The operational command of missile-equipped drones is another flashpoint between the intelligence and defense communities. Who exactly controls these assets -- the lethal point of the intelligence spear, if you will -- both inside and outside military areas of operations? There have been vocal critics of the "militarization" of the CIA in recent years, but similar concerns exist over the military's mission creep into the civilian agency's traditional clandestine portfolio.
And what of the growing, long-term threat of cyber attack against the homeland? The Pentagon created U.S. Cyber Command in 2009 to protect military networks, and similar efforts are underway at the Department of Homeland Security to secure civilian networks. With the National Security Agency carrying out both Defense Department combat support and Intelligence Community duties, the question remains as to how the responsibilities for cyber operations beyond America's borders are to be distributed among the key players. If the post-9/11 axiom that the best defense is a good offense remains valid, then the outcome of this ongoing policy debate will be consequential for both the CIA's prerogatives and the protection of the nation's cyber infrastructure.
The negotiation challenges facing the next director will not all be inside the Beltway. Strong foreign partners have and will continue to be the backbone of overseas intelligence operations. The new head of the CIA will be asking increasingly skittish -- and, in some cases, suspect -- foreign services to do more in moving against terrorist networks and hunting down operatives, as well as to cooperate on other shared security priorities. Hammering out these sensitive particulars requires the deft hand of a savvy and respected broker.
CIA director is arguably the most thankless job in Washington. The agency workforce is highly-motivated, and their individual and collective efforts to protect the United States are shrouded in secrecy -- until, that is, there is a leaked failure. And the agency continues to pay a price in the public's mind for past missteps, both real and imagined. The operational tempo will remain high at Langley and in the field for the foreseeable future. CIA employees will be looking for a leader who will not only support the agenda of the Intelligence Community as a whole and work collaboratively with his or her defense counterparts, but also be an effective advocate for the CIA at the interagency negotiation table -- someone who can help restore the agency's centrality in carrying out the nation's most sensitive operations.