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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Intelligence Issues for Congress

Marshall Curtis Erwin
Analyst in Intelligence and National Security

To address the challenges facing the U.S. intelligence community in the 21st century, congressional and executive branch initiatives have sought to improve coordination among the different agencies and to encourage better analysis. In December 2004, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (P.L. 108-458) was signed, providing for a Director of National Intelligence (DNI) with authorities to manage the national intelligence effort. The legislation also established a Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Making cooperation effective presents substantial leadership and managerial challenges. The needs of diverse intelligence “consumers” must all be met, using many of the same systems and personnel. The DNI has substantial statutory authorities to address these issues, but the organizational relationships remain complex, especially for intelligence agencies that are part of the Defense Department. Members of Congress in their oversight role may seek to observe the extent to which effective coordination is accomplished.

The intelligence community, which comprises 17 agencies, has experienced a decade of budgetary growth. That era was typified by (1) institution building with embryonic organization such as the Office of the DNI and other new or evolving intelligence components, (2) information sharing and collaboration across those institutions, and (3) a focus on counterterrorism.

While those issues will remain areas of congressional interest, Members will likely confronted by a new set of intelligence challenges resulting from budgetary realities and from second-order effects stemming from post-9/11 changes. These include:

  • Consolidation and redundancy. Intelligence collection systems are expensive and some critics suggest there have been elements of waste and unneeded duplication of effort. The Administration is considering long-term reductions with an emphasis on potentially redundant information technology systems. There is great concern, however, that any reductions be carefully made to avoid curtailing capabilities that have become integral to military operations and to policymaking in many areas. 
  • Information security and management. The WikiLeaks disclosures that began in 2010 and other recent incidents of unauthorized disclosure of classified information have drawn considerable attention to the risks that widespread information sharing entails. Investigations into the 2009 Christmas day bombing attempt and the Fort Hood shooting also suggest analysts are now challenged to synthesize the large volumes of information being shared. 
  • Intelligence support to counterterrorism and operations. The Administration’s targeting killing program raises legal, jurisdictional, and efficacy issues. Broader questions have also been raised about whether intelligence agencies have become too focused on counterterrorism to the detriment of other national security priorities and whether some of those functions should be transitioned to U.S. military control, allowing intelligence agencies to focus on traditional collection and analysis.

Date of Report: April 23, 2013
Number of Pages: 30
Order Number: RL33539
Price: $29.95

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