In the eight months since Sue Gordon took over as the principal deputy director of national intelligence, the agency has been undergoing an organizational restructure aimed at modernizing and optimizing how the agency works.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is now in “phase 2” of its reorganization, after “phase 1” concluded in March and yielded insight into systemic sore spots and inefficiencies, according to intelligence community officials. This second phase is expected to end around July.
In the first phase, “you’re still doing your same job … by the time you get to [the second phase], you should be able to look around and say, ‘I think I can do my job better,’” said Kevin Meiners, assistant director of national intelligence for acquisition, technology and facilities. “They’ve given us the broad brush strokes of what they’d like the organization to look like; with the next 90 to 100 days we’re looking at how to architect the vision and the mission.”
Meiners spoke April 10 at an event held in Arlington, Virginia by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance.
A central component of the reorganization, besides realigning internal offices and reporting structures, is a set of six cross-community initiatives. They include augmenting intelligence using machines; employing the right, trusted, agile workforce; cyber; modern data management and infrastructure; private sector partnerships; and acquisition agility.
The status quo hasn’t been effective enough, officials said.
“We want ODNI to speak with one voice,” said Kelly Gaffney, deputy assistant director of national intelligence for acquisition, technology and facilities. “We were not organized in a way to effectively drive these cross-cutting initiatives forward. If you’re going to actually push change and push innovation out to the community, it’s hard to do that when there’s 20 voices talking to you – 20 voices with their own ways of approaching it.”
Strategic decision-making is a key goal here, Gaffney noted, whether it’s related to the mission, capability, capacity or resources. The existing processes not only aren’t working, they aren’t necessarily happening at the right organizational levels, she said.
“Way too often at ODNI decisions would depend on who got in the door last…they would happen very rapidly, [and] they would be poorly socialized, not well-documented why we did things, not a lot of follow-through [to ensure] once we made the decision that it was the right decision,” she said. “So the goal here is to have a more strategic decision-making process and to push some of that decision-making down from the DNI and PDDNI…lower in the organization.”
Another significant change under the restructuring: moving around authorities and functions traditionally carried out by the CIO, including tech policy. Under the new structure, much of the policy and strategy pieces will fall to the agency’s chief data officer.
“When you talk about the technical aspects of putting networks together, it comes together fairly quickly. It’s always about the data policy and strategy, so we wanted to elevate that...where it gets more visibility,” Meiners said. “Whenever I talk to CIOs, it’s never about technology ... it’s always about policy. So I think we’re trying to drive that train in two separate lanes, with the CIO focused on the technical pieces, and the CDO focused on the policy of how you share that data.”