Every ambitious start-up needs a little seed money. That’s true for new businesses and clandestine military spy agencies.
True, the House Armed Services Committee last week approved a version of 2014 defense authorization legislation that would withhold 50 percent of any funds meant for the new Defense Clandestine Agency until Pentagon brass certify a few things. But don’t believe everything you read about the new DCS.
As former Pentagon official Larry Korb told an audience member last week at an event: “Let’s grow up.” Let’s realize this isn’t our first Washington rodeo. Let’s realize that HASC’s language would clear the Pentagon to spend the other 50 percent of any funds allocated for the new spy agency. Because it’s a start-up within DIA, getting 50 percent of its allocation in October and the rest after sending four pro-military committees some documents isn’t a high hurdle for the Pentagon to clear.
“This doesn’t mean the Defense Clandestine Service is doing a bad job,” HASC Vice Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said last Wednesday. “This is a special entity that deserves special scrutiny.”
Let’s realize that that is hardly the rhetoric of a DCS opponent. Rather, it is what’s left of true Pentagon oversight: We’re not totally sold on your plan, but go ahead and let that genie out of the bottle anyway. Let’s realize that the trick with defense budgeting is simply to loosen the cork just enough that the genie can even partially get out of the bottle. Because once a program or organization has secured a spot in the defense budget and received even partial congressional approval, its existence and future are pretty much secured.
Let’s also realize Pentagon officials have private conversations with lawmakers like Thornberry and senior staff. So they have studied the political tea leaves about DCS.
Let’s realize that DCS is a go. After all, it has a “Help Wanted” sign right in plain site. That’s right, DCS is hiring.
Here’s a description of what it takes to become a military spy, from DIA’s new website set up to recruit potential Defense Clandestine Service employees:
“DCS Case Officers are highly motivated individuals with diverse education and professional backgrounds who leverage their defense experience into a rewarding career supporting the military and defending our nation. These officers must possess the highest possible ethical standards, strong interpersonal skills, foreign language capabilities, and an affinity for diverse cultures.
Highly qualified candidates have extensive overseas experience, significant positive contact with foreign cultures, strong foreign language skills (preferably in critical languages), a demonstrated ability to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing, the ability to think critically, and the ability to deal effectively with individuals at all levels—often in rapidly changing situations.”
HASC’s language doesn’t block anything. The language is classic Washington: It allows everyone to get what they want.
The committee gets to claim it is carrying out its oversight function. And the Pentagon gets to begin setting up its very own mini-CIA.
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