Monday, August 2, 2004

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George W. Bush violates the laws of bureaucratic politics

The Associated Press' Deb Reichmann reports that President Bush has embraced two key recommendations from the 9-11 Commission -- the creation of a national intelligence czar and counterterrorism center. Here's a link to the White House transcript of Bush's remarks and answers to questions.

The most startling change from the 9-11 Commission's recommendations was the decision not to place the NID inside the White House. On this point, Bush said:

I don't think that the office ought to be in the White House, however. I think it ought to be a stand-alone group, to better coordinate, particularly between foreign intelligence and domestic intelligence matters. I think it's going to be one of the most useful aspects of the National Intelligence Director.

Later on in the Q&A, he compares the structure he's proposing to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

I'll admit to being gobsmacked -- not because Karl Rove might be reading my blog, but because the Bush administration had an opportunity to centralize policy authority and passed. Their proposed reform might be even better, because it provides one layer of bureaucratic protection from the overt political manipulation of intelligence. However, for a White House -- any White House -- to decline placing an important bureaucracy inside the Executive Office of the President is unusual.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum offers a slightly darker interpretation for Bush's decision:

Here's my guess: Bush felt pressured to accept the commission's recommendations, but Don Rumsfeld was not happy about the idea of his intelligence apparatus being under someone else's thumb. The answer they came up with was twofold: accept the idea of a national intelligence director, thus showing that they take the commission's recommendations seriously, but weaken its powers by housing it in its own building.

Why? Because it's a truism of DC power politics that anyone who works directly out of the White House has more influence than someone who doesn't. The Pentagon probably feels that it can handle another high-level bureaucrat, but isn't so sure it can handle one who actually works directly in the White House and talks to the president and his aides on a regular basis.

Needless to day, Bush is spinning this as a way of keeping the new intelligence director independent, but I think the real story is the Pentagon's desire to keep the director's oversight as weak as possible. Keeping him out of the White House is the best way to do that.

This is certainly possible -- one reporter said at the press conference that, "some of your [Bush's] own advisors oppose creation of a National Intelligence Director."

That said, bear in mind that even if true, Rumsfeld still lost a fair amount of authority. The President did outline the division of labor in this answer:

I think that the new National Intelligence Director ought to be able to coordinate budgets.... the National Intelligence Director will work with the respective agencies to set priorities. But let me make it also very clear that when it comes to operations, the chain of command will be intact.

If the proposed NID has significant decision-making authority of resource allocation among the myriad intelligence agencies, that's a pretty significant transfer of power.

posted by Dan on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM


P = .49?

posted by: PD Shaw on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

There's still plenty of bureaucracy building up before our eyes. What's needed isn't another layer of directors (let alone the media using the phrase 'intelligence czar,' which singlehandedly suggests that the position will fail to meet its objectives and will spend years if not decades embroiled in a fight it's not winning while half of America fails to understand its true duties.) We already have an "intelligence czar," he's called the Director of Central Intelligence. Thatnks to the media once again, however, this position is only "CIA Director," a significant factor in his inability to do his job properly.

How exactly does the 9-11 commission, and by extension the media, suggest we fix our dangerously small levels of human intelligence in flashpoints around the world? Unfortunately the media, and to some degree the 9-11 commission has led everyone to believe that a new layer of bureaucracy will fix everything, and Kerry and Bush are left with no choice but to go along with that assumption.

posted by: Danny on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

There is one more possibility -- its easier to blame a national security director who's outside of the white house if the shinola hits the fan.

One thing that I think is important in any reform is that there must be a way for dissident views to bubble up all the way to the top. I'm not sure how to do that though (organizationally).

posted by: Aum on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

An excellent opinion piece (with a slight anti-Bush bias) on this matter at The Washington Post.

"Okay, America, here's our intelligence reform agenda: The CIA recognized six years ago that America was at war with al Qaeda, so let's demote it. . . . Pentagon officials dragged their feet on dealing with terrorism, so let's give them more power. . . . The White House politicized the intelligence process, so let's create a new intelligence czar in the White House and give him control over domestic spying, too. The intelligence community suffers from too many fiefdoms, so let's create a few more.

Maybe that's an unfair summary of the recommendations made by the Sept. 11 commission. But as President Bush and John Kerry race to endorse the commission's agenda for change, you'd think the proposals had been handed down from heaven itself, rather than offered up for public discussion."

posted by: Danny on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

In my opinion, where the position of "National Intelligence Director" on the organization chart will have only mild effect on the amount of political pressure that could be put on it by a less-than-open-minded Executive Branch. The key is whether or not it serves at the pleasure of the President or whether it serves a fixed term.

I myself am heavily in favor in splitting the directorship of the analytical and the clandestine branches of the intelligence services. To insulate from political pressure, the analysts should have a director that serves a fixed term. It's not a coincidence that a small group of sheltered curmudgeonly old men closer to the ends of their careers than to the zeniths of them, namely the INR, the State Department's intelligence arm, consistently gave the best analysis of both the prewar Iraq intelligence and the most spot-on speculations on what postwar Iraq would look like. In contrast, given the pernicious potential of prolonged covert action on democracy, the clandestine services must be directly accountable to elected civilian leadership--both the President as Commander-in-Chief and the Congressional oversight committees as a check on an overzealous executive.

posted by: Bill on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

I was dismayed for a second when I learned of the announcement because I share the concern of others on the inadvisability of choosing an overly bureaucratic model.

I saw President Bush's press conference on c-span several minutes later though, and my understanding now is that they are looking for the position to gather and distill intelligence data from all assets and pipeline it directly to the President.

My guess is that he is looking for a streamlined and efficient process which can react quickly, cutting through bureaucracy.

The danger of bureaucratisation lies more in what congress may tend to do, in my opinion.

Not having to be responsible for the effectiveness of the proposed changes, indeed having an interest in a less than desirable outcome, John Kerry said it's what he would have done all along, and urged President Bush to call a special session to do this immediately.

The administration pointed out that it would take a while to get out of commitee anyway, and there wouldn't be anything to vote on for a few weeks at best. So, no real point in a special session I guess.

My sense is that this is something that is roughed in, but not set down to the last detail.

I'm sure John Kerry could have knocked the whole thing off over lunch though.

posted by: John on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

I think it's probably the presence of very many people inside the Administration who remember vividly what happened the *last* time presidential aides in the White House went "operational."

posted by: Ray on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

Here's a wild idea, instead of an extra layer of bureaucratic insulation, how about making the career people and appointees accountable for their screw ups? The intelligence community is more broke than the public school system and harder to fire somebody.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

It would seem the best way to find out why the President decided to have the intelligence czar as a cabinet official would be to ask him. But wait...

Q Mr. President, the 9/11 Commission originally recommended that the National Intelligence Director be part of the executive office, part of the executive branch. Why the change? Why make it part of -- with congressional oversight?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't think that person ought to be a member of my Cabinet. I will hire the person, and I can fire the person, which is -- any President would like. That's how you have accountability in government. I don't think that the office ought to be in the White House, however. I think it ought to be a stand-alone group, to better coordinate, particularly between foreign intelligence and domestic intelligence matters. I think it's going to be one of the most useful aspects of the National Intelligence Director.

I'm glad somebody in the administration loooked at the 9/11 report and decided to think about it (rather than take the Kerry approach of "hokay, let's just accept'em all.")

I'd be happier if it looked like that person was the President.

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

And so we grow the government and grow the government and grow the government some more.

[What this country needs in not more cabinet posts but a few more vice presidents...]

I haven't see any stats lately on how much the bureacracy has grown under Bush, but anybody out there doubt that this is really the son of FDR?

Shhh....don't tell the republicans--rumor has it: they hate big government.

But that's just a rumor....

posted by: koreyel on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

I had not realized just how strongly left you had gotten. I had started off thinking that you were at most center-left. I was dismayed at the gratuitous anti-Bush tone that you have adopted.

Unlike you, I think that the President is operating from a reasonable point of view that I would support. Yes, they don't make all the right moves. Would John Kerry? He has no track record to cause me to believe that he would.

Many people think that much of the 9/11 Commission report needs to be hotly debated before being adopted. I disagree with John Kerry's blanket statement that it needs to be adopted 100%, right away, without debate. It has the ring of something said for immediate political advantage.

I can see, however, that you are closely aligned with your readership, so maybe I am the one out of step.

I am a former naval officer and someone who had been involved in the Intel community in a past life or two. I believe that we need to pre-empt terrorist attacks and the top priority should be to do whatever is necessary to keep our country and people safe.

Talk of the sort we have heard over the last week is cheap (what we heard in Boston), and I await word of some specific ideas and plans that we can consider and debate. It is easy to criticize, when you have no information or decision-making authority.

At least you are having your ongoing thoughtful discussion, unlike others. I am increasingly disagreeing with you, but I still visit frequently to read what you have to say.

posted by: Jim Bender on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]


I think you need to realize that just about all Dan's friends and coworkers from the university are ABB voters and that Dan is young and impressionable and wants to fit in with the powers that be.

He hasn't been around the block enough times to know how utterly full of *&*% the liberal nonsense is parroted in academia. He'll figure it out soon enough. He obviously has a good head on his shoulders.

By the time he gets to be Virgina P's age, he'll never contemplating pulling the donkey lever again.

posted by: Matthew Cromer on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

It's kind of touching how Prof. Drezner attaches so much importance to words that Bush will abandon the very moment they no longer suit him. Do you folks really think that Bush cares what words his speechwriters put in his mouth on any given day, or whether they're contradicted by previous words? Our Emersonian president ...

That aside ... the part about budgetary authority seems pretty vague; the NID gets authority over operations, it seems, but will "work with" and "coordinate" budgets? I think this means that DOD continues allocating its own money, i.e., that the NID will be insufficient (tho even then, perhaps an improvement over the current DCI). I will happily eat my hat if this proves not to be the case and DOD loses its sacred aura: one, that would be the best thing for the country, and two, I don't actually own a hat.

posted by: Anderson on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

What's being largely overlooked in all this focus on the "intelligence czar" proposal is the fact that Bush also announced the creation of a National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC).

Accordign to Bush, the NCTC will joint strategic intelligence analysis (J-2) and joint operational planning (J-3) functions. As the 9/11 Commission proposed, Bush’s NCTC will build off of the existing Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC); will apparently streamline similar redundant counterterrorism intelligence "fusion" centers/functions in the CIA, DIA, DHS, FBI, etc; and will assume the J-3 responsibilities that the already overburdened National Security Council currently has generally taken.

Regardless of whether the National Intelligence Director is located within or outside of the Cabinet, the fact the NCTC is going to be a reality is significant for counterterrorism activities on a day-to-day functional level.

posted by: Bob on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

Amazing that Tommy Franks, who's dealt with the President more than any of the posters here, is of the opinion that the President is honest ....

Drum assuming bad motives and intentions is no surprise; the Left is quite daft with its various conspiracy theories these days & this is just more of the same.

IMO, the greatest thing we have to fear from an Intelligence Czar is that the data will take on the biases, etc. of the office holder.

Intelligence suffers from bureaucrat's disease enough already, and there's nothing worse for a bureaucrat than being spectacularly wrong ... especially in the intelligence field, where being right, more often than not, can't be acknowledged publicly.

Understand that what we need are people whose guesses are proven correct more often than not. Yes, guesses - while on occasion we have the benefit of 'reading their mail', generally we're trying to guess at what our enemies are capable of & what they intend to do next.

If guessing wrong continues to get you drawn & quartered in Washington - and make no mistake, there's a lot of that in the 9/11 Commission Report - then intelligence will continue to resemble oatmeal.

After 9/11, that's not good enough.

posted by: BradDad on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

Good thoughts there Bill. Mr. Cromer, the only thing that the last four years has proved is that both the major parties are equally full of equine biological waste. Your faith in the Republican leaderships is equally as touching as any sentimentality you ascribe to Prof. Drezner.

As for the job, where do I sign up?

I think Bill had some good ideas, but it needs to be modified. There has to be a Deputy Director of Analysis which serves a fixed term. Technically he would be subordinate to the NID but his term independence would argue from him being rolled, and we would still get the benefit of a screening layer of authority between analysis and the White House. I think that the NID has to be appointed for a fixed term, but a relatively short one. There should also be a Deputy Director of Operations, and that person should always be non-tenured. You live by the sword, you die by the sword.

The job of the NID is to protect the DDO, and the job of the DDA is to feed good info to the NID to make his decisions regarding the DDA and the WH. The NID would have to be confirmed by the Senate, and it should be the Senate that reconfirms them. The President should put forth candidates for the NID.

This is a structure that would maximally depoliticize intelligence and produce a strong independent intel force structure.

posted by: oldman on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

It doesn't really matter where the NID is located if the President doesn't talk to him(or her). If the NID's office is on the moon but they have real political clout - the kind to punish and reward - then things will change. Coordination already, by statute, is supposed to be done by the DCI and APNSA.

The whole 9/11 commission proposition to create the NID is utterly pointless. At best it will do no harm; at worst it will increase the problems of the IC by removing what little coordination authority the DCI has and replacing that small bit of power with impotent memo pushing.

posted by: mark safranski on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

"Amazing that Tommy Franks, who's dealt with the President more than any of the posters here, is of the opinion that the President is honest ...."

Ah. But, the general's opinion (in the same interview) of Rumsfeld, and the handling of the war aftermath in both Afghanistan and Iraq are far from approving, are they? The fact that Bush honestly believed the crap Rumsfeld fed him doesn't make him a good leader or commander in chief of the military. From all accounts, Franks seriously freaked when he was informed, halfway into the Afghanistan conflict, to start preparing for an Iraq invasion. Like most uniformed officers who served in Vietnam, Franks would have preferred adhering to the Powell Doctine. He was willing to do his duty regarding the war phases but bailed as soon as possible in order to avoid being responsible for a disaster that anyone could see would happen in both wars' aftermath.

posted by: Lansing on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

I currently do not have a position regarding the proposed National Intelligence Director. The issue greatly confuses me. However, I instinctively hesitate to add another layer of bureaucracy to our intelligence services. We need to take a chill pill and think about this in a thorough matter. Once the decision is finalized---it will be very difficult to reverse course.

posted by: David Thomson on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

This is a sensible attitude. Neither the President nor Senator Kerry share it.

Senator Kerry is focused on aligning himself with the well-regarded 9/11 commission as possible; President Bush is determined not to be seen as being on the other side, but is equally determined not to have changes imposed on him by Congress. So he has announced his adoption of commission reccommendations without having a clear idea of how to implement them in a manner consistent with what the commission wanted, or indeed in a manner consistent with anything else.

Personally I would have preferred that Bush recall Congress to consider this matter, beginning with hearings in the Intelligence and perhaps the Armed Services Committees. Adopting even part of the commission's reccommendations would mean major changes in the structure of American intelligence, changes which should not only be considered carefully but which also should have Congressional approval. No changes undertaken solely on Bush's authority would be seen as binding by subsequent administrations, nor could a new NID's authority on matters like budgeting be easily defended from attacks in Congress if it was never established in statute.

As to what Bush really intends -- the campaign positioning aside -- with his announcement today, I think this will be a moot point within a matter of days. Bush is improvising here, as usual, responding not to the commission's report but to the favorable public and media reception the report has gotten and to Kerry's reaction to it. Bush's position will change, perhaps subtly and perhaps not, as public and media reaction to his response comes in.

posted by: Zathras on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

Possible: The idea of subjecting the approval of anyone in that position to a senate review si wehat Bush wants to sidestep here.

And he may have a point, at that.
Dan... instead of being suprised all the time, why not simply stop under-estimating Mr. Bush, and admit the man isn't the idiot the left is trying to paint him as?

posted by: Bithead on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

Non-trivial question: If Bush recalled congress would Kerry and Edwards show up and start doing there jobs?

Related question: If Kerry has this great 'secret' plan for winning in Iraq and the GWOT, couldnt he be working on it as a senior US Senator in Washington, considering he wont devulge any of the alleged details?

posted by: mark buehner on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

Smoke and mirrors .... hook, line, and sinker.

posted by: Jor on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]


Schwarzkopf is no fan of the Powell doctrine,

posted by: Kyle Swanson on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

I think you all should read the take that Josh Marshall, the New York Times, and the Washington Post have on Bush's statement. It seems that he has advertised one thing and is actually planning on doing the opposite.

I am not saying that I know which course is the right one, but I know that I am sick and tired of the false advertising of his positions. And I fear it is going to be 100x worse at the GOP convention when Bush locks Tom DeLay and all his congressional cronies in a back room while the podium is filled with people like Guiliani who if they actually had any power in the Republican Party it would be an open question which party I would support.

posted by: Rich on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

I watched live on C-SPAN, both President Bush's announcement and the 1:00 PM news conference with Andrew Card on point.

After viewing various TV news broadcasts, I went back to C-SPAN to watch both events again in the evening.

You see, I wondered if I had not been paying attention, because surely I had missed something that the professionals had heard.

Mostly, I hadn't, and I don't believe that President Bush used the word czar once.

Now, this morning, I am hearing and reading all manner of professionals, who presumably are working with little more information than I, define with near certainty what this thing is actually going to look like.

This is obviously speculation.

The executive branch has a pretty good feel for what they want to do, but because the final result must bear the imprint of the legislative as well, action will not be immediate, and the final form uncertain at this time.

I believe the administration also correctly observed, as did the 9/11 commision, that the House and Senate have a lot of jurisdictional house cleaning to do before the President's initiative can be effectively moved forward to a positive conclusion.

The popular press defines this presidency in the terms and context preferred by it's opposition, who's candidate is reputed to be a man of nuance. Perhaps that is why yesterday's straightforward statements were passed through a nuance filter before reaching the public.

I'm amazed that in this information age in which we are a leading player, the President of The United States of America must communicate with it's citizens not through the press, but in spite of it.

In the arena of nuance and doublespeak that is today's political battleground, the media and others have become unable to believe that someone can actually say what they mean, and mean what they say.

I trust George W. Bush because I believe he does just that, he shoots straight, and keeps his word.

George W. Bush is not the perfect "designer president", though it's apparent that the Democrats are fielding the "designer candidate".

You'd think though, with such a short time before the election, that they would have frozen the design by now.

In a time of war and great change, we require less ambiguity as opposed to more, and I prefer to stay with the imperfect but known quantity.

posted by: John on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

It's not at all clear to me that Rumsfield has lost a fair amount of authority. The division of labor Bush outlines -- full of ambiguity in the statement you cite -- appears not to give the NID "significant decision-making authority of resource allocation" but rather input into budget decisions. Which means not much authority, right? Kevin Drum has a nice new post on this. It appears to be a triumph for Rumsfield, who had the most to lose, so far.

posted by: Jeff L. on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

Mark Kleinman also has a post on this, where he (while at the same time complimenting Dan) disagrees with him on this issue.

posted by: JC on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

Schwarzkopf is no fan of the Powell doctrine,
Posted by Kyle Swanson at August 3, 2004 04:41 AM "

Kyle - Schwarzkopf may not like Powell but it sure looked like he supported the doctrine in Gulf War. Massive power, clear objective, clear exit strategy.

posted by: lansing on 08.02.04 at 01:47 PM [permalink]

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