House Republican Wolf is preparing legislation that would create what he calls a "service within the service" at the FBI to focus on intelligence gathering, not law enforcement. It would be staffed with its own corps of spies recruited from college campuses, the CIA and other agencies.Why has this idea gone completely unquestioned? There are plenty of good reasons why the FBI should not have its own intelligence gathering. The FBI is primarily a law enforcement agency, which involves a set of skills distinctly different from intelligence gathering. A self-evidently more efficient use of resources would be to separate intelligence from law enforcement, and coordinate the two at a higher level. Time heaps praise on FBI Director Robert Mueller for making his Bureau 'smarter', but it seems to me that Mueller is just jealously guarding the autonomy of his agency, at the expense of a smarter, community-wide coordination of intelligence resources. Wasn't that the whole problem in the first place?
Meanwhile, support is growing on the Hill for a plan drafted by two-time National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft that would create a new intelligence czar with budget and program authority over the CIA and nearly a score of other intelligence units now under the Pentagon's control.The problem here is that 'budget authority' is a vague term. As far as I know, there are two distinct ways to hold sway over a budget. First, you can make broad program goals, and allocate resources among the various intelligence agencies accordingly. This is what the OMB does, in conjunction with Congress, to determine the federal budget. Right now, the DCI already does this, and the best way to improve on this capacity is simply to split up the roles of DCI and head of CIA, so that the DCI is more impartial, and able to focus on broader goals.
The change is long overdue. When the CIA was created in 1947, the Director of Central Intelligence was supposed to become head of all the intelligence networks, government-wide. But over the years the Pentagon created its own intelligence arms, and it now commands the lion's share of intelligence budgets, much of them spent on satellites. CIA directors have complained of this split-screen arrangement for years, noting that they can hardly be responsible for solid intelligence if they don't control the purse strings.