William E. Odom

William E. Odom [LTGEN/USA (Ret.)] died on 30 May 2008. David D. Kirkpatrick, "William Odom, 75, National Security Director, Dies," New York Times, 5 Jun. 2008.

Odom, William E. "The Ames Case: A Symptom of Crisis." Washington Post National Weekly Edition, 25-31 Jul. 1994, 29.

The author argues that "[h]ad intelligence been a private business corporation, it would have restructured at least two or three times by now." He supports the idea of a presidential commission to study the role and capabilities of U.S. intelligence.

One point made by Odom (that the "public tarnishing of the [intelligence] community's image ... is unfair to the professionals who gave the United States a remarkable intelligence edge throughout the Cold War") is treated derisively by a responding writer: William T. Lee, "What Intelligence Edge?" Washington Post National Weekly Edition, 1-7 Aug. 1994, 29. "Odom's ... piece ... is symptomatic of the real crisis in U.S. intelligence: refusal to learn from past mistakes."

[CIA/90s/AmesFallout; Reform/90s][c]

Odom, William E. America's Military Revolution: Strategy and Structure after the Cold War. Washington, DC: American University Press, 1993. UA23/.035

Cohen, FA 73.2 (Mar.-Apr. 1994), calls this a "short, prescriptive work." Odom "favors a 12-division army but has less use for the other services." For Wright, WPNWE, 22-28 Nov. 1993, the author has failed to deliver on his promises of candor; there are "few forthright statements to be found" in his book.


Odom, William E. Fixing Intelligence for a More Secure America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003. 2d ed. 2004.

Lichtblau, NYT, 16 Mar. 2003, finds that "Odom's important and thought-provoking book ... offers a cogent if sometimes labored primer on how the intelligence community works (and doesn't work) and why its labyrinth of competing agencies has impeded the flow of information within the government.... Much of the problem, he argues, can be traced to the dual hats worn by the head of the C.I.A.... [He] demands wholesale changes.... Make the director of the C.I.A. into the czar of the nation's intelligence industry.... Rename and restructure the C.I.A. to distance it from its record of embarrassments.... And strip the F.B.I. of its role as the nation's chief spy catcher." Odom "teases readers with insightful glimpses into the problems in the intelligence community without providing many of the necessary details to bolster his case.... [H]e relies too often on bureaucratic doublespeak and charts to make his point."

According to Adams, Washington Post, 6 Apr. 2003, "Odom produces a detailed reform proposal that is also born out of decades of puzzling out intelligence conundrums." Similarly, Freedman, FA 82.3 (May-Jun. 2003), calls this "a forcefully and cogently argued book. It is a necessary read for anyone concerned about the future of intelligence." On the other hand, Hanyok, I&NS 20.2 (Jun. 2005), says that Odom "makes some useful observations and suggestions for reform of US intelligence. Unfortunately, much of the fabric of the book's arguments is sewn with assertions based on little evidence and is rent by numerous errors of fact and history."

Peake, Studies 48.2 (2004), says that the problems Odom seeks to correct are largely operational, but he "does not show how restructuring would fix the operational problems that were, for the most part, due to poor performance all around, not the organizational structure in the units involved." Wirtz, IJI&C 17.2, finds this a "highly accessible discussion of reforming intelligence." However, "the organizational structure outlined by Odom, which is intended to produce conformity when challenged by adversity, is not likely to be the best way to foster innovative thinking." Also, "nothing in the historical record suggests that military organizations are any less likely to be surprised than are their civilian counterparts."

For Marrin, PSQ 119.2 (Summer 2004), the author's "structural reform proposals boldly challenge conventional intelligence community management thinking, but the potential effects that the reforms might have on the intelligence community's effectiveness are impossible to evaluate because he does not address organizational processes." Therefore, "Odom's assessment is incomplete." Wales, H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews, Nov. 2003 [http://www.h-net.org], comments that the author's occasional bouts of institutional favoritism are ... unfortunate, and constitute the only serious flaws in an otherwise superb book."

Pounder, Air & Space Power Journal 18.4 (Winter 2004), says the author "presents a clear and concise plan for intelligence reform, built around a 'national manager' concept for the intelligence community as a whole, as well as its major disciplines." However, Odom's "book glosses over the bottom-line question: will [his proposed] reorganization actually 'fix' the problems plaguing our intelligence system, or simply lead to more empire building inside the beltway?"

[Overviews/U.S./00s; Reform/00s/Gen]

Odom, William E. "Intelligence Analysis." Intelligence and National Security 23, no. 3 (Jun. 2008): 316-332.

This essay seeks "to help both students of intelligence and practitioners appreciate how broad the subject of intelligence analysis is, how dynamic it has become with the influx of new technology, and how misleading it can be to use the term without being specific about what kind of analysis, for what use, and where it is done."


Odom, William E. On Internal War: American and Soviet Approaches to Third World Clients and Insurgents. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1992.

Treverton, FA 71 (Fall 1992), says that "[t]he end of the Cold War ... makes Odom's intriguing analysis of primarily historical interest.... Reviewing cases in Latin America and Asia, his critique of American policy is biting: it has amounted to 'colonialism by ventriloquy.'"


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