Priest's story is said to focus on redundancies, particularly the number of individual counter-terrorism analytical cells costing the government billions of dollars. Some of the redundancy is deliberate because of the nature of intelligence work. But a lot of redundancy, especially in terms of information technology, is probably just wasteful.
The administration has been trying to tackle this from the angle of IT acquisition and procurement reform. It's proved hard to do. For taxpayers unfamiliar with the contracting world, the redundancies and the general confusion of authorities will probably cause outrage.
All of this begs the question: if the problem is so acute, if it is acknowledged, then why hasn't someone done something about it?
Point one: when counterterrorism and counterintelligence functions are funded by supplementals, new jobs can't be created. Why? Because supplementals provide funding for one year at a time, and you can't fund a new federal employee for one year. So a lot of counterterrorism operations have to be farmed out to companies who have the cleared personnel to handle them.
Point two: there hasn't been a true intelligence authorization bill for five years. That's left the basic funding of the intelligence community to the appropriations committees, which won't budget with the same level of granularity and expertise that the intelligence committees would.
Point three: in the absence of an intelligence authorization bill, Congress hasn't increased its oversight capacity over contractors because it hasn't had the mechanisms to do so. This year's authorization is on life support because of a dispute between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the President. Among its provisions: a census of all IC contracts and incentives for government agencies to use their own personnel for critical functions.
If you were to ask the intelligence community itself right now IF they had a database of ALL intelligence-related contracts, they would say, somewhat sheepishly, that they do not.
Policy comes into the equation here. There wouldn't be a need for expensive counterterrorism contracts if the U.S. was not expanding its counterterrorism footprint overseas.
It's gotten to the point where, in the words of one intelligence official, "we're bidding against ourselves." Take the example of Blackwater, or Xe, as they're now called.
The CIA uses Blackwater to protect its facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq. One could argue -- as, indeed, some do -- that providing physical protection for intelligence officers is a core function of the intelligence community and thus something that Blackwater shouldn't be able to do by law. But the CIA needs its bases to perform the work it needs to perform in support of warfighters and policymakers in the region. It does not have the personnel itself. Blackwater managed to attract the largest share of qualified former Diplomatic Security Service agents and special forces personnel by paying them more than they'd get if they worked for the government. Because it's easier for Blackwater to hire someone to do a function than for the CIA to hire someone directly to do the same function, Blackwater gets to set the price boundaries for its contract, indirectly. (This is also a function of the rules governing security clearances: if you leave government on good terms, your clearance will be valid for a few more years.)