Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 8, 2006

WaPo examines the state of counterterror and HLS coordination

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Intelligence and Info-Sharing — by Christian Beckner on August 8, 2006

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.

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1 Comment »

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 9, 2006 @ 11:26 am

This is a terrific article. What jumped out at me was the chart/diagram. Some organizations are independent of Departmental structures-e.g. the CIA- and many are part of a department but get independent representation anyhow. Think how interesting it would be if the Departments represented were the exclusive representatives and their subordinate units were not independently represented. If you think politics does not enter into intelligence, this issue alone refutes that notion. Some agencies really are not “supervised” by the Department in which they are located. Why is that? Could it be certain organizations have friends in Congress able to protect them from supervision or even review. If that chart remains the same for the foreseeable future then I will flatly predict more 9/11s, more failures to predict minor things like the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kuwait invasion, Missing WMD issues, etc. etc. The reason, many of these bureacracies are not duplicating each other, their most talented and senior personnel are spending time on making sure that they are not zeroed in the Zero Sum Game of bureacracy and appropriations. It would be useful to know the exact budget and staffs of these organizations and the percentage spent of effort directed to what goes on outside their organization by “threats” unrelated to the other bureacracies. I think the real story of the intelligence world since 9/11 is that the CIA paid for its sins. It was removed as a clear player although its remaining function of HUMINT could regain status for itself depending on its skill and management. Just as NASA made a strategic bureaucratic error in making its mission focus on “Manned Flight” instead of science, the CIA’s fight to retain the HUMINT mission might not be enough to save it. Let’s face it, the talent pool in the United States ain’t what you might think. The outflow from Europe before WWII and the elites knowledge and friendships in Europe really helped intelligence in that predominately European war. Please no disrespect intended to those valiants that fought a very capable enemy in the form of the Japanese people or the Japanese people themselves. What is really interesting about all this is the Democrats are focusing on the warfront, when perhaps the domestic front where they are supposedly more expert- from oversight and approval of governmental reorganizations and the staffing and administration of those reorganizations- when and if if ever the Democrats return to power-will be a more crucial issue for the non-national security party. It seems to me the stakes are high for both Republicans and Democrats because the man on the street is beginning to crave competence and skill not ideology.

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