In response to yesterday’s first installment of The Washington Post’s “Top Secret America” series on the Intelligence Community, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a document dispelling some common myths surrounding the IC’s use of and relationship with contractors.
Reacting to the “Top Secret” authors” conclusion that no one knows for certain if the U.S. national security and intelligence system manages to keep citizens safe, Acting Director of National Intelligence David C. Gompert said the reporting “does not reflect the Intelligence Community we know.”
“We accept that we operate in an environment that limits the amount of information we can share,” he said. “However, the fact is, the men and women of the Intelligence Community have improved our operations, thwarted attacks, and are achieving untold successes every day.”
Later in the afternoon, ODNI released the document that details some widely held misconceptions about the IC and core contract personnel, including insufficient oversight of contractors, private contractors inappropriately performing “inherently governmental” functions and contractors costing more than their government counterparts.
Setting the record straight on the supposed lack of proper oversight of contractors, ODNI wrote how the IC in 2006 adopted its first-ever, annual inventory of contractors, which led to an intelligence policy directive. With four specific objectives, the directive reinforces the prohibition on the use of contractors to carry out “inherently governmental” activities; prescribes the circumstances in which contractors may be used to support IC missions and functions; and beginning in 2011, requires IC elements to plan for and project the number of contractors they require.
On the myth about private contractors performing inherently governmental activities, ODNI said the IC neither condones or permits contract personnel to do inherently governmental intelligence work. However, contractors may perform certain activities, such as collection and analysis. It is, however, “what you do with that analysis, who makes that decision, and who oversees the work that constitute the ‘inherently governmental’ functions,” ODNI stated. Allocating funds, prioritizing workload, and making critical decisions will remain strictly the responsibility of government employees, the agency stressed.
Addressing the topic of cost, ODNI acknowledged that while contractors on average are more expensive than their government counterparts, there are certain occasions when hiring contractors is more economical.
“[I]n some cases, contractor personnel are less costly, especially if the work is short-term in nature, easily available commercially, or requires unique expertise for immediate needs,” ODNI wrote. “Overall, core contractors enable the Intelligence Community to rapidly expand to meet short-term mission needs or fulfill nonrecurring or temporary assignments, and then shrink or shift resources as the threat environment changes.”
In addition to publishing the myth-dispelling document, ODNI also released a Q&A-formatted pdf addressing the post-9/11 IC, which answers questions of whether there been a proliferation of new intelligence offices, why there still are numerous problems related to information sharing, and what ODNI has accomplished so far.
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