Who wants to be the next DNI?

posted at 11:50 am on May 23, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

With Dennis Blair getting the shove out the door from the Oval Office in a manner described by CBS as “graceless,” one can’t help but wonder why anyone would leap to replace the Director of National Intelligence.  According to Politico, the most qualified candidates share that skepticism.  They call the conundrum a “wicked problem,” but one mainly self-inflicted by the Obama administration:

Prominent political figures and intelligence veterans aren’t exactly leaping at the opportunity to replace Dennis Blair, the Director of National Intelligence who was ousted by President Barack Obama last week after losing a series of fights with the CIA and presiding over an intelligence system that failed to detect beforehend three significant terror strikes.

Intelligence veterans say the next DNI will inherit a job with a big mandate – overseeing a sprawling U.S. intelligence bureaucracy largely suspicious and resentful of him – but little real power to carry out reforms, and a position first in line to take the inevitable political heat.

The difficulties the Obama administration has run into in filling the post are rekindling questions about whether anyone can successfully do the job as it is currently constructed—doubts which now extend to some of the earliest and loudest voices for creating the new role five years ago.

“I think the position is extremely difficult and may be unmanageable,” said Lee Hamilton, the former Indiana congressman and co-chair of the 9/11 panel which recommended the new post. “Four DNIs in five years when you appoint the new person, for one of the post important jobs in government? That turnover has to be worrisome. We’ve had three very good people appointed to the post and they’ve all come away dissatisfied….I think in large part they stepped aside or came away dissatisfied because of a lack of authority to get done what they think needs to be done.”

“The job hasn’t been going very well,” said Fran Townsend, a former homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush. “Either you give the DNI the authority he needs or change the job so it focuses more on strategy, and then you don’t need the authority.”

The problem stems from a poorly designed reform of the American intelligence community, provided by the 9/11 Commission and adopted by a too-credulous Congress under political pressure.   Prior to that, the CIA director was the head of all non-military intelligence, both gathering and analysis.  The 9/11 Commission decided not to streamline intel by putting all of it in one structure but to create another two levels of bureaucracy and put the DNI in charge of the entire mess.

However, in charge turns out to be something of a misnomer.  The DNI is nominally in charge of the national intel center created in the overhaul, but as Blair discovered, not much else.  Blair famously lost a power play with Leon Panetta last year after Blair wanted to reassign some of the positions in the CIA, laboring under the delusion that Panetta worked for the DNI.  Panetta, a long-time power player in Washington DC, ended up winning that battle at the Oval Office level, leaving Blair emasculated.  He wound up in charge of just enough to take the blame for the failure to stop three terrorist attacks in the last six months, but not quite in charge of enough to have prevented them through his own efforts to remake US intelligence.

Under those conditions, who in their right mind would want to replace Blair?  It’s not just thankless, it’s powerless as well.  The Obama administration should rename it the Scapegoat Secretary for some honesty in advertising.

The Obama administration gets the blame for putting itself in this position, but they shouldn’t get all of it.  Congress needs to revisit its poorly-conceived reform of the intelligence community and start over from scratch.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

I’ll do it. No wait…

gleep on May 23, 2010 at 11:53 AM

Snarlin Arlen is desperate for any job.

Dingbat63 on May 23, 2010 at 11:56 AM

BHO don’t need no stinkin’ DNI…

d1carter on May 23, 2010 at 11:57 AM

This bho and his team want to be in charge of everything. Having someone placed over an agency is just window dressing, no power, and have to bow to the wishes of how this bho wants it done. No wonder people leave as fast as they do!
L

letget on May 23, 2010 at 11:58 AM

I nominate Gen. Michael Hayden. He’s run both NSA and CIA. Not that he’d want it, nor would Obama rush to get him.

flipflop on May 23, 2010 at 11:58 AM

You can almost see the scene with the next DNI, walking through a minefield with nothing but a willow stick in his hand while Panetta and Napolitano cheering along the sidelines—–”yes, you can”!!!!

Rovin on May 23, 2010 at 12:02 PM

Is Bill Ayres looking for a new gig .

Texyank on May 23, 2010 at 12:03 PM

The problem stems from a poorly designed reform of the American intelligence community, provided by the 9/11 Commission and adopted by a too-credulous Congress under political pressure.

Who coulda predicted that? Which party was talking about ‘failure to connect the dots’?

Skandia Recluse on May 23, 2010 at 12:04 PM

It is only a matter of time before 1000s of Americans are murdered by Islamic terrorists that Obuma refuses to acknowledge exist. Who in their right mind would volunteer to be the whipping boy for Obuma when this happens. It is going to happen.

volsense on May 23, 2010 at 12:06 PM

The 9/11 Commission decided not to streamline intel by putting all of it in one structure but to create another two levels of bureaucracy and put the DNI in charge of the entire mess.

The 9/11 “Commission” was a joke from the get-go. Why anyone is surprised that one of its results is also a joke is beyond me.

Del Dolemonte on May 23, 2010 at 12:08 PM

it is very clear the ‘neoProgs’ are in charge of natl security policy. Every time anyone tries to talk tough much less carry a stick of any sort the get smacked down. Witness every strong word Hillary utters being apologized for the next day by Team O. No Korea sinks So Korea shop Hill says unacceptable, she is in China now but I am sure they will apologize for her words and claim they were ‘overly harsh’ within a day or so.

Sam Powers and Susan Rice think being a doormat is effective foreign policy.

Hillary’s hands are tied and so were Blair’s and so will be anyone else who takes this job.

God Bless America and the troops and God help the world now that we are no longer on watch

ginaswo on May 23, 2010 at 12:09 PM

It’s not the DNI it’s the kid at the top … the very tippy top. You know – that kid who’s never worked in private enterprise and never done anything but so-called “community service”? That kid – he’s the problem.

Because you see …

There were no domestic terror attacks when BUSH was President.

nuff said.

HondaV65 on May 23, 2010 at 12:10 PM

and Lee Hamilton backed Obama, he and Volcker who also gives Obama an aura of competence are the reasons we are in this mess.All the idiots who backed Obama as ‘moderate’ and intelligent and ready at 3am should just STFU and hope we survive this

ginaswo on May 23, 2010 at 12:11 PM

It is only a matter of time before 1000s of Americans are murdered by Islamic terrorists that Obuma refuses to acknowledge exist. Who in their right mind would volunteer to be the whipping boy for Obuma when this happens. It is going to happen.

volsense on May 23, 2010 at 12:06 PM

Exactly right and when it happens … the Democrats will blame George Bush and the Tea Party for it.

HondaV65 on May 23, 2010 at 12:11 PM

The Gong Show

Bwaahahaha! Good one, Ed!

petefrt on May 23, 2010 at 12:12 PM

Intelligence? In this administration? I’m surprised they haven’t changed it to the Director of Good Intentions and Self Esteem. That’s all we really need, after all. Throw in an Undersecretary of State for Apologizing for America and the Liberals will be rolling around on the ground like a kitty on catnip.

trubble on May 23, 2010 at 12:14 PM

It’s not the DNI it’s the kid at the top … the very tippy top. You know – that kid who’s never worked in private enterprise and never done anything but so-called “community service”? That kid – he’s the problem.

HondaV65 on May 23, 2010 at 12:10 PM

Yup. Hence, “The Gong Show.”

petefrt on May 23, 2010 at 12:15 PM

Just how many domestic terror attacks have we had under Ogabe?

I know there was the military recruiter shot and killed in Arkansas … there was the Ft. Hood terror attack with dozens killed … we had the underwear bomber and this car bomb guy (lucky they were incompetent and had bombs that didn’t work).

I surely hope Obama is negotiating a peace deal because they’ve bested him. He cannot keep America safe the way G.W. did – and history prove it.

We really need peace with the Taliban now because this little kid in charge of us all will get us all killed.

By the way … anyone remember the Nork’s sinking a South Korean ship during Bush’s term? Yeah, me neither.

Soon we’ll be able to say that Ogabe’s incompetence was key to Iran getting nukes.

What a wonderful world this little kiddie has given us.

HondaV65 on May 23, 2010 at 12:16 PM

Congress needs to revisit its poorly-conceived reform of the intelligence community and start over from scratch.

What…admit they were wrong?
Not likely, not even for the sake of our national security.

Extrafishy on May 23, 2010 at 12:21 PM

Who wants to be the next DNI?

Inspector Jacques Clouseau (The crooks never sleep and neither does Closeeau! )

petefrt on May 23, 2010 at 12:24 PM

No one, as the article went on to say, it” probabaly wind up being someon e from the military establishment. The uniformed have an aversionj to saying no when called forduty.

Thsat aside, this post’s job description should read, the perfect political patsy! Yuo’d have to be a masochist to take this job, with Nappy, Holder and the One emsculating the nation’s defenses by executive fiat, who ever lands at this desk is just a fall guy for the next screw up.

Archimedes on May 23, 2010 at 12:28 PM

With rumors spreading that N.Korea torpedoed the drilling rig to force Oblamers hand who in their right mind would take that job?

docflash on May 23, 2010 at 12:31 PM

The difficulties the Obama administration has run into in filling the post are rekindling questions about whether anyone can successfully do the job as it is currently constructed—doubts which now extend to some of the earliest and loudest voices for creating the new role five years ago

This is an illuminating example of how this administration sees problems that it faces. When faced with failure or successes that don’t measure up to preconceived goals, posts such as these are going to be scapegoated as “unmanageable” or in need of another layer of government, of course, to help them do the job that is perceived cannot be done in its current form. What happens when energy/healthcare policy or civil unrest occurs? Will the government deem the populace “ungovernable” and create further layers of bureacracy? Of course they will. Blair can do the job, it can be done, Ed could do the job–it can be done. Give the guy a sword and a mandate to kick ass and it’ll get done–the administration is merely afraid of the wreckage a great personality would wring out of the position.

It’s an admission that the administration is weak—hence, no surprises from this end.

ted c on May 23, 2010 at 12:35 PM

National intelligence??? Yet another oxymoron.

docdave on May 23, 2010 at 12:36 PM

Blair’s loss is an actual setback, I think.

He is one of the few in the Obama administration who had a genuine ability to build a bridge to congressional Republicans and truly keep them in the loop about domestic security matters.

He did not parrot the party line enough for Obama’s taste, which is another big reason why he’s a goner.

You can fully expect the next Director to be an empty suit and a bootlicker, someone who is far more likely to publicly stick to the Obama administration’s bankrupt “message” on matters of national security.

Edouard on May 23, 2010 at 12:37 PM

North Korea’s Lil Kim torpedoes a South Korean ship killing 46, a definite act of war. The silence is deafening. With the neo-Progs in charge of security, consequences will emerge. A nation without borders has no sovereignty.This thing is unfolding like a bad dream.

volsense on May 23, 2010 at 12:37 PM

Can’t Odumbass just appoint himself?

txag92 on May 23, 2010 at 12:39 PM

OT: Flash – Blumenthal was stationed in Mi Lai

faraway on May 23, 2010 at 12:42 PM

Sorry about the ven worse than uaual typing skills this AM, checked HA before my coffee was even done.

Archimedes on May 23, 2010 at 12:45 PM

Part of the problem is that national security has been handed over to political “power players”, as you call them, rather than to talented spies. Thus a complete jerk like Napolitano bumbles her politically-correct way through her job, saved twice now only by sheer luck, and Panetta trumps Dennis Blair in an Oval Office call. And all that points to the fundamental error of placing an anti-American radical in our highest public position.

paul1149 on May 23, 2010 at 12:46 PM

THE WAY HIS FOREIGN POLICY IS GOING, OBAMA MIGHT AS WELL PICK CHARLES FREEMAN.

reliapundit on May 23, 2010 at 12:47 PM

Well this is “unexpected”. Who would of thought it would be hard to find a scapegoat, I mean person to take this job? What an honor it would be to be thrown under the bus, I mean serve ,this wonderful President.

sandee on May 23, 2010 at 12:53 PM

Rename the DNI to the Department of Truth and and I am sure O’Brien would be honored to serve

I am not a racist on May 23, 2010 at 1:01 PM

Rename the DNI, The Department of Truth and and I am sure O’Brien would be honored to serve

I am not a racist on May 23, 2010 at 1:04 PM

I believe Barry ‘ Milli Vanilli’ Soetoro should name his pal Rosie O’Donnell to head DNI .

She fits his administrations profile perfectly . She is a large, lefty, lesbian . He is putting together quite a softball team .

DeweyWins on May 23, 2010 at 1:14 PM

Hey, why not Dick Blumenthal? Didn’t he serve in Vietnam…and Korea…and create the OSS during WWII…and….?

opaobie on May 23, 2010 at 1:19 PM

Intelligence as we knew it, including the CIA, are dead.

Schadenfreude on May 23, 2010 at 2:19 PM

Lawyers are now in charge of intelligence, and PC.

Schadenfreude on May 23, 2010 at 2:19 PM

that sounds like a good way to put Meghan’s deeply useless daddy out to pasture

happyfeet on May 23, 2010 at 2:36 PM

DNI and DHS secretary are two sucky jobs no sane person would want.

juliesa on May 23, 2010 at 2:49 PM

Put that guy running DHS in there….The System is always working over there.

BigWyo on May 23, 2010 at 2:54 PM

Alcee Hastings

agmartin on May 23, 2010 at 2:57 PM

I nominate Stew-pack.

Dhuka on May 23, 2010 at 4:01 PM

That’s the wrong question. The right question is this: Does anyone want to be DNI?

LFRGary on May 23, 2010 at 4:06 PM

The 9/11 Commission decided not to streamline intel by putting all of it in one structure but to create another two levels of bureaucracy and put the DNI in charge of the entire mess.

Let’s see, created by men accustomed to bureaucracy. So naturally they’d design a more efficient system.

Uh, yeah, sure they will.

GarandFan on May 23, 2010 at 5:26 PM

The people in Washington excel at creating bureaucracies that divert or avoid direct responsibility for any actions taken.

Anyone good to jail or gotten fired for Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac? Bueller? Bueller?

GarandFan on May 23, 2010 at 5:27 PM

At the rate we’re going, the real name of the office is Director of NO Intelligence.

n0doz on May 23, 2010 at 7:57 PM

Under those conditions, who in their right mind would want to replace Blair? It’s not just thankless, it’s powerless as well. The Obama administration should rename it the Scapegoat Secretary for some honesty in advertising.

Why do people make the mistake of thinking the Obama Administration needs to find someone competent for the position? Just find some political hack to install and be done with it. In fact, they could get some mileage by installing an asian transgendered disabled tri-sexual “person” to the most senior cabinet position in the history of our country!

olesparkie on May 24, 2010 at 8:08 AM

As usual Washington puts personal politics ahead of our safety. Why do we need this department or DHS when we have an FBI and CIA. Just more unworkable redundancy from the feds.

Kissmygrits on May 24, 2010 at 9:00 AM

Under the Obama Regime the office of DNI has been reorganized to better reflect the Administrations Goal and in the reorganization been given a new name that explains its true mission.

Do Nothing Intelligently or Intentionally (public choice).

MSGTAS on May 24, 2010 at 10:43 AM

Ironically, the DNI and Homeland Security are two abominable things that Obama actually did inherit from Bush. Bush cut Porter Goss off at the knees in the middle of reforming the CIA, then appointed John Negroponte to the top spot, with two of the CIA’s worst BDS partisan pols in tow — the very ones who gave gave us that NIE which absolved Iran of nuclear ambitions.

I’m developing a strange new respect for Leon Panetta though.

JM Hanes on May 24, 2010 at 2:32 PM