ODNI shakes up cyber structure

Ratcliffe and Trump Official White House photo


ODNI shakes up cyber structure

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence announced a reorganization Friday afternoon, with an eye to consolidating cybersecurity, creating a military affairs advisor and shuttering the Directorate of National Security Partnerships (NSP).

The move was announced May 8 by Richard Grenell, the acting director of National Intelligence, the same week as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence held a confirmation hearing for Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) who was nominated by President Donald Trump to lead ODNI on a permanent basis.

According to the ODNI announcement, four separate cyber-focused organizations will be consolidated into a single entity called the IC Cyber Executive. "This position will provide a single ODNI focal point for the cyber mission, which will strengthen the IC's cyber posture to better defend U.S. national security interests," said ODNI in a statement. The announcement did not include the name of the leader of the new organizations.

"ODNI will be providing additional information about the IC Cyber Executive in the weeks ahead," Matt Lahr, deputy assistant DNI for strategic communications, told FCW in an email.

The more significant change appears to be the sunsetting of NSP, which will, per the announcement, reunite "all of ODNI's mission management functions in a single organization and folds ODNI's partnership organization into the strategic communications and information sharing groups" and "move ODNI from four directorates to three, reducing manpower and management overhead."

The Friday announcement appeared to take the Senate panel by surprise.

An Intelligence Committee official told FCW that the chairman and vice chairman of the committee, Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), had written to Grenell to ask that he consult with the committee before making organizational changes.

"Not only did that not happen here, but they also have not yet sent the committee the congressional notification that is required by law," the Senate official explained. "So we have no idea what the reasoning behind the changes was, or whether they are wise."

At Ratcliffe's confirmation hearing May 5, Warner stated in his opening remarks that Grenell, upon taking over as acting head of ODNI, "promptly instituted a hiring freeze and reorganization whose purpose has not been communicated through the intelligence oversight committees."

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) also tried to press the point at Ratcliffe's hearing.

"Congress has not authorized organizational changes at ODNI. We have not appropriated funds for that purpose, but Acting Director Grenell has been reorganizing ODNI," Heinrich said. "If confirmed, would you hold that reorganization and would you seek authorization….from Congress to reorganize if you found the need to do so?"

Ratcliffe said that he hadn't "considered or talked about any sort of organizational changes" for ODNI.

In a late afternoon tweet, the ODNI stated they had "notified Congressional oversight committees in advance of this announcement."

This article first appeared on FCW, a partner site of Defense Systems. 

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.

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