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  • Dr. Hillhouse has run Cuban rum between East and West Berlin, smuggled jewels from the Soviet Union and slipped through some of the world’s tightest borders. From Uzbekistan to Romania, she's been followed, held at gunpoint and interrogated. Foreign governments and others have pitched her for recruitment as a spy. (They failed.)

    A former professor and Fulbright fellow, Dr. Hillhouse earned her Ph.D. in political science at the University of Michigan. Her latest novel, OUTSOURCED (Forge Books) is about the turf wars between the Pentagon and the CIA and the privatization of national security.

    Dr. Hillhouse is an expert on national security outsourcing. Her controversial work has twice elicited a formal response by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence--the only times that office has ever publicly responded to the writings of a private citizen.

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OUTSOURCED.

« The Greening of the Black Sites, Pt. II. Contracting Out for Waterboarders | Main | Contractor's Website Reveals Clandestine CIA Programs »

February 13, 2008

Comments

Blueman

Please, not "personel crisis", just "human resources issues." Legend has it that when the Agency had an Office of Personnel and Personnel Officers who formulated policy and provided administrative support to line managers in the pursuit of mission accomplishment that we actually got the training that we needed to do our jobs. Of course, those were also allegedly the days when our jobs were as ops officers and intelligence officers instead of program managers.
When "personnel" became "human resouces" a decade ago, they decided that their role was to "level the playing field" and bureaucratically eliminate mission managers who had the temerity to promote those who actually contributed to mission accomplishment instead of those who "celebrated failure."
Now the Agency is in human resources heaven: It takes a year to go through the HR kommisariate process of filling a key position (assuming that anyone applies at all) and the absoultely level playing field is filled with players who are skilled at fumbling the ball in the hopes of having yet another failure to celebrate.
And they wonder why they need to put provisions in contracts prohibiting the recruitment of blue badgers in the Agency cafeteria and the use of former blue badgers on Agency contracts within eighteen months of their departure?

Tony Foresta

Intriguing commentary Blueman. The issue is not about contracting per se, or the outsourcing of tasks to private entities, but more critically - who exactly is awarding the contracts, - to whom are they being awarded and upon what basis and criteria, - what exactly is the end mission of the contract or contractor, - and how, and to whom is the contract, or contractor accountable?

Apparently these contracts and contracts are offered as nobid, openned, multihundred million dollars awards to cronies, klans, and cabals beholden to the Bush government without review, or recouse, without the peoples best interests involved, and accountable to no one for abuses, fraud, financial malfeasance, and crimes against humanity.

America's soldiers and uniformed, or green badge assets are afford no such immunities and protections. The is one set of laws, or more accurately - nonelaws, or lawlessness for contractors, - and another set of Constitutional jurisprudence, and federal, and international laws, universally recognized bodies, and precedents applicable to and enforce upon our uniformed warfighters and intelligence operators.

Contractors make tons more cash, and operate above the law. Privatizing weapons technologies is creepy business and best regulated and rigidly controlled and monitored.

Contractors are loyal to whom, or what exactly?!!!

e.c. herrick

Feeling comfortable with conclusions about any of this is hard for me absent of seeing what information is cloaked;-) That said, the money trail is fascinating. Sole source contracts to Halliburton at a time when at least two of their subsidiaries were operating under bankruptcy reorganization rules, by itself, flew in the face of contracting rules regarding reponsibilty and capacity. My own facetious suspicion is the awards were, at least in part, to insure the capacity of Halliburton to satisfy deferred compensation obligations to Cheney Both banrupt subsidiaries were back in the "black" in short order following Iraq's occupation.

Like all markets, in purchasing security products/services, good allocation of resources is unlikely in the absence of information. Theoretically we should expect over pricing, incompetence and abuse in the absence of knowledge and competition.

Cynically - the whole business appears as a scheme to move wealth from one pocket to another. In this case from public to private pockets;-)

Anyway, fun read and a good way to put off doing something useful on a Sunday morning.

Blueman

Tony Foresta wrote: "Apparently these contracts and contracts are offered as nobid, openned, multihundred million dollars awards to cronies, klans, and cabals beholden to the Bush government without review, or recouse, without the peoples best interests involved, and accountable to no one for abuses, fraud, financial malfeasance, and crimes against humanity."

At least on the NCS side of CIA, I'm not so sure that this is true, at least from what I can see, and I can see quite a bit. Many, if not most, of the NCS contracts for clandestine HUMINT collection and covert action are let to smaller, specialized companies that few outside of the intelligence community have heard of, save for Dr. Hillhouse. Generally, these contracts are less than $25 million per contract, in most cases far, far less, because there is an internal bureaucratic control mechanism at that level of contract value that makes sole source award to a preferred contractor significantly more difficult, if not downright impossible.
There is some truth that a lot of these contracts are no bid (i.e. sole source) and de facto open ended, but as the GWOT drags on, this relaxed environment is ending in NCS contracting and things are getting increasingly competitive.
As far as awarding the contracts to Bush cronies, NCS contracts and the small companies that get them are so far off the Bush and Co. radar screen as to be nonexistent.
The real money is in DoD battlefield support and Iraq nation building contracts, and this is where the contracting environment that Foresta refers to in his comment may well exist. I have some visibility into this and have seen it indirectly, but have no real hands on, intimate exposure to it like I do in my own environment.

Tony Foresta

Thanks for your erudite response Blueman, and it is (comforting?) to learn that "At least on the NCS side of CIA, I'm not so sure that this is true, at least from what I can see, and I can see quite a bit. Many, if not most, of the NCS contracts for clandestine HUMINT collection and covert action are let to smaller, specialized companies that few outside of the intelligence community have heard of, save for Dr. Hillhouse."

Still, there remains for me very serious and yet unresolved questions regarding loyalty and accountability issues relating contractors, and contracts.

Are these US employed contractors loyal and accountable to America and the American people, or to those individuals or entities choosing the contractors and awarding the contracts?

It seems that the Private Military Company, and Private Intelligence Company industries are in dire need of examination, review, and regulation.

Now, it appears from my pedestrian perspective that the awarding of contracts, the selecting of contractors, the accounting, and accountability of those contracts and contractors, the ultimate missions of those contracts, and the legal parameters in which these contracts and contractors operate are unknown unknowns with the potential for abuse and malfeasance running wild and unrestrained.

If America is benefiting from these operations in any way, then there could be an argument for maintaining the cloaked the unknown unknown controls, - but again, from my pedestrian perspective, I see billions of the peoples dollars funnelled into black holes with no accounting, no review, no recourse, and no remedy for abuse or criminal conduct, and with suspect and highly questionable results.

"Deliver us from evil!"

Blueman

Good questions. Let's take them one at a time, shall we?

Q: "Are these US employed contractors loyal and accountable to America and the American people, or to those individuals or entities choosing the contractors and awarding the contracts?"

A: They are primarily loyal and accountable to guys like me, USG career employees. Which is as it should be, because I am loyal and accountable by oath of office to the American people via my chain of command (which goes up to the President) and Congress (who could cut my funds in a heartbeat) to accomplish the mission that I am ordered to do by the President and which the Congress approves via their oversight committees and the funding that they provide. Americans who have a problem with that mission and those funds get to take it up directly with the person that gives the orders (the President) every four years and the persons that provide the funds (Congresmen and Senators) every two or six years. So I guess that you could say that contractors are also loyal and accountable to the American people indirectly through this system. Practically, however, they are loyal to their COTRs because we could terminate their contract in a heartbeat if they aren't getting the job done that they are contracted to do. Why would I (we) terminate their contract? Because if they don't get their job done, I don't get my job done and I get punished, up to and including getting fired. There it is, at least from my perspective.

Q: "It seems that the Private Military Company, and Private Intelligence Company industries are in dire need of examination, review, and regulation."

A: Actually, the mechanisms exist for considerable examination and review, and government contractors are already heavily regulated under the provisions of the Code of Federal Regulations. If all of this is enforced, it works pretty well. Witness Dusty Foggo, the former Executive Director of the CIA who is under a 13 count felony indictment for just attempting to give a crony contracts (only one, relatively small contract was actually let, and that was granted after oversight review by people way over Foggo's pay grade at the time).
It's when the control mechanisms aren't enforced that we have problems. I happen to have a lot of visibility into areas where the controls are being enforced. I readily admit that there are areas, principally in DoD, where they may well be circumvented.

Q: "...from my pedestrian perspective, I see billions of the peoples dollars funnelled into black holes with no accounting, no review, no recourse, and no remedy for abuse or criminal conduct, and with suspect and highly questionable results."

A: This is entirely possible. But for the few bucks that I handle, you are getting the most that I can squeeze out of the resources that I have available to accomplish the mission that I have been ordered to do. Once again, if you have a problem with that mission, the dollars being spent on it, or the mechanisms used to oversee it, take it up with the people that answer directly to you via the election process. That's what I do.

Tony Foresta

A thousand thanks again Blueman for bothering to respond to my inquiries, for your learned analysis, and for the hard work you do securing America and "... getting the most that I can squeeze out of the resources that I have available to accomplish the mission that I have been ordered to do."


Also your admonition to address these issues through the elections process is well taken.

One last issue pestering me, is the seeming lack of coordination, and the often conflicting assessments of the intelligence products formulated by the NCS side of the CIA on one hand and the DoD, (and OSP like operations) on the other.

The DoD is obviously preeminant.

Yet, and forgive me for perhaps oversimplifying matters here, - but the NCS side of the CIA provides intelligence products to fead policy, - while the DoD side conforms, or contorts the intelligence product to suit preexisting policy.

The first is actionable intelligence, - the latter is disinformation warfare exploited for political and probably economic gains.

Less there be any doubt I cannot in good faith offer any trust, or goodfaith to anyone in the Bush government, but I am sincerely grateful and comforted that individuals like you and your teams are actually "...loyal and accountable by oath of office to the American people via my chain of command (which goes up to the President) and Congress..."

Thank you for your service.

Blueman

There is really no short answer to your question because the way that you have posed it itself indicates a lack of understanding about how the U.S. intelligence community in general, and the CIA and its NCS in particular, actually function.

Let me give it a try, though, because I think it important that Americans understand how intelligence works. After all, we pay for it.

Both the CIA and DoD have intelligence collection and analysis functions. At the risk of oversimplification, the CIA's principal collection operation is NCS, which is responsible for clandestine collection of intelligence from human sources (read:recruiting and running spies). DoD is largely responsible for collection of intelligence through complex, expensive technological means, which it does through several agencies. Both in terms of manpower and cash, the DoD collection function is massive when compared to CIA's counterparts.

CIA/DoD collection activities do not produce intelligence products. Rather, they produce raw reporting, which is then turned into finished intelligence products by the analytical arm of CIA, known as the Directorate of Intelligence, or DI, and various analytical units of various intelligence agencies of DoD. Here again, the DoD's various analytical operations dwarf those of the DI, and we'll soon see why.

Most of the intelligence analysts of both the DI and DoD see all of the raw reporting produced by all collection sources of intelligence that pertain to the analytical function the they perform. This is known as "all source analysis." All source analysis produces finished intelligence products, which are then read by various consumers at various levels throughout the government. Where the DI and DoD's various analytical units differ is in which consumers' perspectives, prioritties and concerns they address.

The DI addresses those of the President, NSC and cabinet secretaries, undersecretaries and assistant secretaries. Therefore, their job is pretty much to address strategic questions.

Depending on which analytical unit they are in, DoD intelligence analysts address DoD concerns and questions ranging from those of the Secretary of Defense down to those of a soldier on the battlefield directly facing an enemy. This diversity of mission is why DoD has so many more intel analysts than CIA.

As you can readily see, this government wide organization for intel analysis also can readily produce disagreements on what is important and what is not. To an Army analyst responsible for telling soldiers what they need to know about an enemy tank in order to defeat it, a technical development in armor may be crucially important. The same information may be way under the radar screen of what the White House wants to know. And there are pretty much limitless shades and variations of who thinks what is important by various analytical levels in between. Thus, it is not surprising that DoD and CIA disagree on things in terms of what intelligence means. This has been going on since there has been a CIA and a DoD, and was pretty much exemplified in the early days by the so-called "missile gap" of the Cold War.

Y
The recent problem between CIA and DoD that you describe in your question, however, is less an issue of intelligence disagreement and more an issue of powerful non-intelligence actors in DoD, specifically former SecDef Rumsfeld and his former principal deputies Wolfowitz and Feith, misusing the access of DoD intelligence analyst to raw, all source reporting. Essentially what they did was create a team of non-intelligence salesmen who had the mission of justifying invading Iraq and convincing the American people of the neccesity of this. This team used the all source report access that DoD intel analysts need to do their job and cherry-picked these raw reports for the few that supported this political operation, screened out those that did not, and wove a fairy tale that former SecState Colin Powell read to the world on live television before the UN.

Personally, I think that this problem of the misuse of intelligence by DoD ended with the departure of the three musketeers. The current SecDef, Robert Gates, appears to be working dilligently to restore DoD intelligence to an honest broker of its very broad mission.

Large bureaucracies change slowly, however, and the three musketeers installed many true believers at various levels throughout the DoD intelligence structure during the years that they were in power. From what I can see, Gates appears to be systemically identifying and neutralizing these disruptive influences and restoring DoD intel to the integrity that we have every right to expect.

Of course, that's just my perspective.

Tony Foresta

I thank you again Blueman with all due respect for the candor and civility in which you schooled me on "a lack of understanding about how the U.S. intelligence community in general, and the CIA and its NCS in particular, actually function."

As a loyal American and a father concerned about the America my daughter will inherit, and with all sincerity, I very much appreciate your simplified explanation of how intelligence is managed in, and by the government.

While I do not trust or afford anyone in the Bush government any good faith, and view Gates Iran/Contra dealings as... unsettling, I am hopeful based on your assessment that saner minds are feeding policy, and that the intelligence apparatus we so desperately need is "systemically identifying and neutralizing these disruptive influences and restoring DoD intel to the integrity that we have every right to expect."

A thousand thanks for a very informative thread.

michael jordan shoes

Would you please provide a URL for this quote so I can send it to friends, or at least WSJ publication date, article title
"If you like to see the strong slap around the weak -- and deep down, you know you do -- this was the sports weekend for you." - WSJ

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Acknowledgements

  • A tip of the hat to investigative journalist Tim Shorrock who inspired the name of this blog with his path-breaking 2005 article, "The Spy Who Billed Me."

    Shorrock has a dedicated web page on outsourcing in intel. It links to many of his articles which are must-reads for anyone interested in the privatization of intelligence.