Gates May Rein In Pentagon Activities

Robert Gates, right, has opposed Donald Rumsfeld's intelligence expansion.
Robert Gates, right, has opposed Donald Rumsfeld's intelligence expansion. (By Gerald Herbert -- Associated Press)
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The nomination of Robert M. Gates as secretary of defense has begun to ease concerns in the intelligence community about the rapid growth of Pentagon intelligence activities since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, said experts inside and outside the government and on Capitol Hill.

Gates, a former CIA director, has a long history of opposing expansive Pentagon intelligence activities. He has voiced unease about roles being taken over by Pentagon personnel, in part because more than 80 percent of all intelligence spending is now done by Defense Department agencies.

Donald H. Rumsfeld, the outgoing defense secretary, has vastly expanded Pentagon intelligence activities, increasing operations overseas and creating a new position and a new agency to handle military intelligence.

In 1991, after being confirmed for the dual role of director of central intelligence and CIA director, Gates tried to rein in Pentagon activities by getting a White House directive from then-President George H.W. Bush that created the Community Management Staff to help oversee all intelligence activities. A CIA history of that period says Gates, whose background was as an analyst, saw the Defense Intelligence Agency "as 'feeling [its] oats' and 'moving to expand in every direction,' including pushing some 'crazy ideas' " on the collection of human intelligence.

Gates's 1991 initiative "caused some heartburn in DOD, partly because he used the word 'management,' " requiring him to send out an explanatory joint statement signed by himself and then-Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney.

More recently, Gates watched Rumsfeld create the position of undersecretary of defense for intelligence, whose role is to coordinate and expand worldwide military intelligence activities in the post-Sept. 11 world. In an op-ed piece in The Washington Post in May, Gates wrote that he and other CIA veterans were "unhappy about the dominance of the Defense Department in the intelligence arena" at a time when "close cooperation between the military and the CIA in both clandestine and intelligence collection is essential."

The article supported Gen. Michael V. Hayden becoming CIA director in part because Hayden, while director of the National Security Agency, opposed Rumsfeld keeping control of the NSA instead of having it move to the new director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte. Gates went on to say that the combination of Negroponte and Hayden would establish "a strong civilian institutional counterbalance and alternative strategic intelligence perspective to the historically strong Defense Department intelligence arm."

John E. McLaughlin, a former acting CIA director, said yesterday that Gates "understands more than anyone the appropriate balance between the military and civilian intelligence agencies."

One quick indication of how Gates will deal with interagency tensions will be whether Rumsfeld's undersecretary of defense for intelligence, Stephen A. Cambone, and his top deputy, Army Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, remain in their current positions. They have backed the growth of the Counterintelligence Field Activity, the controversial new agency that in three years has spent nearly $1 billion to gather data to be used in the protection of defense facilities at home and abroad.

Both have supported the increased roles for the military in sending Pentagon intelligence collectors abroad to gather information that could be needed if military operations against terrorists were initiated in various countries. Some conflicts arose in past years when Defense agents turned up in countries without notice to U.S. ambassadors and CIA chiefs of station.

A Pentagon spokesman said Cambone had no comment on the Gates nomination. Spokesmen for Negroponte and Hayden said neither would discuss the impact that Gates may have on the intelligence community.

McLaughlin noted yesterday that Negroponte's office has taken steps to create a system of transparency, easing some of the tensions. Gates "understands better than anyone that confusion overseas has to be stopped," he said, adding that the Pentagon "is not an alien world to him."

Another former senior intelligence official, who has worked closely with Gates, said that from his experience, Gates knows what the military needs in human intelligence and analysis as well as the best way to obtain it. Having come from the analytic side of the CIA, Gates is a great believer "in established clear lanes in the road, where each agency has its own responsibilities and knows the 'crosswalks' where there is a need to work together," the official said.

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