The national intelligence apparatus of the U.S. has fewer employees than GM had in its prime, yet it consists officially of 16 separate agencies, and unofficially of more than 20. Each of these agencies is protected by strong political and bureaucratic constituencies, so that after each intelligence failure everything continues pretty much the same and usually with the same people in charge.

Five and a half years after the report of the 9/11 Commission identified the cascade of intelligence failures that allowed the 9/11 attackers to achieve total surprise, the problems it highlighted persist: We learn of multiple, separate and unshared terrorist lists; of multiple agencies (State Department, CIA and the National Counterterrorism Center) unable to combine the tips they receive; of arbitrary rules, such as requiring proof of “reasonable suspicion,” rather than mere suspicion, to deny a visa to a foreigner; and of terrorists released from American custody to become leaders of al Qaeda abroad. There is the sense that nobody is in charge…

We can fix this. As with the auto industry, the moment of crisis is the right moment to tackle in-depth reform of the intelligence services. One possibility that deserves serious consideration would be a consolidation of most existing agencies into four primary agencies: a foreign intelligence agency, a military intelligence agency, a domestic intelligence agency, and a technical data collection agency (satellite mapping, electronic interception, etc.).