He brings to the job four decades of foreign policy and national security experience in challenging assignments, from Vietnam to Iraq. He is blessed with a rare quality shared by few— such as former Secretary of State George Shultz and former Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin— of serving in public office not for what it can do for his ego or the accretion of personal power but to find rational and pragmatic answers to the dilemmas facing this country.
He will need all these qualities to cope with the vague authority over 15 intelligence agencies bequeathed to him by the congressional meat grinder. He has to slot in a new bureaucracy above existing agencies while not delaying or diminishing the intelligence going to the president. He has to coordinate his office with the directors of the CIA, the FBI, and the other agencies, so that cooperation at that level is translated down to the bureaucracy where the real work is done.
Our biggest targets are al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents— elusive, stateless enemies. To penetrate them in foreign cultures, we need more human intelligence. Reorganizing our intelligence system and centralizing control in the DNI are only a start.
Here are but some of the problems the new director faces: He is supposed to know of the work of the disparate and sometimes warring agencies but has no direct power to hire and fire; he has authority over the $40 billion intelligence budget but must share it with the defense secretary, whose department controls 80 percent of it; he has a Pentagon focused on intelligence that can help win the next battle instead of spending to prevent the next attack. What role will the DNI have in allocating funds?
How will the DNI immerse himself in the details of analysis and analysts, operations and operators, in order to properly inform his dialogue with the president? In the draft resolution, the DNI was given "authority, direction, and control" of the CIA. It was diluted in Congress to say the CIA director will "report" to the DNI. That is too ambiguous.
Imagine a CIA station chief somewhere in the world with an opportunity to target a key al Qaeda operative but under the following constraints: The target is in a friendly country whose leadership will be threatened if the operation goes badly; there is no absolute certainty he's a terrorist and the window of opportunity will close within hours. Who will decide?