Changing World Challenges U
Changing World Challenges
U.S. Intelligence Community
By Claudette Roulo, American Forces
Washington D.C. – November 21, 2013 – (AFPS)
– In the past, intelligence personnel wouldn't be found participating in open
forums, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency said yesterday at a
Brookings Institution discussion on defense intelligence.
"I think that's a sign of the times for the kinds of things
that we are involved in, particularly ... [in] this open world," Army Lt. Gen.
Michael T. Flynn said. “There’s so much transparency going on between the
intelligence community and all others, and there has to be. There has to be more
The immense volume of open source information has increased
commanders’ intelligence needs and changed what sources they use, he said. Ten
or 15 years ago, intelligence briefings were primarily composed of what is
traditionally thought of as intelligence -- human intelligence, signals
intelligence, imagery intelligence -- with a little bit of open source
information thrown in.
"Today, it's almost 180 degrees flipped," Flynn said. "The
open world -- and the knowledge that exists and is available to all of us at the
push of a button -- [is] really smart. This is some really smart analysis that's
out there that's being written by people that are on the ground, seeing it for
how it is."
Whether that information is posted on a blog or on Twitter,
he said, "We cannot sit idle ... and not pay attention to that."
Freely accessible information is just one of the two driving
factors behind today’s intelligence imperatives, Flynn said.
The international fiscal situation is forcing intelligence
agencies to evaluate their priorities, including how they collaborate and how
they invest in current capabilities versus the next generation of ideas and
capabilities, he said.
Four "mega-trends" influence these factors: economic,
resources, information and population, the general said. "For the most part ...
these are trends that we can judge pretty accurately," he noted.
Of these four mega-trends, the rapid changes over the past
100 years in information and population trends are having the most impact, Flynn
Those changes were “stunning,” the general said, and the
world hasn’t yet come to grips with many of them despite already being nearly 15
years into the 21st century.
Flynn said that about half of DIA personnel are working on
the "edge" of the enterprise -- in combatant commands and forward environments
-- and for him, the question is how to leverage those resources. "How do we make
the edge the center?" he asked.
It's important to understand what is happening at the edge,
he said, and to make it the place where the best, most relevant and most timely
knowledge can be gained. “Then you bring it back to help shape the conversations
that are happening [in Washington, D.C.]," Flynn added.
The general said he expects that the nation’s need for
special operations forces, cyber capabilities and intelligence will only
increase in the coming years.
Special operations forces will not only continue their
counterterrorism mission, but will become increasingly involved in foreign
internal defense operations and building the capacity of partner nations, he
In some defense communities there’s still a belief that cyber
is a function of intelligence, or that intelligence and cyber are the same, but
that isn’t at all the case, Flynn said.
“Cyber is a capability that allows us to understand an
operational environment far better,” he said. “It allows us to see each other.
It allows us to communicate. It allows us to defend. It allows us to exploit. It
allows so many other things.”
And whenever possible, Flynn said, the United States’ cyber
capabilities should be used to help partner nations.
“I think there’s a tendency to think [cyber] is all about war
fighting or some negative,” he said, “and we have to look at it as how it can be
turned into a positive.”
For the intelligence community to succeed, it must be agile
and integrated with other agencies and partners, Flynn said, and it must have a
firm grasp of the operational environment.
That includes developing an understanding of social issues,
“Some of the regions that are out there in the world are
facing extraordinary challenges, and we have to have a much deeper operational
understanding of that. That means understanding the culture, understanding just
the humanity that’s out there,” the general said.
“I think the last key to success is about technology,” he
said, “but it’s not to lose sight of the human being in the loop.”
If intelligence’s role is to provide the kind of information
leaders need to be able to make better decisions, the intelligence community
must not let itself be pulled along by technology, Flynn said.
(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @RouloAFPS)