WASHINGTON — A year after taking charge of the CIA, Porter J. Goss is still struggling to rebuild morale and assert leadership within an institution shaken by recent failures and buffeted by change, according to current and former intelligence officials and members of Congress.
On Thursday, two days before his one-year anniversary on the job, Goss met with agency employees and told them that his vision for further changes would involve "breaking some molds" to reassert the CIA's role as "a global agency."
"We are developing new and creative ways to get more and more of our officers out of Washington," Goss said, according to a transcript provided by the CIA, which did not allow reporters to attend the event. "We do not serve our policymakers if we are not in the places that they need us to be today, and are not reporting from places they don't expect us to be — but where they may need us to be tomorrow," he said.
The CIA and its human spying operations are expected to benefit from changes in next year's intelligence budget, under classified plans being drawn up by the House and Senate intelligence committees, including a version approved by the Senate panel on Thursday. Congressional officials said Thursday that John D. Negroponte, the new director of national intelligence, had signaled for the first time the Bush administration would support big cuts in a multi-billion dollar satellite program, being built by the Boeing Co., in part to free up money for more human spying missions.
Current and former intelligence officials say there remains considerable turmoil within the agency, and in particular within the directorate of operations, responsible for human spying around the world. The directorate's No. 2 official, Robert Richer, has become the most recent high-ranking official to announce his departure, and he has told officials at the White House and within the CIA that he had lost confidence in Goss' leadership.
Goss' task was bound to be complicated, partly because the agency was reduced in power and stature by the reorganization of intelligence after failures on terrorism and Iraq.
In a telephone interview, Rep. Jane Harman of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said she believed that Goss was "doing a lot better" than early on, when the No. 1 and No. 2 officials within the operations directorate stepped down after clashes with members of Goss' personal staff.
"Anyone who came in when he did would have had a steep hill to climb, in part because change can be difficult," Harman said. But Harman also said that the departures of Richer and others were "very worrisome" because they amounted to a loss of "hundreds of years of experience and leadership."
In a separate interview, Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, the committee's Republican chairman, sought to minimize the significance of any upheaval. "I don't take the turmoil as unexpected," Hoekstra said. "For people who created the culture at the CIA that gave us the information about al-Qaida, who gave us the information about Iraq, the kinds of changes that Porter is making may be uncomfortable, and they may be making the right decision: They're leaving."
Richer, a former head of the agency's Near East Division, announced his decision to step down earlier this month, after fewer than nine months as the No. 2 official within the clandestine service. Since last November, when Stephen Kappes and Michael Sulick stepped down from the top two operations posts in the disputes with Goss' aides, the directorate has been headed by a veteran officer who remains under cover, and whose principal expertise has involved work in Latin America.
While no plan has been announced, Goss himself is expected to assume the role within the government of a national human intelligence manager, with the power to coordinate spying operations carried out by the CIA and other agencies.
Among Goss' priorities have been to open new CIA stations and bases and to reopen some of the estimated 20 CIA stations and bases overseas that were closed by budget cuts during the late 1990s. Goss said in his speech on Thursday that he had accomplished some of these goals, but he did not offer specifics.