A photo caption with an Aug. 9 article incorrectly identified Dale Meyerrose as the deputy director of national intelligence. He is associate director of national intelligence and chief information officer.
Five Years Later: The Bureaucratic Front
A Fight Against Terrorism -- and Disorganization
Wednesday, August 9, 2006
Early this summer, a new strategy for combating terrorism, described by its authors as "revolutionary" in concept, arrived on President Bush's desk. The highly classified National Implementation Plan for the first time set government-wide goals and assigned responsibility for achieving them to specific departments and agencies.
Written by officials at the National Counterterrorism Center, under a directive signed by the president last winter, the 160-page plan aspires to achieve what has eluded the Bush administration in the five years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks: bringing order and direction to the fight against terrorism.
In the years since Bush stood atop the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center and pledged retaliation against "the people who knocked down these buildings," the federal government has undergone an unprecedented expansion and reorganization.
Yet the counterterrorism infrastructure that resulted has become so immense and unwieldy that many looking at it from the outside, and even some on the inside, have trouble understanding how it works or how much safer it has made the country.
Huge amounts of money have been spent -- $430 billion so far on overseas military and diplomatic counterterrorism operations, according to the U.S. comptroller general, a tripling of pre-9/11 expenditures for domestic security programs to an estimated $50 billion to $60 billion this year, and untallied billions more in state and local money.
Institutions historically charged with protecting the nation have produced a new generation of bureaucratic offspring -- the Pentagon's Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) and Joint Intelligence Task Force for Combating Terrorism (JITF-CT), the Treasury Department's Office of Intelligence and Analysis (OIA), and the FBI's National Security Service (NSS), to name a few -- many with seemingly overlapping missions.
New laws have broadened domestic enforcement powers, and the Justice Department has been radically restructured to emphasize counterterrorism. The FBI, where counterterrorism now accounts for half of all investigations, has nearly doubled its budget to $6 billion since 2001 and added 7,000 employees. Twenty-two domestic agencies have been combined under the new Department of Homeland Security, while separate counterterrorism divisions now exist in virtually every nook and cranny of the federal government, from the Transportation Department to the Food and Drug Administration.
Outside Washington, 42 states have established intelligence "fusion centers" -- centralized locations where local, state and federal officials operate joint information-gathering and analysis operations.
The proof that it is all working, White House officials often say, is that there has been no attack on U.S. soil since 2001.
But critics say that after nearly five years, the fight against terrorism often seems like a chaotic work in progress.
"It's as if we're at 2002 and not 2006 in terms of where we are," Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in an interview.
The ad hoc construction, adding layer upon layer with none taken away, has left intelligence and security agencies competing for turf. Deadlines for priorities have been missed. DHS, for example, has repeatedly delayed supplying a congressionally mandated list of the nation's critical infrastructure, and a blueprint for information-sharing among federal, state and local entities has been slow to get off the ground.