Changes Coming to Intelligence Communities
Changes Coming to
Intelligence Communities, Official Says
By Claudette Roulo, American
Forces Press Service.
Washington D.C. – (AFPS)
– June 3, 2014 – A tremendous change has taken place in U.S. intelligence
capabilities over the past decade, and even bigger changes are underway,
Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael G. Vickers said today.
Speaking at a Center for Strategic and International Studies
forum, Vickers said the nation faces an assortment of national security
challenges, including several permutations of al-Qaida and its affiliates,
homegrown violent extremists, unrest in the Middle East and North Africa,
Russian revanchism, cyber threats and the proliferation of weapons of mass
"While we've had a lot of success in severely degrading the
al-Qaida core in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region, they continue to pose a
threat, in particular a [constitutional] threat down the road," Vickers said.
"But the three biggest threats are al-Qaida in the Arabian
Peninsula -- centered in Yemen -- and the growing al-Qaida threat in Syria and
al-Qaida's affiliates, … who are spread elsewhere and who are taking advantage
of what we call metastasization … across the Middle East and North Africa. … And
so this really remains job one for the intelligence community and our special
operations forces," he told the audience.
The Syrian civil war is a particularly vexing national
security challenge, Vickers said.
"It's a horrific civil war, with 150,000 dead,” he said.
“It's a humanitarian crisis of mind-boggling proportions, with some 9 million
internally displaced [persons] or refugees who have fled the country. … And, of
course, it's giving rise to a significant terrorism threat."
President Barack Obama has stressed that the United States is
committed to supporting the Syrian opposition in their fight against Syrian
President Bashar Assad, the undersecretary said. "We'll work with the Congress
to ramp up our support for the opposition," he added.
The most concerning aspect of Russia's taking of the Crimean
Peninsula and involvement in Ukrainian politics is the destabilizing effect
these actions are having on the region, Vickers said. "While Russian forces have
pulled back their troops from the border region, they have not ceased their
support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, and that threat remains
to the government of Ukraine and its territory," he explained.
Cyber threats range from the theft of intellectual property
to destructive attacks, the undersecretary said. "Over the past couple of years,
we've had destructive attacks against South Korea, against Saudi Arabia, and
denial-of-service attacks against the U.S. financial sector," he said, adding
that the probability is high that there will be more destructive attacks in the
These challenges are broad and enduring, Vickers said. "Taken
together, these are highly asymmetric challenges," he said, and solving them
will require a series of "offset" strategies -- oblique approaches designed to
address a specific aspect of each challenge.
"Also critical to dealing with this set of enduring
challenges is the continued economic and technical leadership of the United
States, which … is a national security imperative,” he said.
Intelligence is the first line of defense in national
security, Vickers said. It informs national security policy, enables
intelligence-driven precision operations, provides commanders and the commander
in chief with options, and it prevents strategic surprise. "Intelligence is a
significant source of advantage for the United States. … It's an advantage
that's very important to us, but it's also one that has to be used aggressively,
but also prudently, to make sure we're helping our leaders solve problems and
not adding to their problems," Vickers said.
The United States is making a number of investments to
sustain its intelligence advantage well into the future, the undersecretary told
the audience. "There are big changes ahead in the way we use our overhead space
architecture -- some of the biggest changes that we've seen in several decades,"
he said. "It will be possible … to have persistence we've never had before."
Through the Defense Clandestine Service, the Defense
Department will strengthen its human intelligence and cryptanalytic capabilities,
the undersecretary said.
The Predator and Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles have become
the "signature weapon" of counterterrorism operations over the past decade,
Vickers said. "It has enabled the most precise counterterrorism campaign in the
history of warfare, and it is our most effective instrument," he added. "We are
very healthy in this area, but we are looking to make advancements in some
advanced sensors as well as extending the range of our second-generation
The Defense Department is making significant progress as it
seeks to develop a cyber force and its associated support structures, the
undersecretary said. "The key to making that cyber force effective … has really
been our partnerships with industry, … particularly in the area of information
sharing," he said.
Separately, the sharing of information within and between
agencies has vastly improved in the years since 9/11, Vickers said. "Our
intelligence agencies work much closer together,” he added. “It's hard to find a
case where a single intelligence agency has been responsible for a significant
intelligence breakthrough or operation."
Vickers said he and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper have made it
their top priority to ensure that the national and defense intelligence
apparatuses are integrated and transparent to one another.
In addition, the national security strategy depends on
enabling partners, he said. "To make the national security apparatus effective
across the interagency -- both domestic and foreign -- also requires a high
degree of intelligence sharing," he added.
In that vein, Vickers said, DOD and the intelligence
community are modernizing their information technology systems to strike a
balance between the need to protect information while also distributing it.
(Follow Claudette Roulo on
Twitter: @rouloafps) :
Michael G. Vickers