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26 October 2007

On the 500…

It’s not quite the epic of Spartan battles – nor even the parody which declares, “Tonight we dine in Virginia.” But the DNI’s newly released 500 day plan has something akin to martial feel to it – albeit buried somewhere in the glossy public relations image management slick. One can sense the fights to come over its execution, quietly brewing somewhere in the administrative offices.

We understand the need for strategic planning, particularly to move large bureaucracies in new directions. This is especially apparent when there are multiple such bureaucracies involved – all of which who have previous shown hostility of varying degrees towards the commander’s intent on transformation.

Yet we cannot help but note Zenpundit’s accurate calling out of the Soviet flavor to the exercise. The core and enabling initiatives most surely do have a certain ideological element to them – the kind of deeply abstract ideal one expects to see scrawled in meter high characters on some Chinese banner outside the People’s Party Congress. And some offer little more than slogan – such as the continued insistence on a kind of diversity most likely to be interpreted by skin color or gender metrics rather than the measures which are truly needed, such as language capabilities, personal travel and regional experiences, unique skills and backgrounds, or other forms of real thought diversity.

Most critically, though much of the philosophy within the document tracks with what we here at Kent’s Imperative have long emphasized, we remain somewhat skeptical of the implementation of true steps towards the revolution in intelligence affairs. Too often we have seen major programs begun with high hopes, only to see the usual bureaucratic inertia and poisons corrupt the efforts into a pale imitation of what could have been.

But in fact, those efforts which we have seen to be successful were the ones built around a shared vision and dream. These are the concepts and ideas which were successfully branded – often in a manner that provoked multiple competing interpretations (and therefore growth and innovation.) They were the programs which drove imitation and expansion in new contexts and new environments – often by those who may not have even seen the originals, but rather merely re-created them whole from the cloth of rumour. Such efforts were themselves often more useful and innovative than the programs they sought to copy, even though they too often suffered from the poor cousins’ syndrome, with a sort of cargo cult sadness about them. But as a wise man once said, you have to want a frontier.

Thus we sincerely hope that the 500 day plan will drive more professionals within the community towards the kinds of shared vision that can propel forward transformation. From its sterile and glossy pages there are the hints of far more radical ideas and deeper changes spoken of in the dissident literature, and in the back halls and vaults. The first intimations of real change are on the wind…. but will this be merely another wisp of smoke from distant shores?

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