Intelligent Approach

By Thomas Duffy / April 7, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair yesterday addressed the Bipartisan Policy Center's conference on the "State of Intelligence Reform," hosted by former New Jersey Gov. Tom Keane (R) and former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-IA), the two commissioners of the 9/11 panel.

Conference attendees heard from two panels featuring intelligence community veterans like Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), the former ranking member on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden; and former DNI retired Adm. Mike McConnell.

Then Blair stepped up and gave his recipe for making things better in the intelligence field:

Here are three practical recommendations. They’re in progress, but they need to be driven to build that kind of agency leadership: First, as mandated by the IRTPA, every officer must serve in a joint job before he or she can be promoted to the Senior Intelligence Service. Now, this program, as Director McConnell -- former Director McConnell mentioned -- is under way.

But we need to toughen this requirement so the jobs that earn joint duty credit are those that provide real experience in the capabilities and the culture of other agencies. I can tell you that once you’ve served a significant period of time outside your home agency in the atmosphere of another agency, you go back to your former duties a changed person. You have real understanding of what can be done. So that’s number one.

Second, we need more thorough succession planning within the agencies, conducted basically by the agency leadership itself, but overseen by the DNI. Succession planning will ensure that officers promoted to leadership roles in the individual agencies truly have the right qualifications and the joint ethic. Succession planning is also necessary for other goals that we’re pursuing for the leadership of the Intelligence Community -- diversity and breadth -- as well as parent agency skills.

And third, we need to continue to improve joint education. We’ve started new joint training courses for entry-, mid-level and senior intelligence officers this year. And we’ll look to continually improve them. The curricula of these courses must be continually updated and refreshed. We’re learning the best examples; best practices are coming all the time. And as I mentioned, primarily
from the field in. And we have to plow those back into the education so that those who are in the courses can take full advantage of them.