US Counterterror Intelligence: Options for Reform

January 25, 2010 — Dr. Jennifer Sims, Director of Intelligence Studies at Georgetown University and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence Coordination, joined us for a discussion on options for reforming the U.S. counterterror intelligence system. 

Dr. Sims began the discussion by highlighting deficiencies in today’s U.S. intelligence system and providing an overview of the current state of intelligence reform.  The legacy of the Cold War has created an intelligence system well-suited to the needs of policymakers in the conventional threat environment, but weaker at addressing the terrorist threat.  Since September 11th, 2001 the intelligence reform movement has focused on organizational strategies to mitigate this weakness—most visibly in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004—while policymakers have paid less attention to reforming intelligence functions.

The rest of the discussion focused on how to reform intelligence functions.  Dr. Sims discussed the theory of decision advantage and how best to empower policymakers to act on intelligence information to prevent terrorist attacks.  She then analyzed four critical functional elements of good intelligence: collection, capacity to integrate, transmission, and denial and deception.  Dr. Sims also discussed several different keys to effective counterintelligence. 

The Question and Answer session produced a number of thought-provoking discussions, including whether or not intelligence reform should be modeled after Department of Defense reform and the Goldwater-Nichols Act, as well as the role of the State Department and Chiefs of Station in the intelligence system.  The Office of National Intelligence was also analyzed, and the discussion ended with a lively back and forth on the necessity for critical thinking and the utility of creating aligned roles for State and Defense Department decision-makers abroad.

Security for a New Century is a bipartisan study group for Congress. We meet regularly with U.S. and international policy professionals to discuss the post-Cold War and post-9/11 security environment. All discussions are off-the-record. It is not an advocacy venue. For more information, please call Mark Yarnell at (202) 224-7560 or write to [email protected].

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