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IntelligenceWOT distorting focus, resource allocation of U.S. intelligence community: experts

Published 21 March 2013

The U.S. Intelligence Advisory Board, a panel of fourteen highly regarded and experienced experts, many of whom past holder of high-level national security positions, has submitted a secret report to President Obama in which they say that the intense, 12-year focus of the intelligence community on finding and fighting terrorism has distorted the priorities, resource allocation, and training within that community. Former Senator David Boren, a member of the panel, asks: “in the long run, what’s more important to America: Afghanistan or China?”

The U.S. Intelligence Advisory Board, a panel of fourteen highly regarded and experienced experts, many of whom past holder of high-level national security positions, has submitted a secret report to President Obama in which they say that the intense, 12-year focus of the intelligence community on finding and fighting terrorism has distorted the priorities, resource allocation, and training within that community.

This distortion has led to dangerous developments: insufficient attention is being paid to other areas of pressing national security concerns such as China and the Middle East, and traditional aspects of intelligence such as information gathering and analysis are neglected in favor of operational missions and support for the military.

The Washington Post reports that the panel included current Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, former senator David Boren (D-Oklahoma), and former Congressman Lee Hamilton (D-Indiana), who was co-chair of the 9/11 Commission.

“The intelligence community has become to some degree a military support operation,” Boren told the Post. He said the deployment of intelligence personnel and resources has become so unbalanced that it “needs to be changed as dramatically as it was at the end of the Cold War.”

Hamilton said traditional espionage “has suffered as the CIA has put more and more effort into the operational side.”

Hamilton admitted that the 9/11 Commission’s findings and recommendations were partly responsible for the intelligence community’s shift in emphasis, but said that he is now concerned that the shift has gone too far. He said that it is time to “redirect the war footing that we’ve had, the focus on counterterrorism . . . and go back to the traditional functions of gathering and analyzing.”

The secret document was completed last year, and distributed to high level national security officials in the administration.

The Post notes that the document my also explain some of the things John Brennan said during his confirmation hearings. Brennan, who served as Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser and who earlier this month was sworn in as CIA director, said during the hearings that he planned to evaluate the “allocation of mission” at the agency. He described the scope of CIA involvement in lethal operations as an “aberration from its traditional role.”

One indication of the growing unease with the greater operational responsibilities undertaken by the CIA is the fact that there are growing calls, both within the administration and outside, to have the Pentagon assume more control over the anti-terrorist drone campaign and reduce the CIA’s role in this campaign.

The Post notes that at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the CIA had thousands of case officers assigned to these two countries, a fact that helped Boren illustrate the growing imbalance among the different CIA missions. There is a is a significant lack of proportion, Boren said, in “how many personnel and experts we have in places like Iraq and Afghanistan versus other countries of great importance.”

The need for better intelligence on China “doesn’t mean we’re going to come to blows” with that country, Boren said. “But in the long run, what’s more important to America: Afghanistan or China?”

Boren also stressed that repeated deployments to war zones have undermined the training of a post-9/11 generation of spies. “So far, nearly all of their experience has been in what I would call military support,” he said. “Almost none of it has been in traditional intelligence-gathering and analysis.”