Spy agencies face vast cuts and refocusing, Gates says

December 05, 1991|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- Robert M. Gates, the new director of central intelligence, said yesterday that he intends to shrink U.S. espionage agencies by billions of dollars and thousands of employees and reorganize them for a world in which the Soviet Union is no longer the primary threat to world order.

In a sometimes blunt speech to intelligence employees, he warned that unless espionage agencies abandoned their lingering Cold War bent and focused more on threats like nuclear proliferation and drug smuggling, the changes would be quickly forced on them by Congress.

While his proposals could eventually be far-reaching, Mr. Gates appeared not to envision scrapping the U.S. spying bureaucracy, as some critics have called for, but reordering its existing functions and eliminating overlapping responsibilities .

Some organizational changes would probably have been required in any case because of impending cuts in the Pentagon budget, in which espionage spending is included.

Mr. Gates said yesterday that the CIA would cut its staff, believed to number about 20,000, by 15 percent in the next several years, mostly by not replacing employees who retire or who leave for other jobs.

Similar staff reductions are expected at other intelligence agencies, including the National Security Agency, which monitors diplomatic and international communications.

Spending in the entire $30 billion-a-year intelligence bureaucracy of a half-dozen agencies is expected to decline at roughly the same rate as the Pentagon budget, which is being cut by 20 percent from the 1990 fiscal year to the 1995 fiscal year. It was unclear whether Mr. Gates planned budget reductions beyond those already projected.

He said that U.S. intelligence would be forced in the immediate future to concentrate on the disintegration of the Soviet empire, and that he had recently ordered analysts to produce 10 major reports on aspects of the breakup for the White House and other policy-makers.

But in the long term, he said, top officials of espionage agencies are still too obsessed, by habit and by organization, with the actions of a Soviet military that is no longer thought to pose a major threat.

He said that President Bush had ordered 20 federal agencies to give the White House new lists of their projected intelligence needs through the year 2005, and that those lists would become the blueprint for a reshaping of the U.S. espionage apparatus.

Other officials said that the 20 agencies include such non-traditional users of intelligence as the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Mr. Gates said he planned to present the president with a range of options next spring to define the issues and problems on which U.S. espionage could be expected to report at different levels of spending.

Mr. Gates, who was sworn into office by President Bush only last month, provided few details in his speech of the changes that he was studying, but they appeared to fall in three broad areas: moving espionage away from the Soviet threat and into new areas; eliminating overlapping bureaucracies in the CIA and the Pentagon; and giving the White House and other policy-making agencies sharper and more usable reports on world developments.

He made it clear that he believed the amount of attention espionage agencies give the Soviet Union, which he said accounted for about half of all resources, was far too great.

Although some agencies have already cut back on their analysis of the Soviet military by as much as 25 percent, he said, changes in the actual organization of espionage agencies since the Soviet collapse has been "incremental."

The new director was most specific in talking about reorganizing the intelligence bureaucracy, where he appears to favor eliminating much of the overlap in authority between the CIA and the larger, less visible warren of spying agencies operated by the Pentagon and the four armed forces. While the CIA is the pre-eminent intelligence organization in status and political power, it is one of the smallest in spending.

The CIA and military intelligence agencies have battled for years over authority and money, sometimes at the expense of military operations. The field commander in the Persian Gulf war, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, complained bitterly and in public about rivalries between the CIA and Pentagon agencies that analyzed reconnaissance photographs.

Specifically, Mr. Gates said, he plans to pare back the bureaucracies that operate and benefit from reconnaissance satellites, the most expensive and most contentious programs in all U.S. intelligence.

A secret Air Force agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, buys, launches and manages satellites, but the CIA and Pentagon both run centers that analyze photographs.

Similarly, the CIA is the dominant agency in the use of intelligence agents, but the three major armed services, the Defense Intelligence Agency and other Pentagon organizations also have agents abroad, and some are aggressively seeking to expand those operations at the CIA's expense.

Some experts said that Mr. Gates should expect stiff resistance to his ideas at the Pentagon and the CIA, which may stand to lose some responsibility and bureaucratic strength.

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