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CIA Leaders 1946-2005

CIA Leaders 1946-2005

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Published by Edi Santoso

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Published by: Edi Santoso on Jul 21, 2009
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Immediately after taking office, Gates established task forces to take up issues of organi-
zation and process involving both CIA and the Intelligence Community. He deliberately cre-
ated a kind of “blitz” atmosphere by issuing numerous personal tasking memorandums
(quite a few in fact were dated the same day), often with short deadlines. One list of the task
forces shows that he commissioned a “first round” of 14 in his initial months as DCI (almost
all of them tasked in November 1991), and then a “second round” of an additional 10 from
March 1992 onward. This initiative aimed at establishing an image of dynamic personal
leadership, a kind of “hundred days” approach often used by chief executive officers to
show that they intend to provide top-down guidance at the outset of their tenure and take a
direct hand in shaping events.4

Gates made it clear that the reports were to be submitted to
him, not to a board or committee, and—recalling how his abrupt introduction of change in
CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence had provoked negative reactions—he encouraged wide
participation and dialogue in the exercise. He circulated some of the reports widely, solicit-
ing employee comments and insisting that each comment come directly to him for review,
not through the chain of command. In a number of cases, he penned reactions and apprecia-
tion notes to those who had submitted remarks he had found especially useful or thoughtful.

Gates handpicked almost all the people conducting these studies, and he often had a solu-
tion in mind for the issues his boards discussed. Indeed, the selection of topics itself already
identified the areas he felt needed to be addressed. Gates had always been a student of how
the intelligence profession worked in Washington, avidly learning lessons from his assign-
ments both within and outside the Intelligence Community. He had been a staff assistant to
senior policy and intelligence officers since the late 1970s, and he had himself occupied
senior policy and intelligence positions since the early 1980s. He therefore felt ready to try
out ideas that had been in his mind for years.5

His self-confidence was bolstered by the sup-

port he enjoyed from the president and senior administration figures.

Although some of the task forces addressed issues solely or mainly having to do with
CIA, those efforts also helped the DCI in his community role. They showed that he was
ready to change his home agency as well as push for change elsewhere. Moreover, some of
the CIA task forces dealt with issues important for the agency’s role within the community

4

He also directed (in consultation with Robert Straus, US ambassador in Moscow) the rapid preparation of a series of
NIEs on the USSR, which had disintegrated and was about to declare its formal end. Although the end of the Soviet
Union meant the end of a particular focus of US intelligence and policy, Gates recognized that the fall-out of the event
needed close observation and continual reassessment.

199

ROBERT GATES: PREEMPTIVE REFORM

(most importantly, improving its support for military operations), or for basic DCI responsi-
bilities (e.g., avoiding “politicization” of intelligence products). In the case of a study aimed
at developing electronic dissemination of finished intelligence, he asked CIA to serve as a
pacesetter for the kind of change he wanted to occur community-wide.6

Still more task forces addressed community-wide issues. Two advocated improved staff-
ing support for the DCI in carrying out certain fundamental responsibilities (community
management and coordinating foreign intelligence relationships), and three suggested new
arrangements for the top-level management of collection disciplines (imagery, human
sources, and unclassified or “open sources” of information). Each of these was important
enough to Gates’s community role to warrant more detailed description in subsequent sec-
tions of this chapter. Two others, not further discussed, addressed how the production of
NIEs could be enhanced and how to improve warning intelligence. Finally, on a close-hold
basis, Gates commissioned parallel studies of how the NFIP might be pared if deep cuts
were applied to intelligence spending. This quick-look project was little known outside the
groups working on it (it was not included on the standard lists of task forces) because it was
a private task to enable Gates to contemplate an unlikely contingency without upsetting
community leaders by producing speculation that Gates either anticipated or would willingly
accept drastic cuts.7

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