Intelligence official shares his organizational vision

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 11, 2010; 7:35 PM

Two months on the job, James R. Clapper Jr., the fourth director of national intelligence in five years, is already making structural and personnel changes in his organization, which must clarify its role as manager of the 16 agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community.

Clapper spoke of "the alleged frailties and ambiguities of the office I am now in," during his first major policy speech as director last week at a conference sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

He said he already has learned one lesson: "A challenge for any DNI the way it's constituted now: Running the enterprise and providing the intelligence support to the president." The latter role involves being in the Oval Office with the president most mornings for the national security briefing.

He said his "most daunting challenge . . . is time management, adding: "That's been an observation of all previous DNIs and DCIs (the predecessor director of central intelligence), for that matter," he said.

For intelligence veterans, Clapper's remarks were familiar. They recall that six years ago the same question was raised when the 9/11 Commission proposed legislation with the DNI concept. The argument for the DNI and its accompanying new bureaucratic layer was that the system then in place - the CIA director also serving as director of central intelligence - was too much for one person to handle.

Within the CIA, the argument against a DNI was that you did not need a new organization. Instead, clarify the authority within the intelligence community of the DCI, and that person and his or her deputy could handle both jobs. Needless to say, that view did not prevail in 2004.

Clapper told the conference that his solution for handling the two roles was going to be to give his principal deputy the job of chief operating officer, "and, more or less, to internally run the staff" that implements the intelligence community management role. That would free him to pay attention to what he described as "providing the subsequent intelligence report for Customer No. 1 (the president) and all that goes with that."

Clapper named David R. Shedd, a career CIA officer who has worked since 2007 as deputy DNI for policy, plans and requirements - except for one month, beginning in August, when he went to the Pentagon as deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

In another personnel move, Clapper announced that he will ignore the statute that allows him four deputy directors and instead have two - Shedd and Robert Cardillo, who had been at the Pentagon when Clapper was undersecretary of defense for intelligence.

Cardillo, who comes from the analytical side of Defense Department intelligence, will have the title of DNI deputy director for intelligence integration. As described by Clapper, it will be a job that replaces two former DNI deputy directors, one who was in charge of collection and another who handled analysis.

Clapper said that although collection and analysis should remain separate at the agency levels, his office is a place "where these two normally separate endeavors in intelligence need to come together."

That step undoubtedly will please Congress, which has worried about the size of the office, because it collapses two bureaucratic groups. It also may be welcomed by collectors and analysts at the CIA, the Pentagon and elsewhere because it may limit second-guessing of their activities from the office's staff.

However, Clapper acknowledged that it was "causing a lot of angst" among his own staff.

Known as a frank speaker, Clapper also took on one issue that his predecessors often ducked.

During the question-and-answer period, former congressman Dave McCurdy (D-Okla.), once chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, asked Clapper if he thought congressional oversight was becoming "more and more partisan or polarized and . . . less effective."

Clapper initially responded with memories of the early 1990s, when he said the atmosphere was "largely bipartisan, where the [intelligence committee members] felt that this was a sacred public trust that had nothing to do with home-district or home-state equities or interests."

Unspoken was the practice, grown up during recent years, of members placing earmarks on intelligence authorization and appropriations bills.

But Clapper then said, "I think it's fair to say that over time, I think the two intelligence committees have gotten caught up somewhat in the partisanship that I think prevails today."

He said he wants to do "what I can to make it a bipartisan discourse."

Good luck in an election year.

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