Activities: 2005: Abstract: Fingar

January 27, 2005

Assistant Secretary Thomas Fingar
Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR)
U.S. Department of State

TOPIC:  Intelligence Reform:  Why We Need It

Dr. Tomas Fingar, a veteran of thirty-five years in the intelligence community, briefed our Executive Lecture Forum on why it was necessary to reform the U.S. intelligence community.  In starting his lecture, he pointed out that “If we have done things wrong, I am at least partly guilty of that sin.  But my job, my responsibility in the intelligence community in the State Department, is to be as subjective as it is possible to be.  If I’m spinning, I’m not doing my job.  We are supposed to call it as we see it.”

He continued by asking the rhetoric question:  “Why do we need to be reformed?  Why now?”  The intelligence community has several times been scrutinized for the possibility of reform, he said.  One was a historical document in 1962, during the Kennedy Administration.  The document was a Blue Ribbon Panel Report on reform of the intelligence community.  The next was the so-called Scowcroft Commission Report.  The recommendations in 1962 and 2002—forty years apart—were remarkably similar.  Indeed, if you didn’t know better, you would say they changed the date on the document and re-submitted it.  One of the most notable similarities was the call for the creation of a director of national intelligence.  Then, the most major changes came in the 1970's, the so-called Church Committee’s Report.  Its’ simple proposition was:  There should be no spying on Americans by the American government.  The CIA— more broadly the intelligence community—were being walled off from doing things in the United States.  In other words, barriers were erected between the FBI and the CIA.  As we know it today, said Dr. Fingar, the failure to share information caused the tragic events of 9/11.

Today the focus, the political spotlight, is on 9/11—that watershed development which changed everything.  An environment was created by 9/11 in which it became possible to think about changing something as big as reforming the intelligence community.  With the Intelligence Reform, he said, we needed to work out a new system.  The difficulty was how to coordinate 40 billion dollars worth of intelligence with the Department of Homeland Security, another 40 billions dollars and 170,000 people.  Fortunately, the 9/11 Commission demonstrated a non-partisan approach.  They maintained this discipline of a non-partisan approach in getting a unanimous product which had very clear recommendations, many of which were in the 1962 and the 2002 documents.  The new Intelligence Reform Bill included $80 billion dollars and 200,000 people.

Dr. Fingar concluded:  “The terrorist threat is terribly important.  Developing mechanisms to deal with them is critical.  But it is not the only option through which one ought to review our national security requirements.  There is the support to the military, support of diplomacy, support of economic negotiations, just to cite some of the other options that are pretty important.  And those of us, in the somewhat upper ranks of the intelligence community—and I head one of the 15 agencies that are lumped under that rubric—this is an opportunity that we have to seize.  Let’s do something right; and that is what we are trying to work on now.”

© 2003 The Radványi Chair in International Security Studies, Mississippi State University.
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