Intelligence Reform


Institution Affiliation:

It is the responsibility of every government to ensure that itprotects its citizens from both domestic and external threats. Inorder to do this, there is need to gather intelligence and use it tocreate mechanisms to be used to protect the people. The intelligenceis collected through a number of ways, and the information is storedby the relevant authorities who put it into use whenever necessary.Given the complexity of the matter, previous administrations haveattempted to make improvements to the whole process and ensuring thatthe intelligencemechanisms and sources are reliable and efficient.The latest major move was the enactment of the and TerrorismPrevention Act of 2004, which was passed by the congressduring the rule of President George W. Bush (Zamora, 2014). Sincethen, a number of other relevant reforms have been made, with the aimof improving the country’s national intelligence. This paper looksat problems in the intelligence service and proposes two reforms forimproving its effectiveness, which are reduction of bureaucracy andcentralized leadership in the intelligence department.

Background of problem

The present intelligence service is based on two major principles,which are the collection of information from relevant sources andgeneration of knowledge from that information. By doing this, theintelligence enterprise is able to understand the situation of acountry, point out the threats and make decisions on how to solve thesame. Similarly, it is possible to use intelligence services tocounter-attack the agents of threat, and in doing so, suppress theirplans before they materialize. In order to make this happen, there iscollaboration of a number of agencies and sub-departments, each witha defined area of expertise (Betts, 2013). Some of the intelligenceagencies in the United States are Intelligence Units of the UniteStates Air Force, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and theNational Security Agency, amongst many others. Their collaborativework is used to advise the national government on steps to take toneutralize threats and to maintain order.

However, there have been major loopholes in the nationalintelligence service in the past. These have led to loss of lives andproperty worth billions of dollars. Perhaps the most notoriousfailure of the national intelligence was what led to the 9/11attacks. The events of this day led to one of the grandestinvestigations into the American Intelligence System, with questionsof its potency and efficiency dominating the activity. Many expertswondered whether the failure to prevent such an attack was the doingof the decision makers or the intelligence unit itself. This led tonumerous inquiries into the matter, culminating in the enactment andadoption of the and Terrorism Prevention Act of2004. However, Atkinson (2015) argues that this was not the bestsolution now, citing the eventual engagement of the United Statesmilitary in the Afghanistan and Iraq war in the coming years. Afterthis, the debate resurfaced once again, and the issue of the oneresponsible for failure was the limelight of the debate. Theintelligence community and the policymakers were questioned abouttheir responsibilities. Experts thus agree that solving the issue ofimpotent intelligence was enactment of well-advised reforms. Based onthis, this paper suggests reduction of bureaucracy and centralizedleadership.


A constricted bureaucracy

The National Commission on Terrorism and the U.S Joint Task Force didan overall review of the governing policies of the country’sintelligence and discovered that one of the problems was bureaucracy(Subrahmanian et al., 2013). One of the guiding factors of theresearch was that the public always wants to see the authoritiesdedicating more time in effectively dealing with crime and disorderin the society. Given this, there is need to have a free-flowingchannel of information which enables every responsible unit in thedepartment to have information and make independent use of it.Holding back some bits of information helps the wrong doers bymaximizing on the loopholes created, and advancing on their plans.According to Betts (2013), it is important to reduce bureaucracybecause it creates a striking balance between the public and theauthorities, and in the process, enhancing the legal process.

Freedman (2014) identifies a major problem caused by bureaucracy inthe intelligence service. According to him, bureaucracy makes it hardto effect changes. This is because the nature of bureaucracy placespeople in positions that they can do little to control the flow ofintelligence. Perhaps the blame is to be placed on the policy makers,who had little comprehension of the dynamic nature of intelligence.As such, they created a structure that limited effective collectionof information and using the same information in strategizing.According to Freedman (2014), the 9/11 attacks were largely blamed onthe lack of coordination between the various intelligence unitsoperating in the country, facilitated by high levels of bureaucracy.As such, the attackers were found loopholes to regularly retreat andcome up with new plans whenever the authorities got too close.Kuperwasser (2007) further adds that bureaucracies with the primarydomestic responsibilities, the Federal Bureau of Investigation andthe Department of Homeland Security, complicated the entiresituation.

Gormley (2014) says that the problems of bureaucracy infiltrates andaffects other elements of national intelligence, and as such,becoming an institutionalized problem. For instance, the increasednumber of international terrorism in the 90s showed that bureaucracyhad affected the country’s intelligence policies. This is sobecause the terrorists saw that the United States did not recognizethe distinction between domestic and foreign policies and operations.The enemies, by using the widespread internet access, could learnabout the developments made by the intelligence services and workaround them. Should it have happened that bureaucracy was notexaggerated in the intelligence department the authorities would beable to take note of the enemies’ moves and move to contain them.According to RT (2014), a report indicated that fragmented oversight,flanked by bureaucracy, has since undermined the ability of the UniteStates intelligence to combat terrorism, and give the public a falsesense of security.

Back in the 90s, there were resounding calls for the government toreduce bureaucracy in the intelligence sector (Clarke, 2012). Theopposition parties, who were of the opinion that bureaucracy wasundermining the way the various intelligence services were working inthe country, mainly headed these calls. Similarly, there were majorcries from the pubic, which saw bureaucracy as a system that lackedaccountability and general efficiency. The efforts by the oppositionparties and the public led to a significant decrease of civilianemployees, as well as key intelligence officers, over the next threedecades. According to Atkinson (2015), during this time, there werekey lessons that were learnt about the effects of reducingbureaucracy and how to do it effectively. Some of the key ways ofreducing bureaucracy were re-organization of the intelligence serviceand executive branch review.

The president has key powers in appointing members of the nationalintelligence service and other related units. This therefore giveshim the power of controlling the size of the government officials whoare responsible for handling the intelligence information. This wouldhelp to streamline the efficiency of the various agencies that aregiven the responsibility of handling the information. According toWilensky(2015), the constitution gives the president powers togive directions to the persons heading the overall intelligencedepartment to control the level of bureaucracy in their departments.Likewise, given the powers endowed upon him by the constitution, thepresident is able to influence policy matters that are of interest inthe intelligence services. As such, this places the presidency in akey position to streamlining operations in intelligence andconsequently reducing the level of bureaucracy.

Recent administrations, led by George Bush and Bill Clinton, madeclose reviews of the operations of the intelligence service as aneffort to control federal bureaucracy. Under the orders of GeorgeBush, the government was able to table crucial information aboutcompetitiveness in the federal regulations, which was hurting thegeneral progress in improving intelligence services (Lavertu, Lewis &ampMoynihan, 2013). As well, President Bill Clinton ordered a review ofthe performance of the national and federal intelligence units, whichthrough recommendations, led to the reduction of the size of someagencies (West, 2015). The immediate effect of these efforts waspositive, as the said administrations were able to streamline theflow of information and consequently improve the intelligence. Assuch, it is evident that the executive branch reviews, initiated bypresidential directives, can help reduce bureaucracy in intelligence,making this option a potent intelligence reform effort.

Centralized leadership

Upon the signing of the Intelligent Reform and Terrorist PreventionAct of 2004, President George W. Bush nominated John D. Negroponte tobe the first head of the Director of National Intelligence (TheNational Security Archive, 2004). This was a move to create a centralleadership model, which seeks to bring together the responsibilitiesof decision making and handing it to one office. Before this, therewas the office of the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), whichhad been reorganized many times over, still not yielding the expectedresults. The main reason for this was that there were controversiesand conflicts over the role of this office, as it was not effectivelymanaging other allied agencies. This led to a reduction of themilitary’s responsiveness to emergencies and other relatedsituations, given lack of central command and authorizing office. Forinstance, the various offices that were created when Walter BedellSmith was head of the DCI were acting as advisers and board ofdirectors. The officers appointed to assist Mr. Smith often gotembroiled in bitter battles as they attempted to have their opinionsput into action, and at some points, led to the abolishment of thesome officers (The National Security Archive, 2004). This is just butone demonstration of lacking central leadership in the intelligencedepartment.

Wilensky (2015) points out the need of having a centralizedleadership in the intelligence services. First, he says that acentralized organizational structure is one which facilitates powerconvergence and as such, enhancing critical decision-making process.Prior to the 9/11 attacks, the US national intelligence was designedto handle terror threats by delegating power to several sub-units.During this time, there was lack of cohesion in the DCI, meaning thatthere could be no solid institutional or budgetary power to directsecurity efforts. In order to rectify the situation, a newcabinet-level DNI was created that substituted the ‘dual-hatted’DCI (Peritz, 2009). By doing this, it became easy to design policiesand leverage the total capacity of the intelligence services togather information, and give directives to be followed by thelower-level departments. This additionally helped the government tocontrol the actions of the federal intelligence agencies.

Perhaps most importantly, Betts (2013) says that the advantage ofhaving a centralized leadership in the intelligence service is thatthere will be faster execution of orders and directives. When fewpeople are involved in the discussion and decision-making, it will beeasier to initiate reactions in the field. The reduced number ofoffices in the national intelligence department also makes gatheringof relevant information from the field sources and discussion of thesame within a short period. Similarly, a centralized leadershipstructure will allow the executive to communicate with theintelligence agencies in a more direct manner, by eliminatingunnecessary protocols that delay action. Given the dynamic nature ofmodern terrorism, wasting time on making follow ups would give theenemies time to retreat and come back with even more complicatedplans. A good example of how unnecessary protocols are eliminated wasthe situation room meeting on the night of the raid of Osama binLaden’s home. At this meeting, the intelligence chiefs werecoordinating directly with the executive and military to execute aplan they had been making for a long time, without having to involvemany other people in the communication chain. As such, having centralleadership in the intelligence service is an effective reform, whichhas immediate and efficient results.


It is no question that there is need for intelligence reforms in thecountry, given the crisis that the U.S intelligence enterprise hasfound itself in. Perhaps the biggest awakening call for intelligencereforms was the 9/11 attacks, which led to widespread condemnation ofthe government and federal intelligence agencies. Regardless, overtime, the government has made efforts to examine the failures of thesystem and used the findings to strategize reforms. While a number ofsuccessful options have been pursued, there is still need to enhancethe intelligence system, which needs continuous research. Havingproposed reduction of bureaucracy and centralized leadership, thispaper recommends further policy-centered actions besides facilitatingthe implementation of these reforms, will help the government to havemore control on matters of security. Additionally, there is need toimprove human intelligence by engaging the public in intelligenceissues, and tighter corporation between agencies. Further improvementof accountability in the sector will also improve informationhandling and policy formulation. By doing this, the government willbe able to re-establish public confidence in the intelligence system,and protect lives and property from both domestic and externalenemies.


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