One of the key recommendations of the Congressional investigation into the 9/11 attacks was to revise America's intelligence system to create a new position of director of National Intelligence to oversee the Intelligence Community (IC) in the wake of what was seen as a catastrophic intelligence failure. It was just the latest effort to make sense out of the IC's convoluted and rather inefficient structure. It's an idea worth examining, even though every effort made over the past sixty years to reorganize the IC has gone nowhere. While there is scant evidence that a more orderly and manageable IC structure would have prevented 9/11, the system is expensive, cumbersome, and lacks the authority at the top to make it work effectively. Surely, there must be a way to fix it.
When President Truman created the position of Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) in January 1946, there was no Intelligence Community, no Central Intelligence Agency, and almost none of the other intelligence agencies that make up today's IC. Truman's first DCI had nothing much to manage and did not report directly to the president, but rather to a National Intelligence Authority (NIA) which was made up of the secretaries of state, war, navy, and Truman's personal representative, Admiral William Leahy, his chief of staff. This was a plan backed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff because the NIA was dominated by the services and the plan kept the intelligence units of the Army and Navy intact.1