Pentagon Seeks to Expand Role in Intelligence

By DOUGLAS JEHL and ERIC SCHMITT

New York Times

December 19, 2004

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 - The Pentagon is drawing up a plan that would give the military a more prominent role in intelligence-collection operations that have traditionally been the province of the Central Intelligence Agency, including missions aimed at terrorist groups and those involved in weapons proliferation, Defense Department officials say.

The proposal is being described by some intelligence officials as an effort by the Pentagon to expand its role in intelligence gathering at a time when legislation signed by President Bush on Friday sets in motion sweeping changes in the intelligence community, including the creation of a national intelligence director. The main purpose of that overhaul is to improve coordination among the country's 15 intelligence agencies, including those controlled by the Pentagon.

The details of the plan remain secret and are evolving, but indications of its scope and significance have begun to emerge in recent weeks. One part of the overall proposal is being drafted by a team led by Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, a deputy under secretary of defense.

Among the ideas cited by Defense Department officials is the idea of "fighting for intelligence," or commencing combat operations chiefly to obtain intelligence.

The proposal also calls for a major expansion of human intelligence, which is information gathered by spies rather than by technological means, both within the military services and the Defense Intelligence Agency, including more missions aimed at acquiring specific intelligence sought by policy makers.

The proposal is the latest chapter in the fierce and long-running rivalry between the Pentagon and the C.I.A. for dominance over intelligence collection.

White House officials are monitoring the Pentagon's planning, as is the C.I.A. The proposal has not yet won White House approval, according to administration officials. It is unclear to what extent American military forces have already been given additional authority to carry out intelligence-gathering missions.

Until now, intelligence operations run by the Pentagon have focused primarily on gathering information about enemy forces. But the overarching proposal being drafted in the Pentagon, which encompasses General Boykin's efforts, would focus military intelligence operations increasingly on counterterrorism and counterproliferation, areas in which the C.I.A. has always played the leading role.

"Right now, we're looking at providing Special Operations forces some of the flexibility the C.I.A. has had for years," said a Defense Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan has not yet been approved. "It would be used judiciously, and with all appropriate oversight controls."

General Boykin's proposal would revamp military commands to ensure that senior officers planning and fighting wars work more closely with the intelligence analysts tracking threats like terrorists and insurgency cells. Another part of the Pentagon's plan was articulated in a recent directive by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that instructed regional commanders to expand the military's role in intelligence gathering, particularly in tracking terrorist and insurgent leaders.

While declining to comment directly on the recent directive, a Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, said, "Regional commanders are looking at ways to maximize the use of their resources to contribute to the overall intelligence picture."

In public allusions to the plan, both General Boykin and Vice Adm. Lowell E. Jacoby, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, have stuck to generalities. It is still unclear how many additional personnel may be assigned to intelligence gathering or when and where such operations may take place. But some intelligence officials say they believe those remarks open the way to more clandestine military operations intended to gather intelligence on terrorists and weapons proliferators.

One former intelligence official questioned the utility of the military's putting more resources into intelligence collection at a time when it is already stretched thin in dealing with the counterinsurgency in Iraq and addressing threats elsewhere.

"If you're a shooter, go do that job," said the former intelligence official, who has opposed efforts by the Pentagon to expand its intelligence-gathering role. "But don't put the shooter in a pinstripe suit and send him to Beirut to chase bad guys."

Still, a current intelligence official who works outside the Pentagon described the relationship between the Pentagon and the C.I.A. as "closer than ever," but he added that "cooperation is strongest in the places where it counts most, like Iraq and Afghanistan." The official said, "There's a real sense that there's plenty of work for everyone, and the key for both agencies is close coordination and insisting that all of us apply the best possible tradecraft in human intelligence operations."

General Boykin was traveling abroad and not available for comment this week. Over the last two weeks, he and his top aides have declined repeated interview requests on this subject.

The general provided an overview of the plan in an address in October to the Association of the United States Army, a nonprofit educational organization, and copies of his briefing slides are posted on the group's Web site.

A synopsis of General Boykin's plan was provided by Defense Department officials, as were remarks prepared for delivery in a Nov. 15 address by Admiral Jacoby at a conference on military intelligence.

"Our present intelligence collection architecture - optimized to identify and track large conventional forces - is inadequate to warn against these new challenges for terrorists, provide sufficient information on insurgent groups, determine the status of discrete W.M.D. production capabilities, learn the intentions of leaderships from rogue states, or determine friend from foe when intermingled in a foreign country," Admiral Jacoby said in that speech.

The admiral said intelligence agencies needed to put a new premium on acquiring "persistent surveillance" through "close-in and continuous collection against broader problem sets."

General Boykin, who attracted controversy last year for saying in remarks to Christian groups that Muslims worship "an idol" and describing the battle against Muslim radicals as a fight against Satan, has been the prime architect of the proposal, which has been under review at the Pentagon since January 2004. The general reports to Stephen A. Cambone, who since 2003 has used his newly created post as under secretary of intelligence to assert a role in which he has competed with George J. Tenet, the former director of central intelligence, and his successors for influence over American intelligence agencies.

Among the proposals described by Defense Department officials is a plan to create a Joint Intelligence Operational Command within the Pentagon, which would elevate intelligence to much more power and prominence and possibly replace the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Maj. Gen. Charles W. Thomas, a retired senior Army intelligence officer who has worked as a consultant for General Boykin on his project, said he broadly supported the general's goals. But he warned that one possible danger in bringing battle commanders and intelligence officials so close together to fight a common enemy was the risk that the intelligence could be skewed to fit the commander's war plan and not the reality on the ground.

A spokesman for the Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., Col. Samuel Taylor, said on Friday that the command had been briefed on an early draft of General Boykin's remodeling initiative, but that staff officers and senior commanders had not yet reviewed it in depth.

President Bush last month ordered the C.I.A. and the Defense Department to review a plan that could expand the Pentagon's role in covert operations, perhaps replacing the C.I.A. in providing paramilitary forces for such missions. Mr. Bush's directive set a 90-day deadline for the review.

The idea of transferring paramilitary authority from the intelligence agency to the military's Special Operations Forces was among several prominent recommendations made by the Sept. 11 commission.

The proposal remains under review. But in public testimony in August, Mr. Rumsfeld and John E. McLaughlin, who was then the acting intelligence chief, expressed reservations about the idea, and it was not included in the measure Mr. Bush approved on Friday.