Monday, May 08, 2006

Lawmakers Want More Data on Contracting Out Intelligence
Lawmakers Want More Data on Contracting Out Intelligence
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer

Congress is taking its first steps to oversee the Defense Department's rapidly growing activities in the foreign and domestic intelligence fields, focusing also on the growing practice of contracting out intelligence analysis to former military personnel.

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, in its version of the fiscal 2007 intelligence authorization bill, has called for enhanced reporting requirements on the Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), the Pentagon's newest and fastest-growing intelligence agency.

While the House Armed Services Committee approved an unusually large Pentagon request to increase by 50 the number of supergrade defense intelligence Senior Executive Service personnel, the Senate Armed Services Committee last week ordered expanded reporting on defense contractor employment of former senior Defense Department officials and interagency contracting.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on May 2, John Gannon, a former CIA deputy director for intelligence and later the first staff director of the House Homeland Security Committee, joined others who have raised questions about the growth of contracting and its possible negative effects.

The House intelligence panel said one trigger for its study was the disclosure that CIFA "failed to follow policies regarding the collection and retention of information about U.S. persons." It noted that CIFA, in its classified database of 13,000 records of threats to defense facilities, had included 260 records that "improperly contained information relating to U.S. persons." The Defense Department has ordered "refresher training" for those collecting such files, and the committee requested that the Pentagon's inspector general submit a report on the CIFA records by next Feb. 1.

The Defense Department would not identify where its new 50 civilians would be employed, according to spokesman Cmdr. Greg Hicks. The positions were approved by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, according to an official from that office.

The post-Sept. 11 restructuring of the intelligence community under legislation in 2004 "unintentionally encouraged the stretching of scarce analytic resources literally to the breaking point, the dispersal of valuable expertise, and an unprecedented reliance on the contracting community for analytic staffing, workforce management, and training," said Gannon, who spent 24 years at the CIA and now is a vice president for global analysis of BAE Systems Information Technology.

Last year, contractors were "a significant majority" of analysts working at the new National Counterterroism Center (NCTC), which has primary responsibility for providing the White House and others with analysis based on foreign and domestic information, Gannon said. The proportion is even greater at CIFA, the Pentagon's new agency coordinating "force protection" at Defense Department facilities. CIFA officials have told The Washington Post that 70 percent of their workers are contractors.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, asked whether "the Department of Defense . . . moving into these fields with widespread expansion of powers" is "consistent with having a Director of National Intelligence?"

"What is bothersome," Gannon replied, "is that that movement that you're talking about is taking place without any supervision beyond the Department of Defense, and I think it is needed from the DNI, but also from the White House."

A greater problem, Gannon added, is that with the CIA, FBI and the Department of Homeland Security working on the civilian side, and the Pentagon expanding within its own realm, "it has confused civilian and military roles and raised alarms about the military involvement."

Growth in the military areas, however, continues. Even Athena Innovative Solutions Inc., the successor organization to MZM Inc., whose president was caught giving bribes in the criminal investigation that led to conviction of former representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), has been successful in maintaining and expanding its Pentagon contracts.

According to an internal document made available to The Post, Athena reported in January it has maintained two CIFA contracts that could add 43 jobs to its payroll. Calls to Athena's press spokesman for comment were not returned. The Pentagon's U.S. Central Command (Centcom) is advertising for contract employees to work on intelligence, including some jobs in Iraq.

An online ad by Lockheed Martin Information Technology-Professional Services seeks a counterintelligence analyst to work in Iraq doing research on intelligence capabilities of countries in areas of operations under the Central Command. Additional work, according to the ad, would be "on substantive intelligence matters involving terrorist groups and networks . . . Centcom experience is a plus," the ad notes.