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US Intelligence Community Reform Studies Since 1947

By Michael Warner and J. Kenneth McDonald (April 2005)

Executive Summary

The publication of The 9/11 Commission Report, the war in Iraq, and subsequent negotiation of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 have provoked the most intense debate over the future of American intelligence since the end of World War II. For observers of this national  discussion—as well as of future debates that are all but inevitable—this paper offers a historical  perspective on reform studies and proposals that have appeared over the course of the US Intelligence  Community’s evolution into its present form.

We have examined the origins, context, and results of 14 significant official studies that have surveyed the American intelligence system since 1947. We explore the reasons these studies were launched, the recommendations they made, and the principal results that they achieved. It should surprise no one that many of the issues involved—such as the institutional relationships between military and civilian  intelligence leaders—remain controversial to the present time. For this reason, we have tried both to  clarify the perennial issues that arise in intelligence reform efforts and to determine those factors that favor or frustrate their resolution. Of the 14 reform surveys we examined, only the following achieved  substantial success in promoting the changes they proposed: the Dulles Report (1949), the Schlesinger  Report (1971), the Church Committee Report (1976), and the 9/11 Commission Report (2004).

—Michael Warner and J. Kenneth McDonald

April 2005

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