The Post's probe of top-secret America

Friday, July 23, 2010

I retired as a senior intelligence officer from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in 1995 (when, incidentally, Gen. James R. Clapper Jr. was the agency's director). Since then, I have not kept up very much with intelligence community issues or programs. Thus I was truly shocked to read of the out-of-control sprawl described in Dana Priest and William Arkin's series, "Top Secret America" [front page, July 19-21].

This was not the intelligence community that I remember, which during my career was focused on the Cold War. While no model of efficiency or coordination, the community seemed to handle Cold War problems without anything like the sprawl and redundancy that the articles described. During my career, the DIA workforce, in particular, varied from 4,000 to 5,000 people. You can imagine my consternation when I read that the agency had ballooned to 16,500 people. That figure is virtually beyond the realm of imagination.

It is hard to imagine why the struggle against al-Qaeda requires three times as many people in one major intelligence agency as were engaged against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It seems to me that Republicans and Democrats have a shared interest in bringing this monster under control, particularly when the issue of soaring government deficits is on so many people's minds.

William K. Schultz, Silver Spring

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"Top Secret America" is, at a minimum, misleading and sensational. There is no news here to anybody who has worked with the intelligence community during the past several decades.

Many of these contractors are consumers of intelligence, i.e. engineers designing and building systems. Many others have a top-secret security clearance just to manage information technology systems that agencies outsourced years ago to save money and preserve manpower positions for analysts. All the empirical data show that these types of competitive contracts have improved performance and reduced costs. Much of the intelligence analyst augmentation is required to support current combat operations, compounded by the reluctance of many of the civil servants to volunteer to deploy to support them; remember State Department employees refusing to "volunteer" to be assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Iraq?

Moreover, as U.S. forces are withdrawn from combat, the need for this analyst augmentation will diminish. In several years, we may have significantly less need for Pashto-speaking interrogators. This is an important topic, and it deserves a much more serious and objective treatment.

William Lucyshyn, College Park


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