The Tasks & Opportunities Facing Gina Haspel

Strategic View

Gina Haspel assumes the position of D/CIA admirably prepared in all possible respects — in general, of course, given 33 years with the agency, and specifically, having served as DD/CIA and Acting Director in the previous year.  Arguably, she is the best prepared Director in anyone’s memory.  So, she will not have to go through the “spinning up” on issues and familiarization with the organization that, say, Leon Panetta and I needed when we became D/CIA.  Given that, I won’t focus on various global issues or relationships inside the Administration and on Capitol Hill; rather I will focus on her tasks as the strategic leader of the organization – an organization whose leaders have, in comparison to other agencies, considerable freedom and scope for initiative.

Given her advantageous position, Gina will have an opportunity to sit back and think through the tasks of being the strategic leader for the Agency.  These tasks are four-fold:  first, getting the big ideas that guide the organization right; second, communicating them through the breadth and depth of the enterprise; third, overseeing their implementation (and this will include selection of her deputy and other key leaders, of course, as well as establishment of her personal “battle rhythm” and the monthly metrics, etc. on which she will want to focus); and fourth, determining, through periodic formal processes, the refinements needed to the big ideas.  Knowing her, she will do all of this the right way – through methods and processes that are inclusive, transparent, structured, and iterative – and which will, at the end of the day, be moved forward by decisions she makes.

I would imagine that she will, in particular, want to look very carefully at the most recent organizational reforms undertaken at the Agency in order to determine which elements merit additional focus, emphasis, and resources, and which should be re-examined and refined.  Key issues she undoubtedly will need to examine revolve around whether authority and accountability are sufficiently clear given the structural changes.  And she will likely want to examine as well the effects of some of the reforms on the enormously important and unique cultures of the operations and analytical elements of the organization.  Beyond that, she will be very familiar with the superb initiatives in the cyber and big data areas and may want to push particular elements of those even more.

A more mundane – but hugely important – endeavor likely should involve an “audit” of what is arguably the most critical element of the Agency – its human capital, especially that in the Clandestine Service.  As those in the organization know, HUMINT is still the coin of the realm, despite advances in SIGINT, IMINT, OSINT, MASINT, CYBERINT, GEOINT,  etc.  Despite that recognition, the Agency has frequently been well under its authorized strength in the HUMINT arena, and I suspect a careful review of the projected retirements and departures versus the projected onboarding will once again show the need for accelerating the hiring processes on the Ops side.  Needless to say, the same kind of analysis should also be carried out for the other elements that comprise the Agency, and efforts should be made to reinforce various good initiatives in recent years that invest in the Agency’s most precious resource, its people.

Finally, I am confident that she knows that every individual who is privileged to be the Director of the extraordinary national asset that is the CIA has to relentlessly reinforce the organizational imperative of speaking truth to power, with all members doing the very best they can to generate and gather information and to analyze it with unyielding professional integrity in order to provide the best professional assessment possible, regardless of how welcome or not that assessment might be.

I am sure that every former Director agrees with my observation that we all envy Gina, wish her the very best of luck, and pledge any assistance she might ever need!

Strategic View

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