Congress has called for further investigation of the Homeland Security Department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis following a Center for Investigative Reporting examination that found the outfit has done little to add to or improve the nation’s intelligence data.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last month directed the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ investigative arm, to examine the department as part of a first-ever Homeland Security authorization bill.
The committee directed the GAO to look at the department’s reliance on contractors, duplication and gaps in intelligence analysis, and the accuracy and usefulness of analysis reports, all issues raised in CIR’s probe.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said his decision to push for further examination, which aims to “peel back the layers” to find problem areas and identify what needs to be done to enhance the department’s intelligence capabilities, was “spurred” by the CIR report.
“There is strong concern that the Department of Homeland Security’s analytical capabilities are not operating at the level they should be,” he said in a statement.
Coburn isn’t alone. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence also plans in the next few months to take a more detailed look at the department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, while Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, said he intends to convene hearings.
In an interview earlier this year, McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security oversight subcommittee, questioned the value of the office’s intelligence reports and said the office was “ripe” for oversight.
“This really warrants an oversight examination into whether taxpayers are getting their money’s worth,” he said. “They have to justify their existence.”
CIR’s examination, published in Newsweek and in an extended version at americaswarwithin.org, found that despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent since its creation in 2003, the office often produced reports that were likened to intelligence “spam” – ignored or shrugged off for being redundant or untimely by other federal intelligence officials and state and local police.
The extended report also showed that low morale and high turnover among employees and leaders have been persistent problems.
The latest example is the office’s No. 2, Principal Deputy Undersecretary Bart Johnson, who soon will leave the office to become executive director of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, a powerful law enforcement lobbying organization.
Johnson arrived at the intelligence office in early 2009 after a stint in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and a career with the New York State Police. He was the department’s acting undersecretary from about May 2009 until February 2010, when the office’s current chief, Caryn Wagner, was confirmed.