Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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What Is the Price of Current Intelligence Reform?
John A. Kringen, the CIA's director of intelligence, had an interesting piece Monday in the Washington Post on the steps being taken within the intelligence community to minimize "group think" and find new ways of monitoring and assessing long-term strategic threats. He presents an optimistic view of an agency in rapid transition, and that is without question, important.

But there is one telling phrase in his op-ed that hints at the serious crisis the DI is facing: "The DI is building bench strength with highly qualified recruits to meet the demands of strategic global coverage. We brought in more new analysts in fiscal 2005 than any year in our history."

The truth is the DI has lost decades, if not centuries, of experience as older analysts have fled through the door, many from senior positions. Not all change is bad, but what is left is essentially a group of young and undeniably intelligent people with little real-world experience and little historic knowlege of issues that they must now be analyzing and briefing on.

The new recruits are being taught to "specialize," for brief periods, on subjects often so narrow that they are unable to see or read information on related topics. Then, after a few months or at most a couple of years, they move on, and their brief institutional memory goes with them.

Senior European intelligence analysts who recently visited CIA headquarters to discuss terrorism came away dismayed. Almost all the people the Europeans met with were just out of college and none could answer questions beyond their narrow range of expertise. None could answer broader questions posed about related subjects because it was not what they were assigned to do and they had no prior experience to draw on.

While the European services are far smaller, those in them tend to have a much broader range of knowledge on a variety of issues. People tend to stick with a particular expertise for years at a time, without it affecting their career path.

Growth is good, but much of the bench is already in the starting lineup. Some veteran hands, as any good sports manager knows, is essential to building a successful program. The lose of the years of expertise in the past two years should be truely alarming. There are some things adding more people-no matter how smart and dedicated-cannot solve. The learning curve will be steep as intelligence reform moves ahead.
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