Last week the United States Department of Defense flooded media outlets with press releases announcing the planned establishment of a new military intelligence organization that would rival the Central Intelligence Agency in both size and scope.Not so fast. The US Senate has just blocked the plan citing gross mismanagement of the Pentagon’s existing intelligence operations.
The proposed Defense Clandestine Service centers on plans to build an extensive overseas intelligence network, run by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency and based on the CIA model of stations located in large metropolitan centers. The DoD said that the new intelligence organization will help the US armed forces broaden their intelligence collection from the current concentration in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But the Senate, which was asked to review and approve the plan’s financial requirements, submitted under the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, has refused to do so. Moreover, it issued a written rationale, drafted by the Senate Armed Services Committee, in which it explicitly forbids the Pentagon using US taxpayers’ money to expand its overseas intelligence operations.
According to The Washington Post, the reason for the plan’s rejection is two-fold. First, the Senate appears unhappy with the financial management of the DoD’s existing intelligence collection efforts. The Senate report cites serious concerns about the excessive financial cost and management failures associated with the Pentagon’s ongoing intelligence operations. It specifically mentions “poor or non-existent career management” for DoD intelligence operatives who are often transferred back to regular military units after undertaking “unproductive” assignments overseas, despite extensive intelligence training.
The Senate Armed Services Committee’s report stipulates that, before it asks for more money to build the proposed new agency, the Pentagon must “demonstrate that it can improve the management of clandestine [human intelligence] before undertaking any further expansion”.
Second, Senators demand that DoD officials provide more details on the precise cost of the new program and on how exactly they intend to use the extra intelligence operatives.
The report asks for “an independent estimate of the costs” associated with the proposed Defense Clandestine Service, as well as a classified explanation of the administrative and operational structure of the agency.
Furthermore, the Senate has asked the DoD to provide information on any institutional agreements between it and other US intelligence agencies, including the CIA and the National Security Agency, relating to the proposed new agency.
The Post’s Greg Miller, argues that the Senate’s move to block the Pentagon’s proposal signals “deep skepticism” in Washington that the DoD can bring this ambitions proposal to life.
The DoD has long been the US federal government’s most wasteful and mismanaged department, so it is little wonder its reputation appears to have finally caught up with it.