With the president's endorsement yesterday of a national intelligence czar, the government appears on track for another major restructuring.
Two years ago, the White House and Congress created the Department of Homeland Security, which merged 22 agencies and affected nearly 180,000 employees. Last year, the Pentagon got the green light from Congress to overhaul key workplace and pay rules covering more than 760,000 civil service employees.
Now, the intelligence community is being teed up for change, in part because of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. (There's no headcount of intelligence employees, but they number in the tens of thousands.)
Taking a page from the 9/11 Commission Report, President Bush proposed the creation of a National Counter-Terrorism Center, headed by a national intelligence director, to coordinate counter-terrorism plans and activities of all federal agencies.
What the proposed changes -- and the many more that are on the table -- mean for employees and their morale, especially at the CIA, may not be known for months. But the proposals will probably cause some anxiety, especially if the employees feel they are being turned into a scapegoat for bad policy or bad judgments.
Bush took a moment in the Rose Garden yesterday to reaffirm his appreciation of employees at intelligence agencies. "I'm proud of their work. . . . We're in their debt, we're grateful for them," he said.
The president added: "The changes we're making are designed to help the professionals carry out their essential missions, as best as they possibly can. I'll work closely with the Congress to ensure that reform does not disrupt their daily work."
The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), held a hearing Friday and has scheduled another for today on the 9/11 Commission Report.
In addition, the House Government Reform Committee, led by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), will try to advance the discussion today with a hearing that also looks at the broader issue of government organization.
Davis thinks it is time, particularly because of the 9/11 Commission findings, to give the president authority to submit executive branch reorganization proposals to Congress for up-or-down votes, a Davis spokesman said.
Past presidents had the authority (it expired in 1984) and used it to create the Office of Management and Budget and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Reinstating reorganization authority would be an effective way of stopping turf battles among congressional committees that might lose jurisdiction, the spokesman for Davis said.
In testimony prepared for the House hearing, Paul C. Light, a New York University professor who has studied government organization, said any realignment of the intelligence community must be done carefully.
Light, who believes that the government has too many management layers and that they impede communication between agency leaders and front-line workers, said reorganizations cannot compensate for poorly designed programs, inadequate funding or contradictory directives from Congress. Intelligence agencies in particular may need to reduce their executive ranks, he said.
"It makes little sense to me . . . to add another coordinating layer at the top of the intelligence community without a deliberate effort to streamline the hierarchies that it would oversee. Absent such an effort, we risk merely adding even more delays as information moves up the chain of command and guidance moves down," Light said in his prepared testimony.
Helen R. Herzer, a public affairs officer in the Internal Revenue Service's Boston office, retires today after 28 years of federal service.
Agnes Kalland, a policy analyst at the Office of Personnel Management, retires today after 32 years of federal service.
Nancy K. Roberts, secretary to the commanding general of the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, retired Aug. 1 after 21 years of federal service.
Jon C. Snellings retires today after 30 years of service in human resources management with the departments of Defense, Treasury and Transportation.