Intelligence Community to Reshape Personnel Practices
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Two years after the nation's intelligence community was ordered to fix problems that contributed to the failures of Sept. 11, 2001, its chief announced major changes yesterday in the way spies will be hired, assigned, evaluated and paid.
In a series of initiatives set for completion in the next 100 days, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell also outlined a "radical transformation" of collaboration on intelligence gathering and analysis and community-wide standards for clarity in intelligence reports and assessment of source reliability. He revealed plans for an outside audit of the $42 billion intelligence budget and pledged newly aggressive efforts to recruit and vet native Arabic speakers.
McConnell said most of the changes were authorized under the 2004 Intelligence Reform Act, which created the national directorate he heads. If necessary, he said in a briefing for reporters, "we could go back [to Congress] and ask for a new law, or write a new executive order" for President Bush to sign.
McConnell said he will ask Bush and Congress to address what he said had been a 40 percent decrease in intelligence funding since the early 1990s.
He said he also plans to ask Congress next week for revisions in the government's controversial surveillance authority under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
He declined to specify the expanded powers he said are needed to respond to "dramatic" changes in communications technology used by intelligence targets in this country. But the Associated Press reported Tuesday that they include additional authority to monitor foreign nationals without court orders and an increase in the lifespan of surveillance orders from 120 days to one year.
The announcement of the ambitious "100-Day Plan for Integration and Collaboration" comes amid congressional concern over the slow pace of reform and the ability of the 16-agency U.S. intelligence community to overcome institutional and cultural barriers to information sharing.
Critics of John D. Negroponte, McConnell's predecessor and now deputy secretary of state, said he was not tough enough to battle the entrenched intelligence bureaucracy. His efforts to centralize control of intelligence were repeatedly blocked by the Pentagon, which has authority over 80 percent of the overall intelligence budget, under then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
Before taking over the job of intelligence chief two months ago, McConnell, a retired Navy admiral and former head of the National Security Agency, held a series of discussions with Rumsfeld's successor, Robert M. Gates, and Gates's nominee for assistant defense secretary for intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr.
"The reason I'm here is because of that discussion," McConnell said yesterday.
Among the reforms announced yesterday was a plan to reward intelligence personnel who show a collaborative spirit and punish those who do not, through a system McConnell compared to military reforms of the mid-1980s that were designed to promote joint effort among the service branches.
Intelligence employees now will be unable to rise above a certain grade unless they have spent a tour working at another agency or at the Directorate of National Intelligence. Success at such assignments and general attitude toward collaboration also will be reflected in performance evaluations and pay.