The Associate Director of National Intelligence (ADNI) responded to my July 8 Washington Post piece with a letter published in the WaPo this past week. The ANDI proved my point: that the solutions to the problems of outsourcing in the Intelligence Community (IC) are not going to come from government, but rather from the private sector or as I concluded:
The director of national intelligence has put our security at risk by classifying the study on outsourcing and keeping the truth about this inadequately planned and managed system out of the light. Much of what has been outsourced makes sense, but much of the structure doesn't, not for the longer term. It's time for the public and Congress to demand the study's release. More important, it's past time for the industry -- an industry conceived of and run by some of the best and brightest the CIA has ever produced -- to come up with the kind of innovative solutions it's legendary for, before the damage goes too deep.
The ADNI mischaracterized my arguments as having suggested, "that the use of contract personnel by intelligence agencies such as the CIA is somehow damaging to national security." Anyone who's closely read my essay already knows this is not accurate and my issue isn't with involvement of the private sector in the IC, but rather my concerns are more refined and center around command and control issues and other problems arising from the jury rigged structure that has evolved with little planning.
Mischaracterizing the thrust of my arguments allowed the ADNI to sidestep the tough issues: how we really need to rethink and restructure the system to preserve national security. And it allowed him to trot out tired excuses we've been hearing for close to a decade. The ADNI writes:
Why not just hire more civilians? We have, but it takes years to train and develop intelligence analysts and case officers.
The buns are in the oven...
Now where have I heard this before? Just give them time and all will be well.
If I recall correctly, although I couldn't find the reference, it seems like it was George Tenet who introduced this excuse in the late 1990s: it takes some seven years of train a case officer and we only need patience. It was first used in earnest in Congressional testimony in October 2002 when we learned that recruitment and training in Clandestine Service was overhauled in the late 1990s. Goss and Tenet have both repeatedly reminded us that it takes seven years to produce a journeyman case officer. A year after 9/11 the "buns are in the oven" excuse became the principal defense for performance issues.
Trust them, wait seven years and all will be well.
Well, it’s been six years since 9/11, and during that time, what has been done?
Every time this tired argument is used, it comes up in the context of, “hey, we just started to hire yesterday. Give us a few years.” Well, they've had a few years and during those years, they’ve contracted out because it was easier and faster instead of doing the more difficult and systematically restructuring and increasing the blue badge workforce in a way that makes sense with current reality or even restructuring blue-green relations into a more rational system.
Ding. Time for the buns to come out of the oven.
But where are they? My mouth is watering, the butter is out and ready to spread, but no buns? I can't even smell them...
By my calculations, that first cohort Tenet referred to from the late 1990s should’ve been ready to pop out at the latest two or three years post-9/11. So what happened to the development of this cohort that was on board during 9/11?
Were they incentivized to stay and develop as blue badge analysts and case officers?
Or did they bail out after being pitched over lunch in the Agency cafeteria by Abraxas, a company that apparently understands something about providing an attractive and incentivised work environment.
How does the recently implemented “18 month cooling off period” for non-retirees before they can return to the Agency as contractors track with what’s been going on to recruit and retain blue badgers over the past six years? Could it be that the newbies have been rushing from the Farm to greener-badged pastures? Why was a cooling off period even necessary if the green badge employment environment wasn’t competitive with blue badge employment as it was stated in last year’s DNI Human Capital Report?
Could it be that there's something wrong with the recipe--that the buns aren't rising?
And if those long-promised buns really are in the oven, then why did D/CIA Hayden tell us in late May that 15% of the Agency's workforce had been hired in the past two months?
More dough, but no buns.
In the private sector a bakery like this would have been out of business long ago.
The answers to the national security vulnerabilities I outlined are not more trained bodies with blue badges, but a redesign of how we do business that reflects a thoughtful approach to current realities and that mitigates risk. The Associate Director of National Intelligence has made it clear that the DNI is not going to grapple with the thorny systemic problems that are so much more comfortable to ignore while watching the clock wind down on this Administration. There's no need to shut out the private sector, as the ADNI seems to be suggesting, even it were possible--which it isn't. The most innovative minds are there and they need to step up to the plate and start offering long term solutions before it's too late and national security is harmed.
INSA, are you listening? Cofer? Dick? Hollis? John?