Editor Nick Wakeman kicks off a discussion about the findings of a new Washington Post series on the explosive growth and the lack of comprehensive management of intelligence agencies.
If you are in the government business, the Top Secret America series that the Washington Post has launched is a must read.
And don’t just rely on the printed newspaper; visit the Web page where they have information on specific agencies, intelligence tasks and companies. For example, the Post has organized intelligence work into 23 activities. You can look and see which agencies and which companies are doing work in each category.
The series is what those of us in the media call service journalism. It isn’t following a breaking news story or providing analysis of a current event. Instead the Post put its research and reporting resources to work on a topic of public interest. These are the kinds of stories that the Washington Post has won Pulitzer Prizes for in the past.
It is too early to tell if this package will get journalism’s top prize. Winning often depends on the impact a story has. Will policies change because of it? Will the government take some sort of action in response to the series? Only time will tell.
On the second installment of the series (July 20), the Post will focus on government contractors serving the intelligence community. I’ll read that segment with great interest because, frankly, the Post has a mixed record in my mind of how it treats contractors. Too often it portrays the entire industry as corrupt and unethical because of the shortcomings of a few.
Installment one of the Top Secret America laid out well the information about the explosion of the intelligence community over the last nine years.
I’ll be curious to hear your reactions to the series.
As I read the first installment this morning, I couldn’t help but think about the budget and deficit problems we face. In many of my conversations with executives they’ve often pointed to the intelligence market as one well protected from budget cuts.
On one hand it is hard to argue that we do not need a strong intelligence capability. In many ways, our enemies are greater in number and sophistication than they were nine years ago. We face threats on multiple fronts.
But on the other hand, the Post article makes a convincing argument for better management of intelligence operations, and part of me wonders if budget cuts aren’t the best way to force intell agencies to operate more efficiently and effectively.
A move like that might not be good for the contractors supporting these agencies, but it might be good for the nation.
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