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On Capitol Hill, Skepticism About Proposed DIA Expansion

Dec. 18, 2012 - 03:20PM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments
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U.S. lawmakers want more information before signing off on a plan to expand the Pentagon’s top intelligence agency, citing operational and cost concerns.

The Defense Department wants to expand the number of Defense Intelligence Agency covert operatives to 1,600. It’s unclear how much of an increase that would be, since the current number of covert DIA operations is classified. As part of the proposal, these military clandestine operatives would conduct spycraft rather than just gather information to aid military operations.

Proponents, such as House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., an Afghanistan and Iraq war veteran, say the move would eliminate hurdles created by sharing intelligence among federal agencies.

A larger network of military intelligence operatives could have assisted U.S. forces in Iraq to combat al-Qaida’s and other insurgent groups’ use of makeshift bombs against the American military.

“There was a lot of miscommunication and miscoordination,” Hunter spokesman Joe Kasper said. “Mr. Hunter’s feeling is if the Pentagon has the personnel and the resources, it can work. It would allow the military to move information around a lot quicker than dealing with these interagency problems.”

Several lawmakers signaled they are inclined to support the proposal, but want the Pentagon to proceed slowly while convincing Congress it is needed. After all, the CIA long has been America’s lead agency for clandestine operations.

“I think we’re entering into a situation where our intel services are so incredibly important because the threats are not the threats of the Cold War,” said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I. “I think every intelligence agency has to develop different capacities ... to look at a whole host of issues.

Several lawmakers told Defense News they were skeptical about whether the department can afford to run a clandestine spy service.

The Senate Armed Services Committee isn’t sure. The panel’s members — in the committee’s version of the fiscal 2013 Pentagon policy bill that passed the Senate this month — included language that blocks the proposed DIA expansion until the Pentagon spells out how it will be funded.

The Senate bill prohibits the Pentagon from spending funds on clandestine personnel above the number the military employed April 20.

The Senate-passed legislation also would require the Defense Department to deliver lawmakers an “estimate of the costs over the period of the current future-years defense program” — which spans 2013-2017 — “and an estimate of the out year costs,” states a report accompanying the upper chamber’s bill.

The Senate’s legislation also would require a report spelling out “a detailed description of the location and schedule for current and anticipated deployments of case officers … whether overseas or domestically,” the report said.

The legislation also would require Pentagon leaders to clearly define how the DIA and the armed services would meet DoD goals for the new military clandestine services.

A House-Senate panel that is crafting a final version of the 2013 Pentagon policy bill will decide whether to include the Senate’s language.

The department has yet to disclose a cost estimate for the proposed expansion.

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