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Develop Your Leadership Talent

The Coming Challenge for Intelligence Community Leaders

As military combat in Iraq and Afghanistan winds down into a world wide counter-terror campaign of drone strikes, special forces raids, law enforcement operations and security measures, reliance on intelligence and the Intelligence Community will only increase. Yet, the first indications of a bleak future for the people of the Intelligence Community are now beginning to appear. A coming period of austerity to reduce the national deficit will demand that the people of the Community do more with less. Less being fewer people, lower salaries, reduced promotion opportunities, limited contract support, and minimal training and support equipment. The only thing that will increase is the burden on the Community to produce actionable intelligence and the criticism when it fails to do so. In such an environment, it will be a challenge for the Leaders of the Community to keep their organizations and people motivated to work at a high level of activity and quality.

This will not be the first time intelligence has been reduced in concert with the conclusion of military combat. It happened in the Eisenhower administration following the Korean War, in the Carter administration following the Vietnam War, in the Clinton Administration following the Gulf War, and is set to happen again. But, as, respectively, Sputnik, the fall of the Shah of Iran and the attacks of 9/11 and other surprises to American decision-makers have shown, neglecting intelligence has not always been wise.

Nevertheless, seasoned bureaucrats recognize that it is going to happen again. In August, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said “It is important that we not repeat the mistakes of the past, where tough economic times or the winding down of a military campaign leads to steep and unwise reductions in defense.” Thus, he announced that now

…the Pentagon will cut thousands of jobs, including a substantial chunk of its private contractors and a major military command….as part of an ongoing effort to streamline its operations and to stave off political pressure to slash defense spending in the years ahead.

…defense officials characterized these moves as a political preemptive strike to fend off growing sentiment elsewhere in Washington to tackle the federal government’s soaring deficits by making deep cuts in military spending….shrinking bureaucracy so that more money can be spent on troops and weapons.

The cuts will involve

…the U.S. Joint Forces Command, which employs about 2,800 military and civilian personnel as well as 3,300 contractors…[and] a 10 percent cut in intelligence advisory contracts….

While Gates initiatives may preserve military forces and equipment from expected budget cuts, the people who provide the intelligence to support them will fare less well in the coming period of austerity. A recent Washington Post poll indicated that

More than half of Americans say they think that federal workers are overpaid for the work they do, and more than a third think they are less qualified than those working in the private sector….

Half also say the men and women who keep the government running do not work as hard as employees at private companies.

This has led to what has become a bitter debate on Capitol Hill and on the campaign trail over the size and value of the federal bureaucracy.

President Obama…said the workforce will be ‘part of the overall conversation’ when his administration takes up the federal budget next year. He said that he will not rule out furloughs and that agencies might need to shrink by keeping vacancies open. He has asked agencies to develop plans for cutting budgets by 5 percent.

More recently,

The fast growing pay of federal employees has captured the attention of fiscally conservative Republicans who won control of the U.S. House of Representatives…. Already some lawmakers are planning to use the lame-duck session…to challenge the President’s plan to give a 1.4% across-the- board pay raise to 2.1 million federal workers.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who will head the panel overseeing federal pay, says he wants a pay freeze and prefers a 10% pay cut.

But, that may be just the beginning

On November 10th, the President’s Deficit Commission released its first draft deficit reduction proposals. Among a number of other items, this included a $100 billion reduction in the defense budget.

If that occurs, it would likely be above that already planned to be cut by Secretary Gates and fall more heavily on the supporting elements of defense.

Certainly, as before, the future will bring significant cuts to military supporting infrastructure, including intelligence. Efforts at deficit reduction will bring cuts to civilian personnel levels, numbers of positions, pay levels and resources available for training and work tools. Given those restrictions, the ability of the Intelligence Community to produce high quality actionable intelligence in time to make a difference for decision-makers will depend on the morale, commitment and motivation of intelligence professionals. Those necessary ingredients to intelligence production can only be created by Leadership. Providing that Leadership is the coming challenge for Intelligence Community Leaders.

To learn more about how Leaders can motivate organizations and individuals, go to www.learntolead.net.


Gates initiatives: Craig Whitlock in the Washington Post, Tuesday, August 10, 2010.

Washington Post poll: Lisa Rein and Ed O’Keefe in the Washington Post, Monday, October 18, 2010; 12:57 AM

Republican views on federal workers pay: Dennis Cauchon in USAToday Nov 10, 2010.

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