Intelligence: May 9, 2005


The U.S. Navy investigation of the submarine USS San Franciscos collision with an uncharted undersea mountain revealed the basic cause, and then blamed the victim. The sea mount the San Francisco hit had been spotted by survey satellites in 1999 and 2004, but the intelligence agency responsible, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, said it didnt have the money to update naval charts. Neither did the navy, or anyone else. Someone made a decision to let American submarines continue moving around amidst all manner of uncharted hazards, but that angle was not pursued by the navy investigation. Instead, the sailors on duty when the San Francisco hit the sea mount were punished for not having taken more frequent depth soundings (which would have indicated they might be approaching an obstacle), or consulting another map (than the one the originally used) that showed a possible sea mount five kilometers from where the actually collided with one. Whatever happened to responsibility at the top? The U.S. has been using expensive survey satellites to map the oceans for over a decade. Whats the point of spending all that money if you dont get vital information to the people in the submarines and ships who can use it? But this is not a unique situation. The troops have been complaining, with increasing frequency and anger, that the $40 billion a year we spend on intelligence is not getting much to the end user. After the 1991 Gulf War, you had generals saying this in blunt testimony before Congress. After September 11, 2001, the same complaints were made. Same thing after the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. And the complaints continue to come in. Blaming the victims is pretty lame, and disrespectful of the hardest working and diligent sailors in the U.S. Navy. Will anything change? According to the navy investigation of the USS San Francisco accident, its unlikely. The intelligence community has enormous power to spend their billions, but no responsibility for the results. 


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