Re: Bolton: ‘Dismantle’ DNI
Last week, in a conversation with National Review Online, John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, recommended that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence “be dismantled” since it had “failed in its central mission” — coordinating intelligence — in the lead up to the attempted Christmas Day bomb plot on Northwest Airlines Flight 253:
There has been a ‘systemic failure’ in American intelligence. Now it’s time for [President Obama] to take steps to address these problems. Firing the bureaucracy at the National Intelligence office is one way to start. I never thought having such an apparatus was a good idea. We need to do a better job at integrating intelligence, not add another layer on top of what’s already there. This administration can’t keep thinking that adding another bureaucratic fix to the mix will solve the broader problems that caused this failure.
In Monday’s Wall Street Journal, Bolton further outlines his proposal:
The Christmas terrorist attack demonstrates that we need more effective communication and analysis within the IC. Achieving this goal does not require more centralization of authority, more hierarchy, and more uniformity of opinion. The IC’s problem stems from a culture of anonymous conformity. Greater centralization will only reinforce existing bureaucratic obstacles to providing decision makers with a full range of intelligence analysis.
The problem is often not the intelligence we collect, but assessing its implications. Solving that problem requires not the mind-deadening exercise of achieving bureaucratic consensus, but creating a culture that rewards insight and decisiveness. To create that culture we should abolish the DNI office and NIEs.
Eliminating the DNI should be accompanied by reversing decades of inadequate National Security Council supervision of the intelligence function. The council is an awesome instrument for presidential control over the IC, but only if the national security adviser and others exercise direction and control. Sloughing off responsibility to the bureaucracy embodying the problem is a failure of presidential leadership, and unfortunately gives us exactly the IC we deserve.