The Challenges of Ungoverned Spaces
The Challenges of Ungoverned
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by
Central Intelligence Agency Director John O. Brennan at the Brookings
Institution, Washington, DC, 13 July 2016.
Source : CIA.
Thank you, General Allen, and thank you all very much.
It is a pleasure to visit Brookings and to be among good
friends and colleagues.
Bruce Riedel and I have known each other for over 35 years, so I very much look
forward to our conversation and to addressing your questions.
First, though, I want to start off with some brief remarks. I
have spoken recently in public settings about the many overseas threats that we
face as a Nation, and the importance and challenges associated with dealing with
countries like Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, and I will be happy to
address your questions about such issues.
But for now, I would like to focus on how CIA is working to
meet these challenges—specifically, the challenges of
ungoverned spaces and of the digital revolution, two defining features of
global instability that keep us quite busy at Langley.
* * * *
Clearly, the world in 2016 is witnessing a significant amount
of instability, and has been for some time. Instability is a vague and
antiseptic term, but we all know that it carries some very real costs—especially
in terms of humanitarian suffering, rising extremist violence, and diminishing
freedom throughout the community of nations.
For instance, Freedom House this year reported an
acceleration in a decade-long slide in democracy around the world. The number of
countries showing a decline in freedom for the year—72—was the largest since the
downward trend began.
The challenges we face today are unprecedented in both their
variety and complexity. They are highly fluid, constantly shifting and taking on
new dimensions. And they are increasingly interconnected, testing our ability to
anticipate how developments in one realm will shape events in another.
When CIA analysts consider the trends that are shaping the
coming decade, they look at dynamics such as rapid population growth and
urbanization in the developing world. They look at technological advances that
vastly outpace the ability of governments to manage them, as well as at low
economic growth globally.
If these trends hold, we could see greater volatility and
increased demands on nation-states, which are already under the greatest stress
we have seen in many years, perhaps going back to the period after the First
World War. Governments worldwide have found that handling the daunting array of
21st century challenges on their own—those related to economics, security,
technology, demographics, climate change, and so on—is increasingly difficult,
if not impossible.
The United States and other nations are lending assistance to
many of these countries so that they can better deal with these pressures and
maintain cohesion. And just as the various departments of our government provide
aid and expertise to their counterparts in weakened states, the Agency plays a
role as well. In many cases, CIA helps to enhance the capability of foreign
security and intelligence services so they can increase the quality and quantity
of intelligence they provide us to help address threats of mutual interest, such
as violent extremism, within and from across their borders. But our assistance
and partnership come with conditions--these intelligence and security services
must adhere to standards of professional conduct and respect for human rights.
And nowhere do we find greater challenges to effective
governance than in the region that stretches from the Maghreb to South Asia.
Faced with rapidly growing and youthful populations, North Africa and the Middle
East have some of the world’s highest unemployment among 12 to 24-year-olds.
These trends foster the appeal of militant ideas in states that are already
struggling to govern territory and meet the basic needs of their people.
Not surprisingly, this is the region where we have seen a
dangerous rise in ungoverned spaces—the kind of places where the self-proclaimed
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was able to establish its reign of terror.
And these are precisely the kind of places in which CIA must
To provide the President and his senior advisers with the
insights they need, the Agency collects critical intelligence wherever there is
a need. And when we must acquire ground truth in austere and difficult
locations—where there is no US Government presence or established liaison
partner—the conventional approach of operating out of a Station is not an
Given this imperative, one of the things we are looking at is
how we enhance our expeditionary capabilities, which depend on the ability to
operate with agility and a light footprint. And because many of our greatest
national security challenges have emerged from ungoverned spaces—and are likely
to do so in coming years—CIA must be expeditionary in both spirit and action.
This is a tradition that stretches back to the Second World
War, when the Agency’s predecessors in the Office of Strategic Services
parachuted behind enemy lines in occupied Europe. And only 15 days after the
September 11th attacks, teams of CIA officers were the first Americans on Afghan
soil, leading our Nation’s response by taking the fight to al-Qa‘ida.
And whether in expeditionary missions or our day-to-day
operations, we have seen since 9/11 that the power of integration is the single
most decisive factor in optimizing our intelligence capabilities across the
board. To that end, the Agency last year launched a Modernization program, a
strategic effort to better integrate and leverage CIA’s unique as well as many
The centerpiece of our Modernization initiative was the
creation of 10 Mission Centers, the line organizations that now bring together
our operational, analytic, technical, digital, and support disciplines. Six of
these centers focus on regions, such as Africa and the Near East. And four focus
on functional areas, such as Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation.
We needed to create an architecture that would best position
the Agency to respond quickly and effectively to current and future challenges.
Today, our analysts, our case officers, and our technical, digital, and support
officers work together within these Centers—in much the same way they have
learned to collaborate in the field. And that means we can come up to speed far
more quickly on any breaking issue that might emerge somewhere on the globe.
* * * *
Beyond the challenge of ungoverned spaces, the digital
revolution is perhaps the defining feature of our unstable world, in both the
most positive and negative ways.
The cyber realm and information technology have fundamentally
transformed the most prevalent means of human interaction. These technologies
have given rise to new information-based industries that have displaced older
ones, sometimes deepening gaps within societies and between the developed and
underdeveloped worlds. They enable social interaction that can be swift and
destabilizing, as we saw with the so-called Arab Spring. And they invest
individuals with unprecedented influence and even power—for better or worse.
Cyber makes it possible for our adversaries to sabotage vital
infrastructure without ever landing an agent on our shores. And we have seen how
our own citizens can be indoctrinated by terrorist groups online to commit
terrible acts of violence here at home.
Moreover, these technologies are transforming how an
intelligence service, which is a quintessential information-based enterprise,
conducts business. And we at CIA fully understand that how we rise to the
challenge of the digital age will determine the extent of our future success.
That’s why last year, as part of our Modernization program,
we created a Directorate of Digital Innovation, the first new Agency Directorate
in more than a half-century. This new Directorate is at the center of the
Agency’s effort to hasten the adoption of digital solutions into every aspect of
our work. It is accelerating the integration of our digital and cyber
capabilities across all our mission areas—espionage, all-source analysis,
open-source intelligence, liaison engagement and covert action.
The Directorate is deeply involved in our efforts to defend
against foreign cyber attacks. It has an important role to play in human
intelligence collection by helping safeguard the cover of our clandestine
operatives in the Information Age. Equally important, the Directorate oversees
our Open Source Enterprise, a unit dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and
disseminating publicly available information of value to national security.
Multiple elements of the Agency in the past have responded to
the challenges of the digital era. But if we are to excel in the wired world,
the digital domain must be part of every aspect of our mission.
In practical terms, it means that our operations officers
must be able to maintain their cover in a dynamic digital environment and
collect in it as well. It means that our analysts must be able to quickly
process and analyze enormous volumes of data. And it means that our IT experts
must be able to harden our networks against intrusion and better protect our
sources and methods.
We at CIA—and our colleagues throughout government—are doing
what we can to meet the challenges of the digital revolution. But even
“whole-of-government” solutions are simply not enough when it comes to cyber.
Some 85 percent of the internet is owned and operated by the
private sector, which is why we need to have an honest, vigorous dialogue
between public and private sector stakeholders about government’s proper role in
the cyber domain.
In that vein, we need to have a more robust and comprehensive
national discourse about how the government and the private sector must work
together to safeguard the security, reliability, resilience, and prosperity of
the digital domain. Such public-private dialogue and partnerships will be
increasingly important as technologies advance and new fields of endeavor emerge
as we move further into the 21st century.
* * * *
It is a tremendous honor every day for me to carry the title
of Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. It is my privilege and pleasure
to work with a team of patriots who put themselves on the front lines to keep
their fellow Americans safe and secure. I could not be prouder of what they
accomplish, day in and day out—not only for our country, but for our friends
around the world.
Related Topic :
Challenges of Ungoverned Spaces" by John O. Brennan (13-07-2016).
Overarching Challenge of Instability" by John O. Brennan (29-06-2016).
IS a Formidable, Resilient, and Largely Cohesive Enemy" by John O. Brennan
Between Transparency and Secrecy" " by David S. Cohen (21-04-2016).
Has Become a Hallmark of Our Time" by John O. Brennan (03-03-2016).
Intelligence Is the Cornerstone of National Security Policy" by John O.
The OSS Legacy" by John O. Brennan (07-11-2015).
Challenging and Consequential Issues of Our Time" by John O. Brennan
: Between Policy Success and Intelligence Failure" by John O. Brennan
CIA of the Future" by David S. Cohen (15-09-2015).
Does Not Keep Secrets Merely for Secrecy’s Sake" by John O. Brennan
Intelligence in a Transforming World"
by John O. Brennan (13-03-2015).