DNI. The DNI was created within the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA). All four incumbents to date -- each with the best of intentions -- have been abject failures. The primary product of this office is not just bureaucracy, but a higher-level bureaucracy providing headroom for the incompetents that would otherwise have been forced into retirement in the aftermath of 9/11. The DNI has no financial authority of note and no influence at all over government deliberations with respect to strategy, acquisition, policy, and operations across Whole of Government.
CIA. The CIA is supposed to do three things: produce all-source intelligence that is timely and useful to the national security leadership (they are not expected to support Congress or the larger Cabinet); conduct clandestine and covert action operations that provide the US Government (USG) with an advantage against the public and national interests of other nations; and create scientific and technical advances helpful to "close in" technical operations or advanced analytics that require humans in the loop to be effective. CIA has failed at all three.
DIA. Apart from being marginalized from its day of creation by Services intent on protecting budget share and protecting their cozy relationships with major contractors such as Lockheed (the original proponent for the Cold War), DIA has failed to keep the rest of government honest -- for example, allowing Dick Cheney to lead the telling of 935 now-documented lies that took us into a multi-trillion dollar war in Iraq that has produced tens of thousands of US veteran amputees and mental cases -- and failed to support the Secretary of Defense (SecDef) in his or her legitimate responsibility to keep America safe by training, equipping, and organizing a coherent effective military with global reach. In passing, Cheney's hubris led to the liberation of the majority Shi'ite population of Iraq -- in other words, Dick Cheney has done more for Iran and Shi'ites than any other person anytime in modern history.
FBI. In my view, the FBI is a combination of a theatrical agency and a protective service for elites. It has done nothing of substance against religious, ideological, and financial traitors in the Executive and Congress that routinely subvert the government decision-process at a cost to the public of blood, treasure and spirit. The FBI's failure is deeply troubling to me, because in my past 25 years of advocacy for intelligence reform, I have learned that without counterintelligence -- without the ability to clean one's own stables -- reform is simply not possible.
NGA. The NGA is a reincarnation of the Defense Mapping Agency (DMA) that morphed into the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA), and then became, ostensibly, the National Geospatial (Intelligence) Agency. It is largely a fraud that has still not resolved the long-standing gaps in 1:50,000 military combat charts with contour lines that are essential for combined arms collaboration and on the ground infantry operations. In Somalia today we are using Russian 1:100,000 charts -- elsewhere around the world our combat forces are often resorting to GoogleEarth coverage because of NGA's failure to be serious about needs at the tactical level. NGA continues to believe that the availability of digital geospatial information in their headquarters is a substitute for hard-copy maps in the hands of our troops that continue to operate when hit by rocks or shot through with a bullet. NGA is also sadly ignorant about the realities of global digital "feeds and speeds," and does not understand that prior preparation and hard-copy production of military combat charts are a necessity, not a luxury.
NRO. The NRO, once as secretive as the NSA, collapsed in the mid-1990's when industry demanded that commercial imagery be allowed. Their demand was sensible in part because the USG could not afford to keep the satellite assembly lines open for the very limited production the NRO was authorized to fund. Today -- and especially so with the newly authorized one-quarter meter resolution for commercial satellites, with small agile satellites the norm -- and the blending of Google Earth with extremely timely tight resolution from micro-unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) along with 360 degree access to all relevant Instagram photos taken by hand-held cell phones -- the NRO is worse than an anachronism, it joins NSA as a sucking chest wound in the classified intelligence budget.
NSA. As much as I prefer to respect security regulations, two people stand in history as violating their security oaths for the right reasons: Daniel Ellsberg with the Pentagon Papers, and Edward Snowden with the as-yet incomplete but clearly massive disclosure of NSA's mass surveillance program. Although I personally protested directly to LtGen Mike Hayden when he was the Director of NSA and began doing warrantless surveillance, what really matters about Snowden is not that the information is new -- many of us have been articulating concerns for decades -- but rather that the information is now being "heard." NSA has violated the public trust in every possible way -- it is representative of how all the other elements of the secret world are also violating the public trust, they just have not produced their own versions of Edward Snowden yet.
USD(I). USD(I) is ostensibly the full-counterpart to the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (USD(P)) and the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition (USD(A)). Both of the latter are making decisions that are completely lacking in common sense, affordability, sustainability, and military necessity, in part because USD(I) is incapable of producing intelligence with integrity. SecDef is presiding over a hollow military stretched thin by irresponsible Service-level decisions on top of empty Service planning and programming capabilities. The Navy cannot design ships -- the Air Force cannot design aircraft -- and the Army still thinks the weight of a system is irrelevant to its deployability and employability. DoD has lost its mind, and the blame for that falls squarely on a series of USD(I) billet holders that have chosen to invest hundreds of billions in technical means without regard to the actual decision-support needs of SecDef and the Services with respect to strategy, policy, acquisition, and operations.
What Is Intelligence and How Do We Evaluate It?
In my first book, ON INTELLIGENCE: Spies and Secrecy in an Open World (AFCEA 2000, OSS 2001), a book that enjoyed a Foreword by Senator David Boren (D-OK), past Chairman of the SSCI, I published the below graphic.
Figure 2: Scoring Secret Intelligence Against Traditional versus Emerging Threats
The first grade, without parenthesis, was my evaluation of the secret world's performance against its existing mandate, the denied area targets of China, Cuba, Libya, North Korea, and Russia, without regard to the rest of the world -- Africa was of interest only because we could more easily lure Soviet officers into drinking and indiscretions there than anywhere else.
The second grade, with parenthesis, is the grade I assigned to existing capabilities in relation to emerging threats that were generally unconventional, non-state, without rules of engagement, and so on.
Intelligence is about decision-support, the outcome of the process of intelligence. It is not about spending the most money possible on the most esoteric technical collection programs possible, knowing that you will process less than 1% of what you collect, and that you will produce, "at best," 4% of the what a major theater (regional) commander needs to know.
The dirty little secret of both James Clapper the DNI and Mike Vickers the USD(I) is that they are all about spending money -- as much money as possible -- without regard to meeting the needs of the President, the Cabinet, Congress, or the public, for decision-support.