UCLA Spotlight


Amy Zegart, Policy Studies

  • By Stan Paul
  • Published Jan 1, 2004 8:00 AM

On the National Journal’s recent list of the 10 leading U.S. experts on intelligence reform are people such as Maureen Baginski, executive assistant director for the FBI’s Office of Intelligence; Jamie Gorelick, a member of the 9/11 Commission; and Michael Hayden, director of the National Security Agency.

Also on the list: Amy Zegart, assistant professor of policy studies at the School of Public Policy and Social Research and an expert in her own right on organizational effectiveness in U.S. foreign policy. Zegart has been providing opinion and analysis for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and remains in contact with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, under whom Zegart studied when she was a doctoral student at Stanford University.

Zegart’s work on issues of national security and intelligence reform derives from an early interest in China and Chinese culture. She recalls that when Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping visited the United States, he wore a large cowboy hat, an image that left a lasting impression. At age 13 she began taking Mandarin lessons; in 1984, her junior year of high school, she traveled to Beijing to study. In the fall of 1989, just months after Tiananmen Square, Zegart went back to Hong Kong and Beijing on a Fulbright scholarship and stayed for a year. It was there that she decided to go to graduate school and focus on American politics and U.S. foreign policy, with a special interest in China.

The author of “Flawed By Design: The Evolution of the CIA, JCS and NSC” (Stanford University Press, 2000) has been interviewing top officials in government as part of her work on another book that examines organizational problems in non-proliferation and counterterrorism policy, and analyzes more broadly why U.S. foreign policy agencies have not adapted to the end of the Cold War.

“Intelligence is at a critical crossroads,” Zegart said. “Critics who say the intelligence community is poorly positioned to fight the battles of the post-Cold War are only half right: The intel community was never well-designed to fight the old battles of the Cold War.”

Her reform recommendations have included three key aspects: First, create a head of the entire 15-agency community with budgetary, personnel and programmatic power to do the job. Second, create a semi-autonomous domestic intelligence agency within the FBI, and third, require intelligence officials to do tours of duty in agencies outside their own. Zegart believes this would foster greater understanding, cooperation and information-sharing throughout the intelligence community.

But despite continuing efforts toward reform and recent talk about creating a top position in intelligence, Zegart admitted she is not too optimistic. “I believe it will take another catastrophic terrorist attack at a minimum, and even that may not be enough — because the barriers to reform are so deeply entrenched and so high.

“But I certainly hope I am wrong.”