Biden Has a Golden Chance to Remake U.S. Intelligence

Biden Has a Golden Chance to Remake U.S. Intelligence

Agencies need to adapt to an information-heavy era.

Many former U.S. intelligence officers like myself have recently been asked some variation of the question, “What should Joe Biden do to restore a broken intelligence community?”

It’s a good question. America’s intelligence apparatus has all the problems of the rest of the federal government—an aging and unrepresentative workforce, the sunk costs of expensive legacy investments, and a staid bureaucratic culture, to name a few—as well as some that are uniquely its own, such as the declining value of information in a world that’s inundated with it and the increasingly difficult proposition of keeping anything secret in an era of radical transparency. Worse, after four years of contemptuous denigration from its most important customer and having suffered the shameless politicization of its most senior leaders, Biden will inherit an intelligence community that is decidedly demoralized.

The Biden administration can’t afford to merely turn the clock back to 2016—as appealing as it may seem. Yes, having a president who regularly attends and understands his intelligence briefings and who leads sober policy deliberations will be a dramatic improvement over the alternating apathy and anarchy of the last four years. Yes, the appointment of serious intelligence professionals like Avril Haines and William J. Burns to positions of leadership is a necessary first step that will help stanch the bleeding and allow the new administration the opportunity it needs to begin correcting some of the worst mistakes of the Trump era.