File Photo: CIA Director John Brennan speaks during a news conference at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va Dec. 11, 2014 (Photo: AP)
The Central Intelligence Agency is launching one of the biggest reorganizations in its history, aimed in part at sharpening its focus on cyber operations and incorporating digital innovations into intelligence gathering, CIA director John Brennan said.
In a presentation to reporters this week, Brennan said he also is creating new units within the CIA, called "mission centers," intended to concentrate the agency's focus on specific challenges or geographic areas, such as weapons proliferation or Africa.
On the cyber front, the CIA chief said he is establishing a new "Directorate of Digital Innovation" to lead the agency's efforts to track and take advantage of advances in cyber technology.
U.S. officials said that Brennan decided the agency had to increase the resources and emphasis it devoted to cyberspace because advanced communications technology is rapidly becoming pervasive.
Historically, electronic eavesdroppers at the National Security Agency have been at the cutting edge of digital innovation within the U.S. government. But the CIA felt that it too had to reorganize to keep up with the technological "pace of change," as one official put it.
Brennan said the new digital directorate will have equal status within the agency with four other directorates which have existed for years.
"Our ability to carry out our responsibilities for human intelligence and national security responsibilities has become more challenging" in today's digital world, Brennan said. "And so what we need to do as an agency is make sure we're able to understand all of the aspects of that digital environment."
Created in 1947, the CIA is divided into four major directorates. Two - the Directorate of Science and Technology, which among other activities invents spy gadgets, and the Directorate of Support, which handles administrative and logistical tasks - will retain their names.
The Directorate of Intelligence will be renamed "Directorate of Analysis" to reflect its function as the home of agency experts who collate and analyze information from secret and open sources, Brennan said.
The National Clandestine Service, home of front-line agency undercover "case officers," who recruit spies and conduct covert actions, will be renamed Directorate of Operations, which is what it had been called for most of the agency's history.
The 10 new "mission centers" will bring together CIA officers with expertise from across the agency's range of disciplines to concentrate on specific intelligence target areas or subject matter, Brennan said.
Competition between spy agencies and between units within agencies has led to "stove piping" of information that should have been widely shared and to critical information falling through bureaucratic cracks, Brennan and other U.S. intelligence officials said.
"I know there are seams right now, but what we've tried to do with these mission centers is cover the entire universe, regionally and functionally, and so something that's going on in the world falls into one of those buckets," Brennan said.
The CIA currently operates at least two such interdisciplinary centers, covering counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence.