Adaptation Failure 911

Adaptation Failure 911 - Summary by Nena Alvarenga October...

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Summary by: Nena Alvarenga October 7, 2009 September 11 and the Adaptation Failure of U.S. Intelligence Agencies - Amy B. Zegart Introduction Example: In Jan. 2000, al-Qaida operatives gathered in Malaysia. Khalid al-Mihdar, one of the hijackers from 9/11 was present, so was the CIA. o He held a multiple entry visa to the USA Al-Mihdhar’s example shows the powerful effects of organization: routines, structures, cultures – which influence government agencies actions and efficiency. CIA was dominated with “Cold War” thinking for 40+ years o This made it hard to adapt to: keeping track of terrorists. o U.S. intelligence was unable to adapt to the rise of terrorist post-Cold War WHY? Adaptation failure of U.S. intelligence is due to: o The nature of bureaucratic organizations: making reform difficult o The self interest of presidents, legislators: working against the executive branch form o The fragmented structure of the federal government: high barriers to legislative reform Three main conclusions: o Major reform of US intelligence is difficult even after failure. o Reform will continue lagging behind external environment demands. o Dramatic improvements in US intelligence require changing: Organizational routines, cultures and structure. Determining Adaptation Failure: Change versus Adaptation Al-Qaida threats are obvious now, but weren’t before the 9/11 attacks.
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Others point to evidence that US intelligence did recognize the gravity of terrorist threat allocating resources and programs to combat it before 9/11 o Despite declining intelligence budgets in the 1990s, direct spending on counterterrorism quintupled. o Huge increases in # of FBI offices overseas, focused on terrorism. o Effort to build closer relationships with foreign intelligence services “failure” may be a harsh word... failure means no focus/attention – which were not present Agencies did make some changes in response to the end of the Cold War + increased terrorism CHANGE is not the same as ADAPTATION o Organizations are always changing o Key issue is whether changes matter, OR whether the rate of change within the organization keeps pace with the rate of change in the external environment. o Adaptation must be judged relative to external demands. Did intelligence recognize the threat of al-Qaida? Did they understand the need for change? Did they achieve this organizational change? o Yes yes yes, but only in a small degree. Policy makers recognized threat but failed to achieve intelligence reforms Osama Bin Laden The US became aware of Osama Bin Laden in the early 1990s Terrorist attacks and plots from 1991-2001 associated to Islamist groups raised the profile of terrorism.
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