mad in pursuit: greed & arrogance

2004 political season

mad in pursuit home

greed & arrogance index


8.1.04 Intelligence Czar

Here we are again, at the crossroads between complexity and simple-mindedness.

The 9/11 report is out. I am not wonk enough to read it. Like everyone else, I want to cut to the chase -- what do we do now?

But whenever I prick my ears to the stream of newscasts, all I hear is "intelligence czar." Oh yes! Another Czar! Let's get all Russian-monarchy again over an area we are clueless about. Drugs out of control? Drug czar! Complex energy issues? Energy czar! Terrorists running amuk? Homeland security czar!

From what I can gather, the czar's role is to change the letterhead, persuade Congress that everything's much better now, and come up with cute classification systems, like color-coded alerts.

This sort of works with us Americans, because we can't stand the pain of uncertainty and complexity. We don't like having to keep two ideas in our heads at the same time. We look at the extraordinary spaghetti bowl of intelligence functions and say, hey, don't expect us to sort this out. Put a megalomaniac in charge and tell me it's gonna be okay.

At the heart of this is the classic dilemma of local control vs. centralized support. The military needs their intelligence their way to do their job every day, so they want their own intelligence functions. They don't want to stand in line at the big bureaucratic intelligence department window. On the other hand, their own intelligence guys are likely to duplicate the efforts of other and will fail to communicate well with the rest of government -- they don't know what others need and don't particularly care. Do you need your own secretary or is it better to access the secretarial pool? Do you need your own customized database or should you use the centralized one?

We are at the point where all the individual departments have optimized intelligence services for their own purposes. No doubt, they like it just the way it is because they get their daily work done. But overall, these specialized units do not serve the national interest because, well, times have changed. The proof was delivered on 9/11.

So the pendulum must swing to organize the Big Picture intelligence support. You probably do need someone in charge, but the solution is not about making a simpler table of organization. It's about functions and flow of information. If the specialized intelligence units could drop their silo walls and look to see how they might help one another, that would be a great start. But I'm a dreamer...





Thumbs Up if you liked this entry