Ask almost anyone in Washington who works in the shadows about the DNI and how effective it's been, and you'll inevitably get the same answer: it's an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.
The co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission, Lee Hamilton and Tom Kean, were strong supporters of the DNI concept. But they recognize that perception drives reality. In order to restart the discussion about the utility of the new intelligence supervisory structure, they've put together a forum for the current DNI, Adm. Dennis Blair (ret), and one of his top deputies, David Shedd, to give their version of events -- a brief of sorts for the DNI is working -- or why, if it's not quite working as it should be, it's crucial to give this experiment in creative government more credit than it's been getting. Hamilton and Kean and the remnants of the 9/11 Commission are now affiliated with the Bipartisan Policy Center's National Security Prepardness Group.
At the same time, Kean and Hamilton don't want to let the DNI team get off without being cross-examined, so they've added several panels full of interested stakeholders to bookend both men's speeches. Included will be Michael Hayden, former NSA director (and architect of the surveillance program that was yesterday declared to be illegal), who then became the deputy DNI (and really bought into the concept) and then became CIA director (and fought hard to preserve the CIA's equities).
A really cool get is Stephen Cambone, who, along with former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, fought hard to weaken the DNI before it became law and once Negroponte was sworn in. Cambone was the top intelligence official at the Pentagon, overseeing most of the intelligence community's budget. (Cambone is also controversial, having been a party to decisions about detention policy during the Bush administration, and he rarely speaks in public.)
Blair and Shedd make their case Tuesday at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C.