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Intel Critic Hired To Shake Things Up

UPDATED: Link To Video of Clapper Speech; Congressional Aide, Former Intel Official Urge  Caution in Intel Budget Move

New Orleans -- In a clear effort to shake up the intelligence community, the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is bringing back the head of allied intelligence in Afghanistan, author of a highly critical report of allied intelligence efforts there, to handle relations with U.S. intelligence agencies, foreign partners and those who use intelligence.

And in a move  that has the potential to reshape the relationship between the intelligence community and the Department of Defense, Clapper announced that he and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have tentatively agreed that the $53.1 billion National Intelligence Program will migrate in 2013 to  the office of the Director of National Intelligence. This will have the effect of reducing the Pentagon's topline budget by $53.1 billion almost with the stroke of a pen.

With characteristic understatement and humor, Clapper told an audience of several thousand intelligence officers and industry representatives at the Geoint conference here that he planned to bring back "a certain unnamed intelligence officer from Afghanistan" who wrote a critical report. "Hey buddy," he said,” you can come back and fix it." Clapper's "buddy," of course, is Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn, who wrote his highly critical report while at the Center for a New American Security.

The budget change will mean "we don't have to go through the services to find a place to hang it on the DoD Christmas tree," Clapper said. Under current practice the NIP is buried in DoD line items, which requires the DNI to get the agreement of each service to hide that money. That, the DNI said in a short interview after his speech, complicates the DNI's efforts to oversee the money since simply finding it is fairly difficult.

A congressional aide urged Clapper to be careful as he implements the budget move. "He is going to have to work closely with Congress on the budget separation. It can be done without altering jurisdiction, but it will be sensitive until the details are revealed and worked out," the aide said.

Josh Hartman, former director of the Pentagon's space and intelligence capabilities office who also was a senior congressional aide dealing with intelligence, was bemused by the move. "I am not yet clear on the value of the move or what problem we are attempting to fix. The Military Services will still be required to plan and execute the funds and the projects. If a move happens, the thing that will be of utmost importance is working with the Services to ensure their intelligence requirements are met. Separating the money from the planners and users will make that more difficult. Traditionally the DNI staff and the CMS staff before them have not had the knowledge, interest, or infrastructure to engage on Service intelligence activities in a value-added way," this official said.

These moves are all part of what two intelligence officials confirmed is a major shakeup of the ODNI. For example, Clapper said he is creating 15 to 20 new positions -- national intelligence managers -- who will report to him. They will handle regional areas and functional problems. Perhaps the most high-profile of these posts will be a new post called the national intelligence manager for cyber.

In addition to these moves, Clapper said he met Monday with staff to discuss whether to "trim or move out some functions" from the ODNI to other executive agencies. He also said he will begin shrinking the enormous number of intelligence contractors but stressed he did not want to rush this and spoke of acting over a three-period.

And in an interesting signal to the intelligence companies, Clapper said he had been pitched several "solutions" to the problem of data fusion and data sharing. He said the problem isn't one that can be solved by new widgets. "The problem isn't technical; it's policy," he said, pointing to the intelligence failures that allowed the Christmas bomber to get as far as he did.

{Full disclosure: The United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation, which puts on the Geoint conference, paid for our airfare and hotel.]

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