National Intelligence Folly: How an Unsolved Murder Led to Billions of Dollars of Program Fraud, Waste and Abuse Part 1

We’re restarting this story to better sequence the details after some (ahem) site wobbles last week and a busy schedule put things off kilter: I’m paid too much for that nonsense😊. My original intent was to provide somewhat of a longer and extended introduction in order to establish what would amount to-or be akin to-a series of anecdotal events over the decades as-in effect-a foundation to establish some “bona fides”-that would serve to demonstrate that there indeed was experience behind the story that makes it more credible than if I were to ask you to-on my word alone-accept at face value that such and such, or so and so is, well, so!

But the more I looked over the emerging and burgeoning narrative expanding like rice saturated in water, the more it struck me that I was pontificating about things I’m very interested in because I lived them: but in the final analysis, I was the “guy in the arena, taking those slings and arrows” and belaboring some of those experiences won’t necessarily make for an interesting discussion for dear reader, nor establish anything novel, because-in truth-these really were and are unique experiences and you know what they say: everybody has unique experiences, that’s what makes us all special! Dear reader is just as likely to give two craps less about these details in favor of getting to the beef on my headline!

You benefit from the experience and knowledge of the authors and staff on our website by having wizened veterans (eye roll) looking out to ensure we’re not just publishing articles for articles sake: that would be the writers equivalent of master****** writing… What I-as a retired Army and government intel guy-may be just fascinated and distracted by would likely not merit a mention in the more wizened and experienced view of a professional like, say, Elizabeth Vaughn (for instance,) who does not bury the lede and never confuses her experiences as automatically of interest to the reader. Like a description of an AN/APS 94 Side Looking Airborne Radar system on the Army MOHAWK: no way…

Truth be known, as this story has been percolating and churning around and emerging like extruded gas out of my labyrinth-like, cranial housing group, fighting through the mist of some ~42 years of regimen and bad thought and twisted, pretzel logic-e.g., military and government experience-it struck me that what I have here is a book, not just an article, because the place where we end up at the end of my story—with some of the actions taken by the current administration in Afghanistan and Ukraine-is not truly an end, but the start or middle of another episode in a cycle that has been ongoing-reflective of or a continuation of-bad policy and repeated foibles, if not absolute borderline criminal mistakes-of the last at least 60 years: although I am going to back that up a skosh to the last ~65 years: which makes Lesko’s record of being wrong about every national security and foreign policy issue over the last four decades-according to Robert Gates-look much less worse in comparison: like only dreadful, terrible or bringing sad into play.

Such a book has already been done about folly on an international scale, The March of Folly by Barbara Wertheim Tuchman. Those stories about the Trojan War, Montezuma’s senseless surrender in 1529, Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, the Fall of Troy, the breakup of the Holy See during the Renaissance period, the loss of the British colonies in America by King George the III, and Vietnam are germane in understanding the lemming-like tendency and choices that some leaders or a people make against all odds and common sense in consideration of the options, particularly the tales about the Papacy.

Even as I write the above my head is still somewhat swimming in the detail comprising the story, and how best to sequence it so dear reader can: (1) follow it (2) understand and appreciate it in context: else the detail is just wasted space, blather and time (3) draw out and paint a fact pattern that is at least logical and in the end recognized as problematic, if not damning (4) and end up close to where I will describe I am at in headspace and timing having lived through much of it.

The point of all that is it is not rocket science-well actually some of this is-but I more meant from the standpoint that some of this story is complex and the details matter, but it is nonetheless understandable if explained clearly. The notion as fact that I think we’ve furfed up a lot of this stuff through incompetence and politics does not make it so, as I may be as wrong-just in a different way-than the folks I took issue, disagreed, and at times fought with (in the bureaucracy vernacular.)

If I have one minor regret from my service, it was not being more adamant or more of a “schtick” than I was over just a handful of issues over the years that I might have been able to fix by going full-fledged total maniac of the month club postal. But I was pretty dogmatic pushing things that I thought were on the main development trajectory and I did not suffer fools along the way.

But in matters of research, development, maturing computing technology and software, integration of capability, technical insertion of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) efforts, and deferring improvements to mature and later implement as Pre-Planned Product Improvements (P3I) and the like, it is as often somewhat of an art form, moreso than science: a crapshoot that I will cover in more detail deeper into the story.

I believe the substantive and qualitative differences I am going to describe and work through are not just disagreements in philosophy or preferences or opinions, but demonstrable differences where understanding of the problem, judicious assessment and applied, disciplined expertise in finding or applying a robust solution, often made-and in many cases should have made-had they been properly applied-all the difference in achieving success on the one hand, or failure on the other.

Not to toot my own horn: but “woot, woot,” I did some stuff over the timeframe I am writing about that made a difference and helped achieve end states. There is some type of burden of proof that necessarily accrues to the person making such claims, to describe these instances that may come across as unnecessary detail or gratuitous self-back slapping. But you know what-the man in the arena needs to be heard from, even when wrong, spending himself in some worthy cause that does not turn out as expected or desired: “because there is no effort without shortcomings and shortfalls…”

I’m going to outline my premise and my opinions and beliefs, or conclusions, and I would love to hear from anybody who feels I have the details, facts, assumptions or conclusions wrong. Now I might even know or recognize anyone who offers such input, as many of these “big instances” of importance involved just a few senior leaders in typically cozy conference rooms.

One of my favorite encounters among dozens-scores-that stands out as an ideal exemplar or example of the type of thing I am referring to happened as the momentum was building for congressional legislation on the establishment of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI/DNI,) in 2003 in response to the 9-11 Commission recommendations.

In keeping with my premise about the timeline on some of these issues, an ODNI– “like” position-an office dedicated to the program management of the Intelligence Community (IC,) had been discussed by congress as early as 1955 to truly separate the dual hatted functions of the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) and the CIA Director, by creating such a position and cutting the DCI Community Management Staff (CMS) personnel (~250-450 people) over to it. Many argued the CIA and DCI jobs were even by then definitely both well beyond “full-time” positions, but no action was taken at the time to separate them.

There followed in short order the Suez Canal, Sputnik, Fidel Castro taking control in Cuba, The Bay of Pigs fiasco, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the start of our Vietnam Folly (where we allowed the coup and murder of Diem-a CIA operation-followed shortly thereafter by the assassination of President Kennedy.) As rough a period in our history-about eight years-as imaginable.

The Secretary of Defense (SECDEF-Rumsfeld) -a former congressman and swamp insider and political “animal” typifying this era, along with Dick Cheney, had attempted to somewhat jump or trump the pending establishment of the ODNI by establishing the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence (USDI) position in the Pentagon, as congress took up the DNI legislation. If there was a contest over who disliked the CIA more, Rumsfeld or Cheney, that race would certainly be “too close to call.” I’ll put some detail into those points in another article, but during the George W Bush administration, one of the priorities for the Pentagon “writ large” was beating the CIA to the President’s Desk.

Rumsfeld had somewhat of a history in battling the CIA that started with the Rumsfeld Commission established in the late 1990s to do battle on the hill over Theater Ballistic Missile Intelligence, with a CIA National Intelligence Estimate at the heart of the dispute. During the first Gulf War there were no end of disputes on all manner of analysis between the Pentagon, CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and United States Central Command, including Iraq force estimates, main battle tank numbers, US casualty estimations and battle timelines as the US moved closer to the time the war kicked off.

One of the elements created to produce somewhat of a Pentagon Intelligence Product was the establishment within the Pentagon of the Counter-Intelligence Field Agency that was focused on quick turn, insightful reporting: and just setting that as an objective for a new business unit without history, domain knowledge or pedigree does not make it so…

With the DNI debate set to begin raging on the hill, many believed that SECDEF Rumsfeld was protecting Pentagon turf and pushing for the USDI position to function as the DNI. However-that was never going to happen in the political environment in DC at the time-or anytime.

The newly minted USDI-Dr. Stephen Cambone-started conducting bi-weekly Saturday Morning program meetings in 2003-strategy meetings-that were attended by the agency heads overseen by the Pentagon, with meetings rotating between CIA, DIA, NSA, NIMA/NGA, NRO, Pentagon and other places. Those of us who became regulars at these meetings took to calling them “prayer breakfasts.” The only reason Cambone would do such a thing is to make the case that USDI was not only capable of performing oversight on the IC but was already taking action to do so.

Cambone set the tone for this “power play” early on when he called for an important system program meeting, which was held at Langley on proverbial enemy ground at the CIA, where he proceeded to somewhat show his arse by attempting to bully and cajole a group of largely CIA seniors into agreeing with a flawed program concept of operations (CONOPS) written under the proponency of the Air Force Space Command, Director of Requirements (AFSPC-DR.)

Many of us involved in the program had already documented a non-concur position in support of our seniors/Directors because of numerous critical and substantive comments that had yet to be adjudicated concerning errors, omissions, misstatements and frankly, thumb on the scale “dumbness.” But this was in effect at least Cambone’s second big battle since arriving on scene (more on that one later-which is to be the focal point or culmination of the story.)

There was and still is a standard process governed by the Pentagon Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Requirements Process that is managed by the JCS Staff and the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence-ASDC3I (Art Money,) to staff documents using a well-known protocol that all combatant commands, agencies and services abide by: USMC Dep JCS Chairman (DJCS,) Lt Gen James “Hoss” Cartwright was in the room that day, but somewhat in observation mode watching elephantine government and Pentagon power politics playing out.

Even with a well-established process in place, the USDI establishment had thrown a bit of process ambiguity because both ASDC3I and Program Assessment and Evaluation (PA&E,) responsible for Independent Program Analysis (IPA,) and the Cost as an Independent Variable and the Cost Assessment Group now all came under USDI. It was puzzling for the group to be in a position where the senior responsible for these processes seemed hell bent on undercutting them.


End of Part 1

13 October 2022

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