New FBI Division To Probe Weapons Terrorists May Use
Thursday, July 27, 2006
The FBI yesterday announced the creation of an investigative division focused on weapons of mass destruction, part of Director Robert S. Mueller III's latest reorganization plan aimed at gathering intelligence and preventing terrorist attacks.
In addition to the new WMD Directorate, Mueller told reporters he has hired an associate deputy to oversee finances and other administrative duties, and is adding or reshuffling several other senior positions.
The plan also includes a new science and technology branch encompassing the FBI Laboratory and other technical support services.
Mueller, who has overseen a series of realignments since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, characterized the latest moves as the third phase of a process aimed at making the FBI into an agile and modern domestic intelligence agency. Previous changes included a dramatic increase in the number of counterterrorism agents and the creation of a directorate focused on intelligence gathering and analysis.
"We have grown as an organization substantially since September 11," Mueller said. "It made sense in my mind to evolve the organization to what you see today."
Mueller's new associate deputy director -- FBI veteran Joseph L. Ford -- will be the No. 3 official and will oversee branches including human resources, information technology and finance. Ford, a special agent since 1981, worked on the Enron corporate fraud investigation and was head of the FBI's San Francisco office.
The WMD Directorate will be headed by Vahid Majidi, a former manager and scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory who served as chief science adviser to the Justice Department.
Mueller said that the FBI and other intelligence agencies need to pay special attention to the catastrophic threat posed by weapons of mass destruction, particularly if they get into the hands of terrorist groups. "This is a reflection of the necessity of focusing our efforts on preventing weapons of mass destruction from being utilized in the United States," Mueller said.
The FBI has exploded in size over the last five years, especially in counterterrorism and counterintelligence. But Mueller has acknowledged difficulties in several areas -- including a failed effort to overhaul the FBI's antiquated case-management system -- and the bureau has been criticized by lawmakers and outside analysts for being slow to modernize itself.
The transformation has been complicated by turnover as dozens of high-ranking FBI executives have been lured to the private sector by fat salaries and generous benefits. Mueller said that while he is "not asking anyone to sign a blood oath," he hopes the reorganization will help with retention. "My expectation is that we'll be stable for the foreseeable future," he said.