The establishment of a new intelligence agency, the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, was announced this week. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called it the ‘next step in the effective integration of counterintelligence and security missions under a single organization structure.’

The new agency merges the functions of counterintelligence, including foreign intelligence threat assessments, with government security programs, including the issuing of government security clearances.

“The establishment of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center supports our effort to ensure counterintelligence and security are addressed as interdependent and mutually supportive disciplines,” said Director Clapper. “These disciplines have shared objectives and responsibilities associated with the protection of information, sources and methods.”

The move isn’t without its critics, with some calling the new agency a nail in the coffin for successful counterintelligence operations.

“This is part of an effort to finish off counterintelligence,” Kenneth deGraffenreid, White House National Security Council intelligence director during the administration of Ronald Reagan, is quoted as saying. “Since 2001 there has not been a single arrest for foreign espionage.”

Some worry that combining security functions will cause CI funds to be redirected to other security functions. Others argue the new agency is a requirement of the Counterintelligence Enhancement Act of 2002, and a positive step to reduce duplication.

The NCSC will play a critical role as the government looks to both reform the security clearance process and counter the growing cost of insider threats.

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