Home > Strategic Analysis > New VZ Director: and the winner will be?

New VZ Director: and the winner will be?

Published : 26 February 2014
992 words in that article

The Czech Republic is currently looking for a new Director of the Military Intelligence (VZ – Vojenské Zpravodajství) and several names are circulating as potential candidates. This fact per se could be banal if recently the VZ had not been involved in a murky case where the former Premier Necas’s chief of cabinet, coincidentally mistress and ultimately wife, misused the Czech Military Intelligence for private purposes. The two last directors of the VZ have been under official investigation for that reason and the Military Intelligence Service is currently headed by brigadier Rostislav Pilc, one of the Deputy Directors who has been nominated as acting Director.

Since this position is very important, it is not strange that new Defense Minister Stropnický wants to fill it as soon as possible with the most suitable candidate. The fact that is a little bit disturbing is that repeatedly appears in the newspapers the name of Jan Beroun, ex-policeman and former Deputy Director of the Czech civilian intelligence agency UZSI. Initially, he was introduced as an adviser to the Minister for intelligence matters. Since each Minister has the right to choose his team of advisers, this was not a problem and Mr. Beroun has quite a good knowledge of the intelligence topics.

However recently he was mentioned as a potential candidate for the position of Director of Military Intelligence and this is quite alarming for two main reasons:

  • Military intelligence is a very specific part of intelligence and should be managed by somebody who has a wide knowledge of it,
  • This second attempt to give the VZ Director position to somebody coming from UZSI – the first candidate was Karel Randak, former director of UZSI, but there were too many political obstacles – illustrates one of Mr. Stropnický’s character trait: knowing very little about Defense matters, he looks at people from his own Ministry with some distrust, perhaps fearing that they could dupe him. That’s why he quickly becomes infatuated with people he has a good feeling with, mainly when they are not linked with the Defense Ministry.

Intelligence vs Military Intelligence

Basically and very roughly, every State in the world has two main jobs to perform in order to survive: to know – if possible in advance – what are the threats against him and to prevent those threats to become effective on its own territory. Usually those jobs are carried out by two types of agencies:

  • The intelligence agencies that must find information and perform intelligence tasks outside of the national territory: CIA for the USA, MI-6 for the UK, DGSE for France, UZSI for the Czech Republic…;
  • The counter-intelligence agencies that prevent other countries - or organizations - to get information or perform intelligence tasks within the national territory: US FBI, UK MI-5, French DCRI, Czech BIS etc.

Because the Defense Ministry has specific needs, for military operations for example, and is facing also specific threats, it usually has its own intelligence and counter-intelligence agencies. In some big countries such as the United States, some services of the Armed Forces have their personal counter-intelligence agency (for example the US Army Intelligence and Security Command and the well-known - thanks to the TV serial - NCIS for Navy and Marines Corps).

In the Czech Republic both jobs are carried out by the Military Intelligence or VZ. And it is mainly because VZ is also assuming the counter-intelligence task that its director is under direct command of the Minister and is not a subordinate of the Chief of Defense staff (CHODs).

There is another subtlety in the Czech Republic. Unlike many countries where special operations are under the responsibility of the CHODs, here it is the VZ who commands - for the time being - the 602nd Group of Special Operations. That explains why very often the VZ Directors are chosen amongst the commanders of the 602 SOG, who are usually officers with the best operational references.

The military intelligence deserves a chief who knows the job

Unfortunately, lessons from the past – see the abovementioned case of misuse of VZ - show that being an expert of special operations is not enough to be a good director of Military Intelligence.

On the contrary, being an expert of civil intelligence is not enough as well to be a good director of military intelligence. The VZ is not only an intelligence agency that collects military information and information of military interest (which is far wider) linked with operations overseas, defense of the territory, defense industry and so on by military means. It is also – as we said above -a counterintelligence agency with a defensive role as well as a manager of special operations with operational and equipment responsibilities. In order to command this body with some efficiency, it is quite obvious that the director should come from inside the department and not from outside.

Even if every clever man can learn quickly and surround himself with experts of every specific domain, such a director would have tremendous difficulties to be trusted by his own people who would see him as an alien at best and as an enemy at worst. That is true in every branch of activity. It is deadly in the intelligence domain.

Nowadays, the VZ needs desperately a director with a strong personality and unquestioned qualification in order to bring back stability and confidence in the agency. Those people exist within the military intelligence and it would be a pity to break the tool just because the minister is feeling unsafe and is desperately looking for allies outside of the military sphere.

It is of common knowledge that politicians are usually organizing leaks in the press in order to test in advance some ideas or reforms and check if there will be strong opposition or not. Acting like that for choosing a director of Military intelligence appears to me at best as unfair towards the people working hard in that unit, at worst as pitiful.

What about a real selection process?