This is the fourth in a series looking at President Obama’s cabinet picks.
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (DCI)
While this is not a cabinet post, it is arguably of near equal importance. President Obama has tapped Leon Panetta for this crucial job. Having come out of the Intelligence community in my former life, I think I have a fair idea of the requisite qualifications for this position.
Above all, the incumbent should have a solid working knowledge of the Intelligence Community, preferably by having worked in the field for a number of years. The incumbent must be a manager with extreme talent for coalition building, not coalitions of foreign countries, but coalitions within his own agency. Intelligence professionals tend to be very independent with delving minds. Whoever leads this agency will have to be able to have or develop an understanding and appreciation of the Intelligence Process as well as the Intelligence Professional very early into the job. Anyone who moves into the job with the intention of changing the agency right off the bat may as well try to move Mt. Rushmore.
I believe that changing the CIA is possible, but only if the case for the need for change is made strongly enough that all personnel within the agency understand the need and assist in that change. Otherwise, attempting to change such an organization staffed with long-term professionals will be a useless and frustrating venture. Mr. Panetta has been highly critical of the agency for some time. This makes me think that he has a predetermined agenda that he will be taking to his new job if he is confirmed.
Those are my going-in thoughts. Let’s look at the DCI designee and see how he fits the bill. We will start by looking at his biography. He went into the Army in 1964 as a second lieutenant and was discharged as a first lieutenant in 1966. I seem to recall some kind of disturbance in Southeast Asia around that time; however I found no reference to that event in Mr. Panetta’s biography. While he was in the Army he was the chief of operations and planning of intelligence at Fort Ord. He is a Distinguished Scholar in the California State University System, lecturing on public policy at Santa Clara University. He worked as an assistant to Republican Senator Thomas Kuchel and HEW secretary Robert Finch before being elected to the House of Representatives, as a Democrat, where he served from 1977 to 1993. His focus in the House seemed to be budget, social, and environmental issues. He was tapped to serve as President Clinton’s Chief of Staff from 1994 until 1997. For the last 10 years he and his wife have served as Directors of the Leon & Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy.
During his time in Congress he held four chairman positions, none of which had anything to do with Intelligence. Except for these chairman positions and the one chief of staff position, I was able to find no managerial or leadership experience. I do not consider two years as a second lieutenant in charge of operations and planning of intelligence at a state-side Army base as appropriate leadership experience to qualify him for DCI; although, he has had more managerial experience than President Obama.
Concerning this appointment I have a couple of questions for the president. If Mr. Panetta is so qualified for the position of DCI, why did you feel it necessary to apologize to Senator Feinstein for making the selection? You are now the presumptive leader of the free world. Why are you not acting like it? There seems to be a severe lack of confidence in your leadership style.
As always, I welcome your comments and discussion.