Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

How to fix the DNI: Make it a service office, not a phony headquarters

Here’s a guest post by Guy Filippelli, a former Army intelligence officer with experience in both Afghanistan and Iraq, where he was one of  the unsung heroes of the surge era. He says the DNI really needs to be ENI — that is, the “Enabler of National Intelligence.” By Guy FilippelliBest Defense deputy chief intelligence ...

Max_Knight/flickr
Max_Knight/flickr
Max_Knight/flickr

Here's a guest post by Guy Filippelli, a former Army intelligence officer with experience in both Afghanistan and Iraq, where he was one of  the unsung heroes of the surge era. He says the DNI really needs to be ENI -- that is, the "Enabler of National Intelligence."

By Guy Filippelli
Best Defense deputy chief intelligence bureau

First, the DNI needs to excel as a "service" organization. I know at the senior levels we like to speak about a "J2" or "principal advisor." I believe a more fitting comparison in certain areas might be to a HQ or Special Troops BN Commander.

Here’s a guest post by Guy Filippelli, a former Army intelligence officer with experience in both Afghanistan and Iraq, where he was one of  the unsung heroes of the surge era. He says the DNI really needs to be ENI — that is, the “Enabler of National Intelligence.”

By Guy Filippelli
Best Defense deputy chief intelligence bureau

First, the DNI needs to excel as a “service” organization. I know at the senior levels we like to speak about a “J2” or “principal advisor.” I believe a more fitting comparison in certain areas might be to a HQ or Special Troops BN Commander.

Second, the DNI needs to “manage the commons” — data, clearances, enterprise software licenses, general training, program management, etc. Major improvements in these areas would win major fans among the agencies.

Third, the DNI needs to be a “collaborative enabler” — hosting physical and virtual engagements to bring together the individual agencies and the outside world of business, academia, etc.

What I’m trying to get at here is a mindset shift. It’s not about taking control of the agencies, it’s about discovering where the opportunities exist to add value to the existing processes. The DNI needs to simply start with “what’s broken?” or “what’s under-performing?” and start to reinforce.

By the way, I think this is fundamentally inconsistent with putting a 4 star admiral accustomed to running a massive, hierarchical organization in charge. This was doomed from the outset. We need somebody used to putting “the client” first — in this case, the client need equally be the subordinate agency as well as the White House. I’d rather see the CEO of a major services company step in. I rarely advocate for the McKinsey types, but this might indeed be a good fit for one of that culture.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.