15 December 1999. Thanks to Richard Lardner.

Inside the Air Force

December 10, 1999


Hayden hires chief financial manager



By Richard Lardner

The director of the National Security Agency last month hired the organization's first-ever chief financial manager in an effort to take control of the agency's budgeting process and further assure Congress he is serious about changing the way NSA operates.

In a Nov. 23 announcement to employees at the Ft. Meade, MD-based signals intelligence agency, Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden said Beverly L. Wright would become NSA's financial management officer.

Wright worked most recently as chief financial officer at Legg Mason Wood Walker Inc., a Baltimore-based financial services firm. Wright, who could not be reached for comment by press time, left Legg Mason in June after only six months with the company. A June 6 article in The Baltimore Sun about Wright's departure quoted Legg Mason chief executive Raymond Mason as saying Wright wanted to spend more time with her family.

When asked by Inside the Air Force about Wright's appointment and what specific role she would play at the agency, NSA's public affairs office said it had "no information" it could provide.

However, agency observers said this week her hiring is a solid move that will be welcomed on Capitol Hill, but could likely prove controversial in a culture that is resistant to change.

"If Mike Hayden is serious about wresting control of NSA's budget away from his subordinate program managers, he needs a serious financial manager he can trust," said Robert Steele, president and chief executive officer of OSS Inc., an open source intelligence firm in Oakton, VA.

A 1974 graduate of Harvard's business school, Wright joined Legg Mason in November 1998. Prior to Legg Mason she worked as treasurer and chief financial officer of Alex. Brown Inc., an investment banking and securities brokerage house in Baltimore. In 1997, Alex. Brown merged with Bankers Trust and Wright became managing director of the firm.

The Sun article said that Wright is considered "hard-nosed and a stickler for details," qualities Steele said will serve her well at NSA. Steele, a 25-year veteran of the U.S. intelligence community, said intelligence programs are run as "fiefdoms" with individual program managers enjoying substantial financial authority. Consequently, an intelligence agency director quickly finds he has little control over his own budget, a situation that makes it difficult, if not impossible, for him to cut duplicative programs and eliminate waste.

According to the intelligence oversight committees on Capitol Hill, no agency is more in need of fiscal control than NSA. In its fiscal year 2000 intelligence authorization report, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence said NSA "is in serious trouble," citing process and management shortcomings as reasons for major concern. A year earlier, the committee blasted NSA, noting that the agency "often cannot track allocations for critical functions that cross the old program and bureaucratic lines." A "radical revision" of the agency's budgeting system is needed, the committee concluded.

At the same time, lawmakers and senior U.S. policymakers agree, a major investment is also required to overhaul NSA's antiquated signals collection apparatus and to ensure the agency is properly positioned to deal with the fast-breaking developments taking place within the information technology industry.

"Signals intelligence has suffered from gaps in what we call 'end-to-end' capability, as well as from enormous leaps in target technology," Rep. Michael Castle (R-DE), chairman of the House technical and tactical intelligence subcommittee, said on the House floor Nov. 9. "For several years, the committee has insisted that changes are needed at the National Security Agency in order to modernize our SIGINT capabilities and improve efficiency."

Congress, however, is reluctant to throw good money after bad.

"We don't want to make a huge new investment until we've got NSA's leadership squared away," a senior House professional staff member said during a recent talk at the agency. "Then, more money would be appropriate."

In NSA's top slot since late March, Hayden has earned high marks from lawmakers for his willingness to push for improvements in how the agency operates and spends its money. The director recently embarked on an initiative called "100 Days of Change," through which he expects to implement a large number of reforms that were generated by two recently completed reviews of the agency.

Hayden commissioned both studies. An internal review completed by agency managers called for a sweeping overhaul of the agency, including the appointment of a senior financial officer, according to sources familiar with the document. An external review by information technology executives reached similar conclusions.

According to Castle, the two reviews "endorsed previous committee findings identifying systemic obstacles to efficiency and change."

Underscoring the positive impression Hayden has made so far on Capitol Hill, Castle noted that the general "has our strong support for decisive action that will, by nature, be controversial."

Wright's appointment could well prove to be among the most controversial as Hayden works to exercise greater control over NSA's troubled financial process. "Intel is not a business," the House staffer said at Ft. Meade in late October. "If it were, it would be a failing business. There is not a business that simply sits back and waits for customer demand. Businesses anticipate customer requirements."

_source: Inside the Air Force
_date: December 10, 1999
_issue: Vol. 10, No. 49

© Inside Washington Publishers

Inside the Air Force

December 10, 1999




By Richard Lardner

In a recent expose by The New Yorker on the troubles facing the National Security Agency, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported that NSA Director Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden's greatest obstacle in reforming the organization could well be working around a group of senior managers at Ft. Meade who are opposed to change.

Hersh's piece singles out Barbara McNamara, NSA's deputy director, as the main roadblock. "She's leading a cohort of 30-year veterans who go back to radio and think nothing is needed," one official told Hersh.

With the hiring of Beverly Wright to be the agency's senior financial manager, however, NSA observers are now saying that McNamara's days at the agency could be numbered. Wright's appointment was one of a series of moves Hayden is making as part of his "100 Days of Change" program, an initiative aimed at reshaping the agency so it can deal with the threats of the 21st century.

Robert Steele, president of a Virginia-based open source intelligence firm, said this week that Wright's background as a no-nonsense chief financial officer -- as well as her gender -- could set the stage for McNamara's exit.

"Since he knows he can't make progress without firing or reassigning his female deputy director, a female CFO with such a solid track record is the perfect countermove on that aspect of his '100 Days of Change," Steele said.

A career NSA employee, McNamara was named the agency's No. 2 official in October 1997. She began working at the agency in 1963, moving up steadily through the ranks. Before taking over as deputy director, McNamara worked as NSA's operations chief.

While Hayden publicly supports his deputy -- he told Hersh in an interview that McNamara "has been a good deputy to me" -- observers say that backing could evaporate if she opposes the reforms he is implementing.

One agency insider told Inside the Air Force that McNamara objected to Hayden's restructuring of an executive leadership team responsible for overhauling the agency's operations. The source said Hayden pared the group down to five people: himself, McNamara, and the senior deputies for information security, operations and technology. "She didn't want the technology guy there," the source said. "But Hayden put him on the team anyway."

Speaking at Ft. Meade in late October, a senior member of the House professional staff lamented that NSA doesn't need better management as much as it needs high-quality leadership. While Capitol Hill is bullish on Hayden and his commitment to change, the staffer acknowledged the Air Force three-star faces a daunting task.

Underscoring his point, the staffer recalled a telephone conversation earlier this year with a senior NSA manager. The call occurred just before the release of the House intelligence committee's fiscal year 2000 report, which included comments critical of NSA.

"The official asked that the comments be included in the classified section of the bill," the staffer said. 'Why?' I asked. 'Because we're up for some management awards,' was the answer. To me, that spoke volumes. . . . Management is not the same thing as leadership."

Meanwhile, Steele said the next few months will be crucial ones for Hayden, and McNamara. "At the end of 100 days, either he's gone or she's gone," he predicted.

_source: Inside the Air Force
_date: December 10, 1999
_issue: Vol. 10, No. 49

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