The Corner

Is Trump Planning to Streamline U.S. Intelligence Agencies?

Amid the squabbling between intelligence agencies, the Obama administration and the Trump-transition team over alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, some good news surfaced on the intelligence front today: President-elect Trump reportedly is planning to restructure and streamline America’s huge, 17-organization “Intelligence Community.”

According to a front page Wall Street Journal story by Damian Paletta and Julian Barnes that ran today, Trump is working with his advisers “on a plan that would restructure and pare back the nation’s top spy agency [the Office of the Director of National Intelligence].” This move reportedly reflects Trump’s belief that “the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has become bloated and politicized.”

Paletta and Barnes also wrote that the Trump transition is planning to restructure the CIA, cut back its staffing, and send more CIA officers into field offices around the world.

In response to the Journal story, Trump-transition spokesman Sean Spicer said reports that Trump is planning to restructure U.S. intelligence agencies are “100 percent false.” However, in a story reporting Spicer’s comment, Washington Post reporters John Wagner and Greg Miller wrote:

Trump has been weighing an overhaul, but not elimination, of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) for weeks, a matter that has factored into the delay in nominating someone to serve in that position, according to members of his inner circle.”

“Trump’s top advisers on intelligence matters are deeply skeptical of the value of the DNI position, an office that was created to spearhead post-Sept. 11 reforms of the intelligence community but has become the center of its own swelling bureaucracy.”

I was pleased to read the Paletta/Barnes article because it closely aligns with recommendations I made for overhauling U.S. intelligence agencies in a December 9, 2016, NRO article titled “How President Trump Can Make U.S. Intelligence Great Again,” especially by rolling back or eliminating the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

It is crucial that Mr. Trump implement major reforms of America’s intelligence agencies so they can become the innovative and effective national-security institutions they once were. It’s great to see that the president-elect understands this.

Fred Fleitz, president of the Center for Security Policy, served in 2018 as deputy assistant to the president and to the chief of staff of the National Security Council. He previously held national-security jobs with the CIA, the DIA, the Department of State, and the House Intelligence Committee staff.

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