Researchers Analyze Intelligence Reforms Resulting from 9/11

An analysis of national intelligence reforms in the wake of 9/11 finds a “visionary” plan that has encountered barriers in truly achieving its goals. Richard Harknett, a University of Cincinnati professor of political science, and James Stever, professor and acting head of the UC Department of Political Science, published their analysis in a special, September issue of the premier journal, Public Administration Review.

A congressional review of the events of 9/11 and the assessment of intelligence failures resulted in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which established the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) as well as the counter-terrorism center. Harknett and Stever reviewed the legislative record against the actual structural and process reforms that have occurred in the decade since the 9/11 tragedy.

Harknett says the DNI created an anchor for the 16 different agencies operating in the United States Intelligence Community. However, the authors say budgetary authority and bureaucratic structure are factors that are impeding the goals that were envisioned in 2004, as is a longtime organizational culture that is slow to change.

Furthermore, the congressional act did not lay out a process or support system to put the plan into place. “The intelligence reforms of 9/11, ultimately, created an office that could be visionary, but did not empower an office that could be transformational,” write the authors.
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Ten years ago, we viewed 9/11 as an intelligence failure, and we made a substantive effort to change our intelligence community in how it is organized and how it operates,” says Harknett. “Ten years later, we have the vision of what needs to be done, but we have not adopted the reforms that were called for.” “So, I wind up with the glass-half-full, glass-half-empty metaphor as being fairly useful here,” Harknett says. “Whether you view it as a glass half-full or a glass half-empty depends on whether you have any optimism that the bureaucratic structure would change. Given the personnel changes that have just occurred, I probably would say that right now, the glass is half-empty.”

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