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A New Ace of Spies

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HERE'S no bureaucracy worse than a secret bureaucracy.

And that's just what Michael Carns will be taking over, if the Senate approves his nomination to be the next director of central intelligence.

General Carns, who retired from the Air Force after 35 years of service last year, has a reputation as an outstanding manager and innovative problem solver. If appointed, he will find changing the cold-war culture at the Central Intelligence Agency a severe test of his professional skills.

Carns's lack of experience in the intelligence community has been put forward as both his chief weakness and chief strength. Critics argue that, at best, it will take him months to burrow into the complex workings of the agency, which has thousands of employees and a $28 billion budget. Only then would he be knowledgeable enough to attempt meaningful reforms.

But as an outsider with a Harvard Business School background, Carns may be just what is needed. The CIA must undertake the same kind of major restructuring as so many large corporations have. The challenges include cutting staff and budget while at the same time improving morale.

All the changes, of course, must be in service to a redefined mission. The agency has yet to fully embrace a new post-cold-war strategy. President Clinton must support his nominee by providing him with a clear and consistent set of priorities.

Countering terrorism, especially the threat of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of radical groups or rogue states, must be high on the list. Impartial, perceptive, forward-looking research and analysis that would help leaders understand the social, political, and economic trends sweeping the globe is badly needed. What is the underlying nature of the myriad ethnic and religious conflicts and massive population migrations?

The director-designate's military career provides him with a grounding in nonpoliticized public service. He should put a quick end to shenanigans such as the bogus, discredited background report on Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide that the agency produced and distributed last year.

He also should assure the Senate that he is eager to cooperate fully with the blue-ribbon commission headed by former Defense Secretary Les Aspin that is now examining the role of the CIA. He will need every ally he can find if he is to shed light into this bureaucratic black hole.


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