The Washington Post has a long story in Wednesday’s paper on the coordination of the nation’s homeland security and counterterrorism efforts, listing the numerous organizational changes since 9/11, and the complex architecture that has emerged as a result:
The ad hoc construction, adding layer upon layer with none taken away, has left intelligence and security agencies competing for turf. Deadlines for priorities have been missed. DHS, for example, has repeatedly delayed supplying a congressionally mandated list of the nation’s critical infrastructure, and a blueprint for information-sharing among federal, state and local entities has been slow to get off the ground.
Continuity and coherence have been undercut by rapid turnover among top officials, particularly in the institutions responsible for domestic security and preparedness.
The result of this duplication and incoherence? A homeland security and counterterrorism system where the following occurs:
In the lead-up to this year’s Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, eight of the 16 agencies in the U.S. intelligence community independently produced assessments of possible terrorist threats to the Games. The “finished intelligence products,” a counterterrorism official said, all concluded exactly the same thing — that the threat was minimal.
The article then describes current initiatives to reign in this duplication and complexity, focusing on two new strategic documents: the National Implementation Plan, which “designates lead and subordinate agencies to carry out more than 500 discrete counterterrorism tasks among them vanquishing al-Qaeda, protecting the homeland, wooing allies, training experts in other languages and cultures, and understanding and influencing the Islamic psyche” (its role in the strategic framework is shown on page 18 of this presentation); and the Analytic Framework for Counterterrorism, signed by DNI director John Negroponte in July, which “directs operational agencies such as the CIA “to focus their analytical resources” on “penetrating and eliminating known terrorist organizations,” leaving the NCTC to provide comprehensive threat analyses for the government as a whole.”
These two documents sound like they’re related to NSPD-46/HSPD-15, the classified directive that was allegedly signed in March but has received scant attention since then in media, and none for the last three months. Are there any plans to release an unclassified version?
The last part of the article focuses on the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), describing an entity that has made substantial progress at forcing agencies to work together, but still operates in an environment where “most desks are stacked high with half a dozen or more computer processing units connected to various intelligence agencies that still cannot, or will not, communicate with one another electronically.”
Overall, a very solid piece, one that is worth taking time the time to read in full.