Office of the Director of National Intelligence
Importance of Interaction Between the Military
and the Intelligence Community is Critical
Office of the Director of National
Intelligence -- As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates,
Virginia, Wednesday, May 25, 2011.
Source : US Department of Defense.
Thank you. I’m honored to be here today.
This has been a good month for the intelligence community.
And while operations have gotten a lot of attention lately – and rightly so – we
analysts still have our place. One of the lessons I took from my years at CIA
was to take a hard look at what appear to be clever or elegant operations – the
kind that supposedly can’t go wrong. When I was deputy DCI in the 1980s, I was
briefed on a plan to launch balloons into Libya dropping leaflets telling the
people to overthrow the government. I told them to make sure the leaflets
specifically said that it was Qaddafi they were to overthrow. I could imagine
strong westerly winds carrying balloons with a generic “overthrow your
government” right across Libya and into Egypt. I thought President Mubarak would
not be pleased.
Clearly a few things have changed since then – and I
certainly have some empathy for those caught by surprise. I’ve had my own
embarrassing moments on that front, one of which came early in my career, when I
was in Geneva, Switzerland as an intelligence adviser in the fall of 1973. I was
giving Ambassador Paul Nitze his morning intelligence briefing, and his eye was
caught by one item in particular – CIA’s analysis that Egypt would not attack
Israel. Nitze asked me if I spoke French. I said no. He asked if I listened to
the radio. I said no. He said, “Well, if you listened to the radio and
understood French you would have known before you came in here that Egypt has
already attacked Israel.” Unbeknownst to me, the Yom Kippur War had begun that
But history aside, I’d most like to speak just about the
progress we’ve made –the critical importance of cooperation and interaction
between the military and the intelligence community, an area that has vastly
improved in the past decade. After Vietnam, the CIA and military cultures had
diverged – at least until September 11, 2001. Indeed, when I was in Baghdad with
the Iraq study group in September 2006, I spent an hour or so with the COS. And
I asked him about the CIA-military relationship. He replied, ‘oh sir, it’s so
much better than when you were DCI.”
It a lot of took work and a lot of talent to get us here. As
you may know, I was opposed to the creation of the DNI position and apparatus
back in 2004. I was convinced that the DCI could be strengthened to accomplish
the goals set forth by the 9/11 commission. I was very surprised, then, to be
asked in January 2005 by President Bush to become the first DNI. After much
soul-searching, I declined, and then told my wife I never again would need to
worry about being asked to return to government. Another of my great analytical
The formal bureaucratic set-up and lines of authority for the
community are not ideal, and the defense department is still the 800 pound
gorilla of our interagency system that it always was and probably always will be.
But, what I’ve found over the years is that what matters most to make government
function are not organization charts, but people and relationships. In
particular, what’s key to making the DNI office work is the chemistry between
the DNI and the other leaders of the intelligence community. And in that regard,
especially moving forward, I think we’ve got something of dream team.
First and foremost, Jim Clapper. I’ve known him for over
twenty years, and he was actually the only person that I hired and brought with
me when I became Secretary of Defense, to fill the job of Under Secretary for
Intelligence. He’s also the only person who had only one condition before he
would accept the position – I had to call his wife and explain why he was going
back into government. He also after he got this job gave me a little sign that
hangs in my office with a quote from the great philosophers Laurel and Hardy
“It’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into.” Now when the DNI post was
created, some were looking for a “big boss” authority figure, but structurally
that’s impossible, because virtually none of the heads of the intelligence
agencies actually work for the DNI. But largely due to Jim’s efforts, both at
DOD and as DNI, over the past few years we’ve worked out arrangements to
strengthen the DNI’s role by various side agreements between the Secretary of
Defense, Director of CIA, and the DNI, regarding personnel appointments,
division of responsibility, and similar issues. Jim is the consummate
intelligence professional who has the respect of virtually everyone in
intelligence, no small feat in our sometime fractious community.
And he has an able collaborator in the current Under
Secretary for Intelligence, Mike Vickers. Like Jim, Mike has an ideal blend of
military and intelligence experience – he had a legendary career as an Army
Special Forces officer and at CIA. I must tell you that when Charlie Wilson’s
War the movie version came out, Mike told me his daughters were very distressed
– they were hoping Brad Pitt would play him. But at Defense, Mike has proven a
master at breaking down bureaucratic walls and overcoming parochial obstacles to
forge a close working relationship between the military and the intelligence
community. The result of this collaboration has been a rout of Al Qaeda in Iraq
and the relentless – and recently especially fruitful – assault on the Taliban
and Al-Qaeda leadership in central Asia.
I believe the close working relationship that Mike, Jim, Leon
Panetta, and I have established is replicated and even stronger in the field.
The incredibly successful joint CIA-Defense operation that brought down Bin
Laden is without a doubt going to prove a model for future operations.
Maintaining chemistry of the command team that got us here is one of the reasons
I advocated for Leon as my successor at Defense, because our efforts – and our
interagency cooperation – can still improve.
While at the tactical and operational level we have seen real
innovation and gains, I remain concerned about the quality of our intelligence
at the political and strategic level. Our ability to “see” into other nations
with our constellations of satellites is second to none, but, as Clausewitz
noted, “the map is not the territory.” Knowing what other governments – and as
we’ve seen recently, populations – are capable of and, more importantly, what
they intend, has always been a serious challenge for American intelligence – and
it will remain so. It’s one of the reasons I’m glad to see Dave Petraeus take
over at CIA – understanding the broader economic and cultural climate in which
our troops and the enemy operate has been priority of his in Afghanistan, and he
knows better than anyone that we’ll have to expand beyond traditional
intelligence sources and methods to get the information we’ll need going forward.
As I prepare to leave our mission to these capable men – and
to all of you here – I’m reminded that what hasn’t changed from those grim years
of the cold war when I began my career is that we still face a dangerous world,
one that grows ever more complex and unpredictable. A world that calls on
America’s best and brightest to come forward and endure dangers and hardships in
service to their country.
I’d like to close with something the wise Richard Helms had
to say about the role of the intelligence community – that “the nation to a
degree must take it on faith that we are honorable men devoted to her service.”
Helms, of course, was referring to the necessary secrecy with which the men and
women in American Intelligence do their jobs. We all know that some of the
greatest victories of U.S. intelligence will never be known by our fellow
citizens. Attacks, plots, and schemes that died anonymous, quiet, deserved
deaths. These victories were celebrated with perhaps a raised coffee cup in
salute or a quiet “well done” behind closed doors. And then, without fanfare,
the silent, unending work of keeping our country safe begins again. It was a
great privilege of my life to be part of your ranks for many years. I salute you
for what you do every day to keep our country safe.
Thank you. Now I’ll take some questions.