National Intelligence Folly: How a Tragic Unsolved Murder Led to Billions of Dollars of Program Fraud, Waste and Abuse Part 4

In parts 1-3 I covered a bit of detail on some of the foibles that have gone on in our government-particularly the National Intelligence Community (IC)-over the last 65 years or so, with a focus on the standup of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and how then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld attempted to somewhat trump-or more charitably-drive or influence through pre-emptive actions, the legislation that congress was deliberating on. He established the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (USDI) in fiscal year 2003, in what turned out to be two years before congress would establish the DNI in fiscal year 2005.

If Rumsfeld was sincerely trying to “inform” vice influence the outcome of congress’ legislation efforts and debate and not trying to manipulate things, then I’m not sure he would have taken some of the actions he did that showed a distinct preference-and bias-against some of the potential alternatives. One of the most blatant was having the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Meyers contact USAF General Mike Hayden-the National Security Agency (NSA) Director, and USAF Lt Gen (Ret) James R. Clapper-the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) Director, to caution them about speaking out about the ramifications of the DNI standup and whether some of the Combat Service Agencies would or should reflag under the DNI.

Neither Hayden nor Clapper felt it made any difference where the two agencies reported or where the money came from, as the support was standard and largely based upon approved community priorities. That was not the answer Meyers knew the SECDEF was looking for, and when Clapper informed him that it was an insult to him that after three decades of USAF service somebody would entertain the notion or insinuate that he would not do everything in his power to support the military, Gen Meyers responded, “Well, drive on Sir!”

Both directors had a meeting over lunch with the SECDEF shortly thereafter and that reportedly went worse. The SECDEF soon after fired Clapper, who had a Change of Authority Ceremony in June 2006. Two things the SECDEF did further exposed his motives here, one being him firing Clapper three months short of his promised five-year contract as NIMA/NGA Director, which would have qualified him for a civilian service retirement (5 years being the minimum qualification time.) But far worse is that he had USDI Dr. Stephen Cambone officiate the ceremony and serve as the senior civilian: Clapper and Cambone loathed each other by this time.

What was particularly ironic and grating about Rumsfeld’s action is that Cambone had-for several FYDP budget cycles-been finessing-reapportioning-the ratio of National Intelligence Program (NIP) Dollars to Military Intelligence Program (MIP) dollars, with the result that by the time this action was taken, the NIP-MIP proportion had gone from 65% MIP and 35% NIP to something like 70% NIP and 30% MIP. An argument that the Pentagon would get less support if NGA came under the DNI was pretty comical when you consider that at this point the DCI was picking up the funding load for all that military support represented in the 35% increase of NIP funding to make up for the drop in MIP funding.

The ratio was scheduled to get even worse in the coming years as the Pentagon stood up the planned Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) RC and MC 12 based Liberty Fleet, established nearly 30 Predator and/or Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) orbits with about 100 vehicles to do near 24×7 operations in multiple theaters, and funded an NRO airborne LIDAR collection effort in Afghanistan (Laser Imaging, Detection and Ranging) to collect GEOSPATIAL data critically needed to support the production of Mapping, Charting and Geodesy (MC&G) products, as well as target graphics in a place where the only available maps were Soviet versions that dated back to the 1970s.

The irony was that the Pentagon-Cambone’s USDI-was not funding the intelligence production line coming out of these assets-nor very much if any-of the Tasking, Processing, Exploitation, and Dissemination (TPED) for these products, that eventually included the Saturn Arch hyperspectral equipped platform and tactical UAVs. The inside baseball part of most of this is it was NGA and community funded tools and signatures and collaboration with the National Ground Intelligence Center that would make Saturn Arch a star.

For those unaware, Lt Gen (Ret) James R. Clapper was in the midst of getting up to speed on NIMA on a trip with a number of Senior Executives to the NIMA St. Louis facility, where the residue of the Defense Mapping Agency resided, when the 9-11 attacks happened. There was no chance of getting a flight back to DC-and nobody knew when that would change-so the group piled into rental cars and drove back to the swamp. LTG James King was the NIMA Director at the time and with his wife battling cancer, the two agreed to do a change of authority event verbally to allow Clapper to start the NIMA response to 9-11 immediately: Clapper assumed the Director, NIMA position 12 September 2001.

I also left off in Part 2 with the murder of Federal Security Guard Tina Ricca in Fairfax County, out in Chantilly in an area known as Westfields. The death was reported through the local Fairfax County system. Shortly thereafter the United States House of Representative’s Committee on Health and Labor (today’s name) took up routine business and discovered that a federal government worker had been killed at a construction site out in the relative “hinter lands” of Fairfax County, Va.

That is when the proverbial stuff initially hit-in this case-the not so proverbial fan. The construction site was registered in the federal security notices to the “Aerospace Corporation,” a firm that runs a federally funded research and development center headquartered out of El Segundo, California: House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) members were very familiar with Aerospace Corporation. Further, when Aerospace was contacted, they advised they were the designated construction overseer for a “classified customer:HPSCI members also knew very well what that meant. The question now became how it came to be that a government entity had contracted to construct a facility without bothering to ask congress for permission-or program dollars?

Mr. Jeffrey K. Harris was the Director of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) at the time, overseeing a fairly massive and sprawling enterprise spread all over the DC and environs area. His organization-established in 1960-had just been publicly acknowledged by the US govt at the time and his public or official title was the Undersecretary of the Air Force for Space (winky, winky.) The NRO of 1993 was thirty-three years into an existence of being somewhat of an enigma wrapped in a conundrum (a conegma,) with a reputation both large and wild, the product of conspiracy theorists and the Federation of American Scientists. These groups had written of the NRO as linked to all manner of natural and manmade phenomena, folklore and wife’s tales alike, including conspiracy theories, Big Foot, Roswell, Area 51 and aliens.

When congress came a calling regarding this incident the story became worse by the day. The classification barriers presented true obstacles to getting to the bottom of the story. Only HPSCI-members were sufficiently cleared and aware of the details of the NRO program (e.g., budget,) but none were aware of the construction plans. When the details finally emerged, congress was “outraged:” highly irate at the D/NRO. Gentleman did not do such things to other gentleman. For decades the NRO had pretty much had its way with congress and if a smooth talking NRO (Central Intelligence Agency-CIA) civilian waltzed up to capitol hill, pulled something highly classified- really scary stuff out of their briefcase-congress just needed to know “how much” (how high?) And I should point out that this trend continued right up to the time the Director of National Intelligence stood up in 2005 and continues pretty much to today.

It seems the NRO had indeed undertaken the construction of a new headquarters that would consolidate disparate facilities into a more manageable, central site: which actually made a lot of sense. Built around the existing organizational structure, it was to be five towers, connected via an arching central corridor spanning across the outlying towers and granting access to each via the first and second (and basement level) floors.

The headquarters and administrative elements occupied one tower, with the different programs-CIA, Navy, Air Force, NSA, Department of Defense-(called programs A, B, C and D) each homing in a tower, while the fifth tower would house a swimming pool, gymnasium and other support facilities. The estimated cost of the building was some $300 million dollars, with another half billion or so necessary to outfit furniture, communications, information technology (computers) and the like.

Congress-as you can imagine-was outraged! The number one question was how had D/NRO Jeff Harris and the NRO managed to accrue-hide-or come up with that amount of program/budget without asking congress for dollars, but more importantly for permission? Permission to spend the dollars???

For those who have dealt with the military minor (or major) construction process, it is typically paced on the five-year defense plan (FYDP) overseen by the Pentagon and is a very deliberate and painstaking process. As an aside, when a friend of mine fought the battle to submit and gain approval for an Army Processing and Imagery Interpretation Facility (APIIF)-building 360-inside the flight operations “cone”-taxiways, hangers, etc. of the 26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, Zweibruecken, Germany in 1986, the project had been unsuccessfully submitted to the United States Army Europe Force Modernization Council every year since the early 80s with no luck.

And while my friend would like to think that it was his genius and program savvy that put the Zweibruecken APIIF over the top, the truth-stranger than fiction-is that when he was up at 2d Armored Division (FWD,) he was in the G-2 as the Tactical Surveillance Officer, and was acting G-2 for some time when the Chief of Staff was selected for Command of 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment, and the G-2, MAJ (P) John Hammond was selected to replace him for several months. One of the projects he worked for the G-2 was called the Combat Electronic Warfare Intelligence (CEWI) Slice Project, whereby the Forward based heavy brigades of 1st Infantry Div-Fort Riley, Kansas, and 2d Armored Div, Fort Hood, Texas put together a proposal for a 96 soldier “CEWI Slice” that would provide an electronic warfare, interrogator, ground surveillance radar and communications component. The plan was worked with both units G-3 Force Modernization Division (FMD,) as well as the United States Army Europe (USAREUR) FMD shop. The G-3 FMD action officer at 2d AD had a Winnebago that he rented to folks, and their Military Intelligence Detachment-the 588th MI Detachment-commanded by CPT Milan Radulovich-decided to rent it and go to Berlin in it-which was truly a trip for the ages-that you just can’t make up. And just by coincidence, when my friend brought the APIIF construction proposal to the USAREUR FMD shop that handled military minor and major construction projects, MAJ Woodruff had been reassigned there from 2d AD-and he was the action officer for such projects. And the list eventually burns down as projects are completed and there is the defense shuffle to finesse these funds at times.

The story about the money was a good one but not appreciated by congress at all. It seems the NRO-responsible for the design, construction, launch, operation, data processing and dissemination of our nation’s satellites-built a program margin of error into each launch in terms of dollars. Even today, as much as we know, as experienced as we are and as well as we build them, we typically allocate margin for the program in consideration that historically about ~10% of the time we have problems of all types-from explosion on launch, to failure to deploy solar panels, to communications issues, to schtuff happens, etc.

The NRO had an exceptional run of program success and launches over an extended period of time, resulting in the accrual of a lot of program dollars. And what better use to make of those dollars than to consolidate the nations satellite efforts into a consolidated headquarters? Have I mentioned that Congress was outraged (you can just imagine.)

End of Part 4

13 October 2022

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