The Central Intelligence Agency will undergo a sweeping makeover aimed at broadening the agency’s reach and expanding its cyber operations, according to CIA Director John Brennan.
“A central aim, he said, is to eliminate ‘seams’ in coverage that lead to confusion over which part of the agency is responsible for tracking a specific issue or threat,” reports The Washington Post.
After the far-reaching changes are implemented, Brennan added, the CIA should find itself in a position to cover “the entire universe, regionally and functionally, and so something that’s going on in the world falls into one of those buckets.”
There will be 10 new units created within the CIA dubbed “mission centers,” Brennan revealed.
The mission centers are “intended to concentrate the agency’s focus on specific challenges or geographic areas, such as weapons proliferation or Africa,” he explained, according to Reuters.
Each of the 10 missions will be led by an assistant director who will be responsible for overt operations, spying, analysis, liaison with foreign partners and logistics within the mission’s jurisdiction.
Brennan said that a new “Directorate of Digital Innovation” will be formed. The directorate will keep tabs and capitalize on cyber technology advances that can be used to gather intelligence.
“The Directorate of Digital Innovation will rank alongside the agency’s operations and analysis branches, and it will be responsible for missions ranging from cyber-espionage to the security of the CIA’s internal e-mail,” reports The Washington Post.
“Historically, electronic eavesdroppers at the National Security Agency [NSA] have been at the cutting edge of digital innovation within the U.S. government,” notes Reuters. “But the CIA felt that it had to reorganize to keep up with the technological ‘pace of change,’ as one official put it.”
Since it was created in 1947, the CIA has been divided into four major directorates.
The Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Support will both retain their names after the reorganization.
Meanwhile, the Directorate of Intelligence will be renamed “Directorate of Analysis” and the National Clandestine Service will go back to being called by its original name, the “Directorate of Operations,” Brennan said.
Brennan disclosed the plans to restructure the CIA to the agency workforce on Friday. Thousands of CIA employees may be impacted by the changes.
According to CIA veterans and experts, the changes are among the most ambitious since the agency was founded nearly 70 years ago.
The CIA director briefed a small group of reporters on the far-reaching changes on Wednesday, on the condition they did not publish any details until he told the CIA workforce.
Brennan told reporters that the reorganization is “part of the natural evolution of an intelligence agency” that has not experienced significant restructuring in decades.
“The 10 new ‘mission centers’ will bring together CIA officers with expertise from across the agency’s range of disciplines to concentrate on specific intelligence target areas or subject matter,” Brennan added, reports Reuters.
“Competition between spy agencies and between units within agencies has led to ‘stove piping’ of information that should have been widely shared and to critical information falling through bureaucratic cracks,” said Brennan and other U.S. intelligence officials, according to the article.
“Our ability to carry out our responsibilities for human intelligence and national security responsibilities has become more challenging” in today’s digital world, Brennan said regarding the agency’s new Directorate of Digital Innovation. “And so what we need to do as an agency is make sure we’re able to understand all of the aspects of that digital environment.”
Expanding the CIA’s cyber operations may help the intelligence agency counter technological advances and avid use of social media by terrorist groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).
The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee welcomed the changes.
“This reorganization was driven not by any institutional failure, but by the realization that the world has changed over the course of the last 70 years. In many ways, the Director’s proposal is long overdue,” Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) said in a statement.
Members of the Obama administration also endorsed Brennan’s restructuring plans.
Follow Edwin Mora on Twitter: @EdwinMora83.