CIA Director John Brennan Plans Big Overhaul
C.I.A. to Be Overhauled to Fight Modern Threats.
The CIA is set for a sweeping overhaul designed to make its leaders more accountable and close espionage gaps amid widespread concerns about the US intelligence agency’s limited insights into a series of major global developments.The Central Intelligence Agency will make one of the biggest overhauls in its nearly 70-year history, aimed in part at sharpening its focus on cyber operations and incorporating digital innovations, CIA director John Brennan said.
Brennan announced the restructuring to the CIA workforce on Friday, including a new directorate devoted to boosting the CIA’s computer hacking skills. He said the move comes after nine outside experts spent three months analyzing the agency’s management structure, including what deputy CIA director David Cohen called ‘pain points,’ organizational areas where the CIA’s bureaucracy does not work efficiently. Brennan said he is creating new units within the CIA, called “mission centres,” intended to concentrate the agency’s focus on specific challenges or geographic areas, such as weapons proliferation or Africa.
Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, who is under federal investigation for his relationship with a Florida doctor and political donor. “There are a lot of areas that I would like to have better insight to, better information about, better access to. The CIA director said he also is establishing a new “Directorate of Digital Innovation” to lead efforts to track and take advantage of advances in cyber technology to gather intelligence. Briefing reporters with Mr Cohen at CIA headquarters this week, Mr Brennan said the changes are necessary to address intelligence gaps that the agency is not covering. “Safe havens, denied areas. Whether because we don’t even have a diplomatic presence in a country, or because there are parts of countries that have been overrun and taken over by terrorist groups and others.” The changes come against a backdrop of evidence that the CIA’s focus on hunting and killing terrorists since the September 11 attacks has led to an erosion of the espionage and analytic capabilities the agency built during the Cold War.
Brennan’s plan would partly abandon the agency’s current structure that keeps spies and analysts separate as they target specific regions or countries. US officials said that Brennan decided the agency had to increase the resources and emphasis it devoted to cyberspace because advanced communications technology is rapidly becoming pervasive.
But the CIA felt that it had to reorganize to keep up with the technological “pace of change,” as one official put it. “Our ability to carry out our responsibilities for human intelligence and national security responsibilities has become more challenging” in today’s digital world, Brennan said. “And so what we need to do as an agency is make sure we’re able to understand all of the aspects of that digital environment.” Stepping up the CIA’s expertise in cyberspace may help it counter technological innovations and sophisticated use of social media by militant groups such as Islamic State. The CIA, along with other US intelligence agencies, wrongly assessed the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2002 and failed to anticipate the rapid collapse of Middle East governments during the Arab Spring in 2011, among other shortcomings. Instead, C.I.A. officers will be assigned to 10 new mission centers focused on terrorism, weapons proliferation, the Middle East and other areas with responsibility for espionage operations, intelligence analysis and covert actions. The agency’s greatest public success of recent years – the 10-year effort to locate and kill Osama bin Laden in 2011 – may have taken longer than it should have, according to evidence made public in the recent Senate report on CIA interrogations.
The 10 new “mission centres” will bring together CIA officers with expertise from across the agency’s range of disciplines to concentrate on specific intelligence target areas or subject matter, Brennan said. Under Mr Brennan’s reorganisation, the CIA would break down the wall between the operations and analytical arms, a system that typically has required the case officers who recruit spies and run covert operations to work for different bosses, in different offices, to analysts who interpret the intelligence and write briefing papers for the president and other policymakers.
Under the new plan, each centre would be run by an assistant director who would be responsible for the entire intelligence mission within that jurisdiction, including covert operations, spying, analysis, liaison with foreign partners and logistics. Once a small, occasionally neglected office in the C.I.A., the Counterterrorism Center has grown into a behemoth with thousands of officers since the Sept. 11 attacks as the C.I.A. has taken charge of a number of secret wars overseas. Two – the Directorate of Science and Technology, which among other activities invents spy gadgets, and the Directorate of Support, which handles administrative and logistical tasks – will retain their names. Critics of a blended approach have raised concerns that combining analysts with operators could compromise the objectivity of the analysts, who are tasked with coldly interpreting intelligence in which they have no stake. He said that the Defense Department’s structure of having a single military commander in charge of all operations in a particular region — the way a four-star commander runs United States Central Command — was an efficient structure that led to better accountability.
Brennan is retaining the old structure of CIA ‘directorates.’ But he is changing some names, including restoring the old moniker ‘Directorate of Operations,’ to the spying arm, the name it had before being rebadged the National Clandestine Service in 2005. The CIA will also significantly boost its leadership training and talent development efforts, which have been compared unfavorably to the military, Brennan said. He avoided citing any specific examples of how the C.I.A.’s current structure was hampering operations, and often used management jargon while describing his vision for the agency. Paul Pillar, a former CIA analyst who famously dissented from the case for war in Iraq, expressed concern that the costs of the changes would outweigh the benefits. ‘I worry that this plan may be another instance of the all-too-common pattern, among senior managers in both governmental and private sector organizations, to try to leave a personal mark by reorganizing the place,’ he said in an email. Brennan discussed his plans with reporters on the condition that nothing be made public until he met with C.I.A. employees to discuss the new structure.
Brennan said this was the very thing he was trying to avoid — reacting to the world’s crises and not giving policy makers sufficient warning before they happened.
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