On Friday, April 8, 2011, Professor Kenneth deGraffenreid gave a presentation at The Institute of World Politics entitled “Ronald Reagan and Reforming American Intelligence: Lessons for the Future.” Noting the relative dearth of scholarship abut President Reagan’s intelligence policies, Prof. deGraffenreid explained that the subject deserves deeper attention, especially given the role of intelligence in the fall of the Soviet Union, and in light of today’s confused national security policy.
Prof. deGraffenreid went on to outline the major aspects of the world political situation President Reagan inherited, as well as the problems and challenges then faced by the intelligence community. For instance, even as the Soviet military threat was growing, there was a palpable world perception of US weakness in the wake of the Vietnam War, the Iran hostage crisis, and other setbacks to American foreign policy. Finally, Soviet intelligence also posed a great threat via technology thefts and diversions which helped the Soviet Union to surpass the United States in strategic weaponry.
President Reagan addressed these challenges by creating a comprehensive national security strategy, which included an intelligence policy. Professor deGraffenreid explained that at this point in our nation’s history, intelligence “was deemed to be a topic worthy of national-level policy.” Reagan also worked to change the culture in and surrounding the intelligence community, which, for many years, had had been under attack by the anti-war left. Reagan was successful in restoring the American people’s confidence in and support of intelligence, as well as rebuilding the internal morale of the intelligence community.
Prof. deGraffenreid then discussed the impact Reagan’s policies had on the four elements of intelligence: collection, analysis, counterintelligence, and covert action. He explained how Reagan was able to integrate intelligence policy with uniquely American Constitutional principles, and how he took a lead in implementing oversight procedures consistent with the Constitution. He concluded by discussing Reagan’s national security directives and their usefulness in today’s intelligence environment.