November 26, 2004

Bifurcate the Spooks?

Thomas Barnett, strategist extraordinaire, has some insights on intelligence reform, suggesting that we divide up the community into two main branches: A warfighting intelligence branch (including most of the Pentagon, NSA, and the CIA's covert action branch), and a "Sys-Admin" branch (including everyone else plus Army/Marine intel). Barnett suggests the latter can be capably centralized under an NID, but that the two branches should remain largely independent, using existing avenues for information sharing.

Barnett's the one briefing the CIA, and not me, but still, I don't see how this solution really brings into line our capabilities for tracking nuclear proliferation—which is the one place where state actors really intersect with transnational groups off all kinds, and where everyone from regional analysts and technical reconnaissance ought to work together.

On the other hand, his cryptic suggestion that we need to "dial down" classification requirements sounds good. A few months ago, a former NIC official told me that this was one of the most overlooked problems in the whole community—and it could be fixed rather simply; starting by, say, writing all reports in a "pyramid style" starting with the least classified stuff and moving to the most, so that they could be more easily shared. Other suggestions can be found here. Since Barnett agrees, we'll call it a trend!
-- Brad Plumer 6:44 PM || ||