Foreign Relations of the United States, 1945–1950, Emergence of the Intelligence Establishment
339. Letter From Sherman Kent to Director of Central Intelligence Hillenkoetter0
Dear Admiral Hillenkoetter: Herewith a memo on some of ORE’s problems. As I note in the introductory paragraph, I have confined myself to those few things in which the shortness of my visit was not too heavy a handicap to my judgment.
I have hesitated to have this manuscript typed in New Haven. It is confidential enough in character so that I would not like to see it in the morning paper. You will thus perhaps pardon my sending it to you in long hand. (On the chance that Miss Brian will type it, I have noted a couple of spots where I have asked her to perform minor editorial services.)
Seeing the ORE organization was a great pleasure. I am honored to have had the invitation.
Kindest regards, yours sincerely
Memorandum From Sherman Kent to Director of Central Intelligence Hillenkoetter
- A problem of first magnitude is the matter
of the mission of CIA and especially its ORE. At the present ORE
is not a coordinator of departmental [Page 836] intelligence. ORE
much more resembles a fifth departmental intelligence organization.
As such it faces two grave disadvantages:
- It has no direct consumer within its own organization as ID has its P&O and hence is likely to feel the lack of guidance and direction.
- It is excluded from overt collection (abroad).
- There are three problems of a second magnitude. They deal with
ORE and the outside.
- ORE is not close enough to the consumers it does serve to know precisely their requirements, nor is it close enough to carry to the consumers a knowledge of ORE’s capabilities.
- The collection and dissemination function now allocated to OCD should be assigned to ORE.
- ORE and OO should be brought closer together if ORE is to get the full benefit of OO’s outside contacts.
- There is one problem of a third magnitude. It concerns ORE and its management of its own substantive program.
I incline to the belief that a higher centralization of substantive control would improve ORE’s performance. In noting the above I hope it will be appreciated that I do not consider that my short visit to ORE (three days) makes me an expert adviser on this point.
In the following pages I confine myself to a limited number of problems of CIA and ORE. The problems which I have singled out are those upon which I feel my comments will be most valid although based upon no more than three days study and interview. I recognize three magnitudes of importance in the problems which I have chosen:
- 1st magnitude—the mission of CIA and ORE
- 2nd magnitude—ORE and its outside activities
- 3rd magnitude—ORE and its internal organization.
I. The Mission of CIA and ORE.
The National Security Act defines the mission of CIA as a twofold mission:
- coordinating the intelligence activities of the several government departments and agencies in the interest of national security …; and
- performing certain intelligence operations which can be more advantageously performed centrally; or other operations ….
With respect to (b): No comment.
With respect to (a): In the nature of things, the coordinating function of CIA will be performed by its ORE plus perhaps CIA’s top level administrative staff. The most important share (that is, the substantive share) of the work of coordination would naturally fall to ORE. But ORE will have greatest difficulty—if not insuperable difficulty—in performing this function. Its difficulties inhere in both (1) the NSC Intelligence Directives, especially #1 (which appears to me to afford departmental intelligence the weapons and strategic position to resist any intrusive coordinative activities by ORE) and (2) the fact of ORE’s present size, administrative organization, and personnel. The present ORE could not do the large coordinating job if by chance it were given clear mandate by new NSC directives.
In my view this leads to the conclusion that the present ORE is the equivalent of a fifth departmental intelligence arm. As such it is in competition with the other four and disadvantageously so. Of the many disadvantages it confronts I cite two:
- Since it has no direct policy, planning, or operating consumer to service within its own organization (as ID services P&O, for example), it is likely to suffer from a lack of feeling of immediacy, and more importantly, to suffer from a want of close, confidential, and friendly guidance. The consumers outside CIA which ORE in fact presently services can never provide the same sharp and demanding guidance which a departmental intelligence unit may expect from the department’s own policy, planning, and operating units. As to ORE’s present consumers and the guidance they afford, more in the next section (i.e. #II.).
- Since ORE’s formal mission is the coordination of departmental intelligence, NSC Intelligence Directive #2 allocates to ORE no overt collecting functions. If ORE were in fact a coordinating mechanism—pure and simple—this denial of the function would be exactly right. But inasmuch as ORE performs most of the duties performed by departmental intelligence, and very few not cognate with these duties, ORE should have its continuous flow of foreign publications and reports by overt U.S. observers. But for these publications and reports it must rely upon the collecting activities of the four “Security” departments. This arrangement will, in one sense, merely inconvenience ORE to the extent that all departmental units are inconvenienced by another’s slow service. But in another sense, and one of utmost importance, it can virtually destroy ORE. For whatever intelligence doctrine may say to the contrary, the collecting phase of research is not separable from the other phases: a man who is working on a theory of, say, the overthrow of France must be able directly or indirectly to procure for himself data, the need for which he [Page 838] could not foresee when he began his work; he must have on the Madrid end of the wire, so to speak, a professional friend and equal who understands his problem from the ground up, and who will collect or observe what he requires and that immediately.
The intelligence unit which is closely bound to its own high grade foreign collecting force is likely to be the best; the intelligence unit which has no collecting force of its own is at a prodigious disadvantage.
It is not impossible that departmental policy with respect to intelligence may contrive the virtual destruction of departmental intelligence. There are already signs of this. Should such occur, and should CIA (and its ORE) gain what might be called a monopoly in the field of national intelligence, the intelligence situation would be grave. In these circumstances CIA could service its high level consumers with complete adequacy, but I do not think it could service its lower level departmental consumers. In the first place the task would be so large that the necessary organization would be almost impossible to build, if not administer. In the second place no matter how well built and administered, it would always have trouble getting appropriate guidance from the departmental consumers. In the third place the departments themselves, even though reduced in funds for intelligence, would establish all manner of small black-market intelligence organizations under cover names. The effect of this would be to furnish the immediate departmental consumer with a less good product, but preferred by him because it was his own, and to dissipate what was left of the department’s intelligence resources throughout a number of small uncoordinated cells.
You will perhaps pardon the above excursion into a remote and uncertain future. I would not have taken it if I had not heard responsible government people seriously advocate a central intelligence monopoly.
II. ORE and its outside activities.
Under this heading I will discuss three problems:
First is the problem of ORE and its high level consumers. To the extent possible ORE should be brought into closest and most direct contact with consumers such as the NSC, SANACC, and JIG. Contact such as having an ORE officer represent CIA (or participate in CIA’s representation) at NSC staff discussions would have two great benefits: (a) It would assure ORE of knowing the precise nature of the consumer’s requirements; and (b) it would enable ORE to convey to the consumer the precise dimensions of its (ORE’s) capabilities. It is to be noted that these two matters interlock: when the consumer knows ORE’s capabilities, he may change the dimensions of this requirement (add to it, lessen it, or reorient it), and, when ORE knows the precise dimensions of the requirement, it may deploy its resources in such a fashion as to enlarge its capabilities. So long as liaison between consumer and ORE is maintained by someone [Page 839] not possessed of the highest professional competence in matters of substance and firsthand knowledge of ORE’s resources, that liaison is almost certain to be inadequate for the purposes of both ORE and the consumer.
Second is the problem of ORE and OCD. It is my understanding that you intend to merge these offices when occasion presents itself. To do so, in my view, is a matter of the very highest importance. As an outsider I may not be considered presumptuous to reinforce your decision with arguments (which may also be your own) which I consider unanswerable.
- The collecting phase of research is inseparable from the other phases. It must always be conducted under the guidance and supervision of the substantive expert who uses the materials; and in some cases it must be conducted by the professional himself. The greatest disfavor that can be done a substantive expert is to deny him the right to commune with his opposite numbers and to forbid him to swap information and documents with them. To allocate the collecting function to persons of non-professional stature and give them a monopoly of the function is to hamstring the expert.
- Should you see fit to set up a library or central repository of materials, (which I heartily endorse) this library staff can be useful in collecting on its own hook and without repeated requests from the professionals several types of material (eg): State Department cables, attache reports, studies by other intelligence outfits, etc. But the library staff must not get the notion that it has exclusive rights to collection. It must realize that its function is a modest service function. It must realize that it may collect only where, in so doing, it lightens the burden of the professionals.
The dissemination function should be attached to the office of the Director of ORE. He is the man most concerned to know where his product is going and most concerned about consumer reaction.
Third is the problem of ORE, OO and the outer world which OO deals with. In my experience an OO can be of highest usefulness to an ORE, but only on the following terms:
- ORE must cultivate the OO field personnel. It must send its experts to their field offices. It must see to it that OO personnel are thoroughly briefed on subjects under ORE scrutiny, on where ORE’s knowledge is rich and where poor, on ORE’s general program of research and its continuing responsibilities.
- OO must reciprocate. It must send its field personnel to Washington. They should know the ORE personnel, administrative organization, substantive problems, etc. They will do their best work when they feel themselves almost a part of ORE.
If this relationship can be built the OO–ORE team will be a powerful affair.
A note on the Daily Summary.
The Daily Summary is probably as good a document as can be brought to the attention of its most important half dozen readers. So long as they have no complaints, the Daily can be regarded as making contract. Complaints however may be registered by readers lower on the distribution list whose positions in the government permit them a high degree of technical expertise in certain substantive matters. That they should complain of omissions, overemphasis, superficial comment is to be expected. The Daily which would best serve their purposes would be a much longer and far more technical document. ORE could probably write it, but in so doing, ORE would almost automatically lose its present most important readers.
Because of the importance of the Daily’s top half-dozen readers, its snob-appeal will be enormous. Many officers of the government will want to be on the distribution list for the sake of the company they will be keeping, or out of idle but pardonable curiosity. Those with least reason to be on the list are likely to be the ones worst served by the document and most critical of its fancied shortcomings.
III. ORE and its management of its substantive program.
I incline to the belief that a higher degree of centralization in the control of ORE’s substantive program would be beneficial. On the basis of my very short visit, it seemed to me that control of planning and programming the output was dispersed among three or four small units. If this should be the fact, there are several possible penalties. Two of these I regard as of high importance.
- Loose or dispersed control permits the performance and completion of work with something less than the totality of the Office’s resources having been brought to bear upon it. (A Western European section can do a job on the Communist Party in France without being forced to collaborate with the USSR section, the Economists, etc.)
- Loose or dispersed control is not able to keep up standards of research across the board. Tight centralized control which forces the less good units to collaborate on joint projects with the best units has an easy and telling device to set uniform and high standards of performance.
- Source: Central Intelligence Agency Historical Files, HS/HC–808, Item 4. Secret. The source text is a copy transcribed for the CIA Historian on March 9, 1953. Kent had been invited by Hillenkoetter in December 1947 to survey the Office of Reports and Estimates. (Darling, The Central Intelligence Agency, pp. 301–302)↩
- Printed from a copy that indicates Kent signed the original.↩
- Confidential. The source text is a copy transcribed for the CIA Historian on March 9, 1953.↩
- Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.↩