to develop the conviction that it was necessary.” Instead, he went on to note, the executive order’s “partial enhancement of authorities” generated “intensive resistance and circumvention by the Defense Department for fear that the next steps will be taken.” Turner even imagined that Carter’s opinion may have been shaped in exactly the wrong direction: “Out of this you may not have come away with the feeling that a strengthened DCI is in fact important and inevitable, as do I.”
…but Future Vindication?
In a version of his private thoughts drafted a day earlier, Turner had cast his attention beyond his tenure and envisaged a future DCI who would be more successful than he in engaging the community. It would be an “evolution,” he noted, for the “long run.” “Need to see how well can induce Community to follow without added authorities [or else painful issue of reorganization resurfaces],” was one possibility, and “need secure sense of commitment by President to a strong DCI.” The latter, he guessed, “will take time.” As to the desired result, he was clear: “Eventual solution is full DCI control of all national collection organizations (NSA and NRO).”
No DCI tried harder than Turner to fuse the community into an integrated whole under his leadership. His community “vice presidents” arrangement, however, was a top-level structure that neither grew roots into, nor added value to, the intelligence business. One senior CIA officer later commented: “He didn’t understand with that big helm that he had up there that it really wasn’t hooked to the rudder.” Also, his early frontal attacks on issues of control and authority begat—as his private notes frankly recognize—resistance and circumvention rather than cooperation and integration. Turner’s active mind created new departures for intelligence, and he was strongly moved to act on his thinking. He relied a great deal, however, on his own intellect and self-confidence and on aides who themselves did not have intelligence backgrounds. The distance between himself and the professionals who ran the components of the community he headed limited the trust and support he could engender to change their collaborative enterprise. Their role as members of NFIB had been diminished as the DCI gave increased attention to the staff superstructure he had created. Turner recognized this problem, but his determination to do what he was convinced was best won the day. As a result, he left office with few tears shed over his departure, and the major changes he effected did not outlast their inventor.
And yet, some of Turner’s reforms anticipated solutions to perennial problems of American intelligence attempted decades later. His collection czar was reinstated in the early 1990s in the form of a community board and in the late 1990s in the form of an assistant DCI, and his creation of an analytic vice president loosely prefigured another of the assistant DCIs that Congress imposed by law. His emphasis on creating a common security system for the entire Intelligence Community foretold the direction that would be taken by future commissions and countless DCI staff initiatives centered on practical aspects of community integration—an internet-world approach aimed at leading a “revolution in intelligence affairs” even in the absence of formal organizational reforms. His embrace of the DNI concept gradually became a more respectable point of view, garnering by the early 2000s the support of adherents not known for their ready embrace of sweeping reforms, and in 2004 the post was established in law. Finally, Turner was surely correct that, if a DNI carrying out fundamental and far-reaching reforms is to have a chance to succeed, that person will need the president’s active support.