Statement of Philip Zelikow
Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs
"Assessing America's Counterterrorism Capabilities"
August, 03 2004

Thank you for inviting us to appear.  This Committee is preparing recommendations to the Senate for government reorganization, especially for counterterrorism and intelligence.  You have already heard from our Chair and Vice Chair.  They summarized the Commission's recommendations. 

We are here to follow up on specifics -- specifics about the recommendations, specifics about why the Commission made certain choices, and specific responses to some of the concerns that have been voiced. 

But before plunging into details, we urge you to keep the big picture in view.  The Commission made recommendations about what to do -- a global strategy -- and how to do it -- reorganizing the government.  Today we do not have a government capable of implementing the global strategy we recommend. 

Confronting a 21st century kind of threats, we recommended a 21st century set of strategies, and we were compelled to look at a 21st century approach to government.

These are not just catchphrases.  The commissioners brought vast accumulated experience in both the executive and legislative branches of government.  I have worked in every level of government and either for or with almost every national security agency we have.  Chris Kojm spent 14 years on the Hill and years more as the State Department's representative to the management of the Intelligence Community.  We are practical people.

But, with our commissioners, we had to think globally, across the world and across America's governments -- from a firebase near Kandahar to a firehouse in lower Manhattan.  We had to think "in time" -- charting the way our government has performed yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  And we had an exceptional opportunity -- to research, reason, consult, and decide what it all meant.

Returning to that big picture, let's focus for a moment on two of our five main organizational recommendations, for counterterrorism, and for intelligence.


The executive branch of our government is organized in accordance with the best management principles of 1950.  We have large, vertically integrated, industrial-sized behemoths. 

What therefore happens is that each of the agencies does its job, and then tries to get others to cooperate -- and vice versa.  If they need a lot of help from other agencies, they  create their own interagency processes.  CIA, for instance, runs an interagency meeting at 5:00 almost every day, to enlist help in working on the daily threats.  But that is only the best known example.  Analogous meetings occur in meetings run by the FBI, by the military's Central Command, by the military's Special Operations Command, and so on.  As for intelligence, each major agency tries to build its own fusion center. 

This was the basic pattern before 9/11.  Take, for example, the Moussaoui case.  Moussaoui was arrested in August 2001 because of his suspicious behavior at a Minnesota flight school.  The FBI in Minneapolis takes charge of the case, works it hard, and runs into frustrating problems in pursuing the investigation.  None of the senior managers at FBI hear about the case or these problems.  But -- good news -- the arrest is brought to the attention of the top official at CIA.  DCI Tenet was told about the case in late August.  "Islamic Extremist Learns to Fly," was the heading on his briefing.  We asked him what he did about that.  His answer was that he made sure his working-level officials were helping the FBI with their case.  Did he raise it with the President, or with other agency counterparts -- even at the FBI?  No, he answered, with some heat.  After all it was, he insisted, the FBI's case.

There is one example of the pattern.  Vertical integration.  Even a willingness to cooperate.  But not joint analysis.  Not joint planning.  No connection of the case to the national intelligence picture of imminent attack.  No involvement by the White House -- no one there even learned about the case until after the 9/11 attacks.  Other illustrations can be found in the report, especially in chapter 11 and chapter 8.

Since 9/11 we saw evidence of:

-- an enormous expansion of effort, with ...

-- more numerous and stronger participants, including three unified commands in the Defense Department and an entirely new cabinet department, working in ...

-- the same outdated, redundant, and fragmented system, producing ...

-- energetic, often effective, but disjointed analysis and action, managed by ...

-- constant improvisation led by a greatly (50%) enlarged White House staff and proliferating interagency working cells around the government.

Since terrorism poses such a revolutionary challenge to old ways of executive management in our national security bureaucracy, counterterrorism requires an innovative response. 

One source of inspiration was in national defense.  During World War II the U.S. created a Joint Staff that works for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Plans and operations were still mainly formulated by the different services -- the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.  But the Joint Staff tried to coordinate their efforts.  Experience showed this coordination was not good enough.  Since the passage of the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, the structures changed again.  The Chairman of the JCS, and the Joint Staff, became much stronger.  The Joint Staff developed joint analysis and joint planning for joint action.  Then those plans were directed and executed by combatant commanders or the military departments.

The military processes are far from perfect.  But few if any commanders would prefer to go back to the old model. 

In executive management of counterterrorism today, the U.S. government has not yet reached the level of coordination attained by the Joint Staff in 1943, much less the level of jointness practiced by the military since 1986.  This is because the major bureaucracies are not part of one department, but are in departments or agencies of their own.  Their stovepipes are cast iron.

Our recommendation calls for a National Counterterrorism Center.  The Director of the NCTC should be the President's principal adviser on counterterrorism intelligence and joint operations. 

-- Pursuant to policies set by the President and the National Security Council, the Director should assist the President and the National Intelligence Director in providing unified strategic direction for civilian and military counterterrorism efforts and the effective integration of intelligence and operations across agency boundaries, inside and outside of the United States. 

-- The Director should advise the President and the National Intelligence Director on the extent to which the counterterrorism program recommendations and budget proposals of the departments and agencies of the U.S. government conform to the priorities established by the President and the National Security Council. 

-- The Director of the NCTC should play a critical part in the selection of the principal counterterrorism operating officers of the major executive departments and agencies.

The NCTC Directorate of Intelligence -- its "J-2" -- should have primary responsibility in the U.S. government for analysis of terrorism and terrorist organizations from all sources of intelligence, whether collected inside or outside of the United States.  It should be the reference source for all-source information about suspected terrorists, their organizations, and their likely capabilities.  It should propose relevant intelligence collection requirements for action by national and departmental agencies inside and outside of the United States.  It should have primary responsibility in the U.S. government for net assessment and warning about the terrorism danger, comparing enemy capabilities with assessed national vulnerabilities. 

How would this differ from the current Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC)?  Compare it with the administration's description in the letter DCI Tenet and others sent to Senators Collins and Levin in April.

-- The NCTC should be what we -- and now President Bush -- call the "knowledge bank" for the government.  But it would draw strategic analysts for this purpose from the present CIA Counterterrorist Center -- a matter left unsettled in the Collins-Levin letter.  It would draw key analysts from the Pentagon as well.  Revealingly, the Department of Defense was not a signatory to the Collins-Levin letter.

-- Backed by the authority of the proposed National Intelligence Director, and the President, the NCTC should be much more likely to recruit outstanding analysts, including experts in using single-source information like those at the NSA.  Now TTIC makes do with the analysts other agencies can spare, after those agencies have satisfied their own pressing demands, including the staffing of their own agencies, with their own fusion centers.  Such joint assignments should be more attractive with joint personnel policies across the Community to encourage them, personnel standards that we propose should also be set by the National Intelligence Director.

-- The NCTC should have the net assessment function.  That job was assigned in the Collins-Levin letter to the Department of Homeland Security.  Since that Department does not have principal responsibility for analyzing a largely foreign enemy, the NCTC is better able to perform this role, drawing on DHS analysis of domestic vulnerabilities.

-- The NCTC should have the power to use its analysis to guide collection.  Though the Collins-Levin letter said it might give TTIC such authority, the mechanism for doing so was left undefined.   And our proposal again allows the NCTC to draw complementary authority from the National Intelligence Director.  In our proposal that official will have much greater authority to direct national intelligence assets than the authorities now available to the current Director of Central Intelligence.

-- Finally, the current TTIC is expressly forbidden from being involved in operations.  Like those in the military, or diplomacy, or finance, or law enforcement, we instead believe the integration of analysis and action is essential.  We therefore turn to the other principal component of the proposed NCTC.

The NCTC Directorate of Operations -- the "J-3" -- should have primary responsibility for providing guidance and plans, including strategic plans, for joint counterterrorism operations by the U.S. government. 

-- These plans should conform to the counterterrorism policies and priorities set by the National Security Council. 

-- Operations can be considered joint that involve, or are likely to involve, more than one executive department or agency of the U.S. government, or are designated as joint activities by the NCTC. 

-- The Directorate of Operations draws on the intelligence resources of the NCTC and monitors current operations to track the implementation of ongoing joint plans.  NCTC guidance and plans assign responsibilities to executive departments and agencies to direct and execute operations, under their operational control.

-- The Director should report to the National Intelligence Director on the general budget and programs of the Center, the activities of the Intelligence Directorate, and the conduct of intelligence operations.  The Director should report to the President and the National Security Council on the planning and progress of other joint counterterrorism operations.

The NCTC would not break the formal chain of command for executive agencies, just as the Joint Staff today is not part of the formal chain of command between the President, the Secretary of Defense, and combatant commanders.  If the heads of executive departments disagree with a joint plan, then the NCTC should accede, or take responsibility for elevating the issue to the National Security Council and the President in order to obtain needed decisions.

The NCTC should have substantial overall responsibility, and accountability.  It must track cases, monitor the implementation of plans, and update those plans to adapt to changing circumstances, inside and outside of the United States.

Organization of National Intelligence

The present organization of national intelligence embodies the same management weaknesses we identified in counterterrorism, but on a much larger scale and touching many other subjects.  Our report identified various weaknesses.  President Bush has acknowledged the need for a national intelligence director separate from the head of the CIA.  Senator Kerry shares this judgment.  We hope the Congress will agree.

Our recommendations flow from several aspects of the 9/11 story.  In December 1998 DCI Tenet sent a memo to the senior managers of the Intelligence Community saying they were "at war" against Bin Ladin and his associates.  A maximum effort was needed.  There was no evident response.  We critiqued DCI Tenet's management strategy for this war.  But, since he would have been hard pressed to implement even an ideal strategy, there was less incentive to devise one.

We view this recommendation as an enabling, empowering idea.  There are many particular management issues in the Intelligence Community:  reallocating money, improving human intelligence, improving the quality of all source analysis, and better integrating open source information are just a few.  Only a modern management structure can enable the Intelligence Community to achieve these goals.  Only such a structure can achieve the unity of effort and efficiency needed where funds are not unlimited, and hard choices must be made across agency lines.

In national intelligence the work is done by a number of agencies, vertically integrated with weak central direction or control.   The private sector has increasingly turned to other management approaches to get lean horizontal direction across the large operating divisions.  This is sometimes called a  "matrix management" model, by firms like Citicorp or General Electric.

In national defense, two innovations were key.  One was the horizontal direction provided by the Joint Staff.  The other was the establishment of more powerful unified commands for joint action.  The military departments had the job of organizing, training, and equipping the capabilities to be used by these joint commands.  There are thus two lines of authority to the Secretary of Defense.  One goes to him from the unified combatant commands, like CENTCOM and SOCOM and NORTHCOM.  Another goes to him from the military departments, like the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

Another source of inspiration was an emerging view within the CIA in favor of what one manager called "the integration imperative" for working on key targets.  Some writers have called for the creation of "joint mission centers" bringing together experts from several disciplines working together on a problem like terrorism or proliferation.

Borrowing some of these ideas from the private sector and government, the Commission thus recommended a National Intelligence Director and a different way of organizing the intelligence work in the government. 

The National Intelligence Director should be the principal intelligence adviser to the President and the National Security Council.  Certain authorities must be clear:

-- The Director should receive the appropriation for national intelligence.  Such appropriations are now made in three programs -- the National Foreign Intelligence Program (NFIP), the Joint Military Intelligence Program (JMIP), and the Tactical Intelligence and Related Activities (TIARA), all to the Secretary of Defense.  These programs should be consolidated into two -- a national intelligence program, appropriated to the National Intelligence Director and consisting of the current NFIP and probably much of the current JMIP, and a departmental appropriation for systems and capabilities that will only be used by the Department of Defense.

-- The overall appropriation should be unclassified, as should the topline appropriation for the principal intelligence agencies.  Congress and the American people should be better able to make broad judgments about how much money is being spent, and to what general purpose.

-- The Director should have hire and fire authority over the heads of the national intelligence agencies and the principal intelligence officers of the Defense Department, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security.

-- The Director should be able to set common standards across the Intelligence Community for personnel (in part to facilitate joint assignments), for security (to reduce unnecessary or inadvertent compartmentation), and for information technology.

The National Intelligence Director should have two principal lines of authority, both crossing the foreign-domestic divide. 

The National Intelligence Director's first line of authority should extend to national intelligence centers, organized for joint missions.  These centers -- the unified commands of the Intelligence Community -- should provide all source analysis drawing on experts from a  number of agencies.  Guided by their analytic work, they should be able to propose collection requirements and task assets.  Conflicting demands would be resolved by the National Intelligence Director.

-- The NCTC would include one of these national intelligence centers but would be much more, as it also includes the operational function called for by the urgent transnational demands of counterterrorism work. 

The National Intelligence Director's second line of authority should extend to the national intelligence agencies and departmental entities that should be the capability builders for the nation's intelligence.  They should hire, organize, train, and equip the people and operate the major systems and platforms. 

-- The CIA would take the lead in foreign intelligence, concentrating on training the best spies and analysts in the world. 

-- The Defense Department would take the lead in defense intelligence, honing that craft and acquiring and operating key national technical systems. 

-- The Homeland Security Department and the FBI would take the lead in homeland intelligence, harnessing the great potential knowledge accumulated in the new department and fostering -- with the leadership of the National Intelligence Director -- the FBI's management reforms to improve its performance as an intelligence agency.

In the exercise of this second line of authority, over the capability building agencies, we propose that the NID would share authority with the department head who owns and operates those capabilities for the nation.  These key managers, such as the Director of the CIA -- should be the NID's deputies. 

-- These shared authorities exist now, of course, in the status quo.  In the status quo, the balance of authority favors departmental direction, not national direction.  We propose altering that balance.

-- The alternative to shared authorities would be to place the capability building agencies under the authority of a single official, in effect creating a department of intelligence.  We were not convinced of the need to take that further step.

One issue that has arisen is the question of whether to place the NID, or the NCTC, in the Executive Office of the President. 

-- Do not lose sight of the overall goal.  The authorities of the Director and the organization of intelligence work are critical, wherever they reside.

-- We recommended the Executive Office of the President because of the need for proximity to the President and the National Security Council and because of the centrality of counterterrorism in contemporary national security management.

-- If not put in the Executive Office of the President, one alternative would be to create a new agency as a home for the NID and the NCTC.  Lacking any existing institutional base, such an option would require authorities at least as strong as those we have proposed, or else it would create a bureaucratic 'fifth wheel' that would make the present situation even worse.

-- Another alternative would be to place the NID and/or the NCTC in another existing agency or department, such as the CIA or the Defense Department.  These alternatives then have their own issues, such as the risk of confusing the mainly foreign responsibilities of the CIA and the circumscribed domestic responsibilities of the Defense Department with the broader domestic and foreign span of control being exercised by both the NID and the NCTC.

-- Placing the NID in the Executive Office of the President would have little effect on politicization.  Those dangers have always arisen from the functions and relationships that go with the job, regardless of where the person sits -- whether at Langley, the Pentagon, or in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.  Those dangers should be offset by selecting a person who believes the President is served by rigorous truth telling and by making the NID (and NCTC Director) fully accountable to Congress. 

In closing, we wish to caution -- as Chairman Kean and Vice Chair Hamilton did last Friday -- against cosmetic change.  Creating a National Intelligence Director that just superimposes a chief above the other chiefs without taking on the fundamental management issues we identify is a step that could be worse than useless.

Also, please do not forget the strategy -- the substance -- at the heart of our recommendations.  Do not forget, though it may be the work of others -- the other organizational suggestions we make, especially in information sharing and for reshaping the oversight work of the Congress.

Many voices will rightly caution you against undue haste,  But the Commission did not act with undue haste in developing these recommendations, as it built on ideas that -- in some cases -- have been debated for more than twenty years.  President Roosevelt, Secretary Stimson, and General Marshall did not act in haste when they created a Joint Chiefs of Staff to cope with weaknesses made evident by war.  The Congress and President Truman did not act with undue haste in rapidly adopting a National Security Act in 1947 that, among other things, created a Secretary of Defense vehemently denounced at the time as an unnecessary bureaucratic layer.

A rare opportunity has emerged to recover common purpose and take common action across partisan lines, even amid a hotly contested election.  Such opportunities take the measure of leaders.  We have been deeply impressed by the readiness of our nation's leaders -- in both parties -- to step up and call for prompt action.  The response of the Congress, of the Senate and House leadership, and of this committee, has already moved into unprecedented ground.  You have already stepped beyond what was probable, to consider what is possible.