Director Petraeus to Face Different Culture at C.I.A.
By SCOTT SHANE
WASHINGTON — Gen. David H. Petraeus will be taking on familiar challenges when he arrives at the Central Intelligence Agency this summer: the terrorist threat from Yemen and Pakistan; the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan; the Arab uprisings and their uncertain outcomes.
Those are among the C.I.A.’s major preoccupations, and they are what General Petraeus has lived and breathed in his last three jobs, first as commander in Iraq, then overseeing all of the Middle East and South Asia as head of Central Command, and finally as commander in Afghanistan. He knows military, intelligence and political leaders across the swath of the world that most worries the Obama administration. He has long been a voracious consumer of C.I.A. intelligence.
But in the four decades since he entered West Point, General Petraeus, 58, has thrived in the singular world of the American military. At the civilian intelligence agency, the four-star general will find a far less deferential culture, a traditional resentment of the Pentagon and a history of making trouble for directors who do not pay sufficient respect to local folkways.
“One thing he’ll find is C.I.A. doesn’t do the hierarchy thing very well at all,” said Michael V. Hayden, C.I.A. director from 2006 to 2009. “That’ll be a bit of an adjustment.”
Mr. Hayden should know; he arrived at the agency’s helm as a four-star Air Force general, retiring from the military in 2008. He said General Petraeus, who is also expected to give up his uniform, would find “a familiar values system,” including an emphasis on loyalty and service. But C.I.A. officers, including the free spirits of the clandestine service and the more bookish analysts, are more willing than military officers to challenge their bosses, Mr. Hayden said.
“On the analytic side, everyone thinks they are tenured faculty,” he said.
Mark M. Lowenthal, a former assistant director of the C.I.A., said that the agency “doesn’t really like having a military officer in charge,” and that Mr. Hayden got a pass because he was a career intelligence officer, unlike General Petraeus. A key issue will be whether the new director arrives with a substantial entourage, Mr. Lowenthal said.
“If he comes in with a lot of his own people, it will put the agency on edge,” he said. Mr. Hayden brought a single military aide and is generally viewed as having been successful in winning over the workforce. His predecessor, Porter J. Goss, a former member of Congress, installed his Capitol Hill staff in high-level positions at the agency and had a rougher tenure.
One area of potential conflict: C.I.A. analysts have generally taken a far more pessimistic view of the American-led war effort in Afghanistan than has General Petraeus. Entering his new job as American troops begin heading home, he will become the boss of analysts who have been skeptical of his assertions about the success of the counterinsurgency strategy he has championed.
But General Petraeus, who holds a Ph.D. in international relations from Princeton, has a reputation for negotiating Washington’s political currents with skill, courting Congress and the news media, and thriving under two very different presidents. His wife, Holly, recently began work at the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, overseeing efforts to prevent exploitation of military service members and their families.