Retired Air Force Gen. Michael P.C. Carns, who White House sources say will be named director of central intelligence, is a former combat pilot with the reputation of a talented administrator but no direct intelligence experience.
News of the planned appointment Tuesday did little to allay the apprehensions of career intelligence officers who fear the CIA is destined for major changes and perhaps drastic cutbacks.
Morale plummeted last year in the wake of the Aldrich Ames spy scandal and still is said to be at rock bottom.
Anxiety has been deepened by the creation of an independent commission to carry out a total review of the role of intelligence in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The Kansas-born Carns, 57, retired last September from the Air Force and has been living in California. A former fighter pilot who earned a master’s degree in business administration in 1967 and the next year flew 200 combat missions in F-4s over Vietnam, Carns ended his military career as Air Force vice chief of staff.
As director of central intelligence, Carns would head the entire intelligence community, not only the CIA.
This includes two giant organizations that overshadow even the CIA: the National Security Agency, which gathers electronic intelligence, and the National Reconnaissance Office, which handles spy satellites.
The intelligence community’s budget is classified but widely estimated at about $28 billion.
Around $3 billion of that money goes to the CIA, almost $4 billion to the NSA and more than $6 billion to the NRO. The largest share of the budget - around $10 billion - goes to the Defense Department under the catch-all heading of “Tactical Intelligence.”