That seems to be the message of a new white paper from the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, a professional association for intelligence professionals. SMART Change: Lessons of the Past, Direction for the Future aims to act as a guide against the specter of a drawdown of investments in intelligence capabilities, similar to what happened in the 1990s after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
The white paper concludes the intelligence community needs to prepare now for the “fiscally challenging” times ahead and recommends the IC begin making smart, targeted cuts to the large workforce that has sprung up in the decade since 9/11.
The report, under the direction of a task force chaired by Joan Dempsey, former deputy director of central intelligence for community management, was the culmination of months of research and insight from several former directors and deputy directors of IC agencies, senior intelligence officials and congressional leaders.
Among the group’s recommendations:
- Manpower reductions should be targeted and based on how “mission critical” they are
- Hiring should be maintained even in the face of budget tightening to avoid gaps in the workforce
- There should continue to be sufficient funding for research and development to maintain U.S. technological superiority, an IC imperative
- The IC should establish clearer lines of responsibility for homeland security and domestic intelligence
- The intelligence discipline of open-source should be strengthened
However, what the intelligence community should not do is engage in a “radical structural reorganization,” the task force found.
The recommendations were formulated with the current budget climate in mind, INSA said, to avoid the pitfalls of prior periods of economically constrained times, such as that after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, known as the “peace dividend.”
“Nobody was well-served by some of the budget cuts in the 1990s,” said INSA President Ellen McCarthy. “We have just witnessed just how good our IC has become and it is imperative that we find ways to sustain this excellence, even in the face of funding challenges. The changes we make today will have effects for decades.
The task force also encouraged intelligence leaders to borrow several private-sector best practices.