Intelligence Enterprise Poised for Historic Transition
By Cheryl Pellerin, DoD News,
Defense Media Activity.
Washington D.C. – (DoD
News) – January 21, 2015 – The defense intelligence enterprise faces
unprecedented geopolitical challenges and technological change and at the same
time is poised for its most significant transformation in decades, Under
Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael G. Vickers said today.
Undersecretary of Defense for
Intelligence Michael G. Vickers
He expects the transition to posture future U.S. leaders with
the capabilities they’ll need to deal with emerging challenges, Vickers said
during a discussion on intelligence in a dynamic world this morning at the
Today, he noted, the challenges include everything from
instability across the broader Middle East and North Africa, sectarian conflict,
and wars that end only to begin again, to cyber threats increasing in range and
sophistication, and threats to space systems.
The challenges extend to proliferation of nuclear weapons and
delivery systems in North Korea and Iran, Russia's challenge to the European
order through proxy war and to the West through information warfare and the
development of advanced systems, and the continued rise of China.
Defense Intelligence Transformation
Vickers said the transformation “is something I hope will be
one of the hallmarks of my tenure as under secretary of defense for
On the importance of intelligence to national security, the
under secretary said intelligence is a major source of U.S. advantage.
“It’s our first line of defense for warning, particularly
given the array of global threats we face. It informs policy -- every National
Security Council meeting we have begins with intelligence briefings,” he added.
Intelligence increasingly drives operations and gives the
president “additional options in between force and diplomacy, sometimes with
very high leverage,” Vickers said, “and it helps prevent strategic surprise.”
Looking out at America's next decade, he added, “there are
plenty of reasons to be optimistic … but there are lots of storm clouds
An Aggregation of Challenges
The biggest challenge to the nation and the intelligence
community, the under secretary said, is in the aggregation of challenges.
“It’s not that any one challenge is so daunting,” Vickers
added, “it's that there are six of them that are all diverse, significant,
likely to be enduring, they have high asymmetric qualities, and some of them,
like cyber, are rather novel and we're just developing the capabilities we need
to deal with them.”
Vickers described the five areas that cover major elements of
the defense intelligence transformation, beginning with global coverage, which
he said provides the backbone of the defense intelligence system.
“We've made significant improvements in our overhead
architecture in the past decade and there are even bigger changes to come in the
next decade,” he said, adding that he couldn’t go into the details.
But, Vickers added, “those changes will provide much greater
persistence than we have today, much greater integration in terms of the system
of systems, and much greater resilience -- all important attributes given the
importance of our space systems and the threats to them.”
Also in terms of global coverage, he said the department must
continue investing in advanced cryptanalytic systems and strengthening its
strategic human intelligence capabilities.
“The Department of Defense has invested a lot in the past
couple of decades on our tactical and operational HUMINT capabilities, and now
we're reforming our strategic capabilities distributed around the globe,” he
The second area involves working in part with the larger
Department of Defense on projecting power into denied areas, “or what we call
anti-access/area denial environments, our most significant power-projection
challenge,” Vickers explained.
“At one level this is not new, if you go back to U-2 [spy
planes] and the advent of satellites. It’s just more modern forms,” he added.
“But in addition to systems it’s integration among various systems and the
development of new processes in terms of being able to fight in that environment
-- to find, fix and finish adversary systems.”
The third area is counterterrorism, Vickers said, adding,
“We’re not only sustaining but expanding our counterterrorism capabilities,
extending the range and the number of our systems while we continue to improve
the sensors that give us high fidelity targeting capabilities and multiple
Cyber Mission Forces
Cyber mission forces are the fourth area, he said, and the
department “is about two-thirds of the way done with [building] cyber mission
forces to defend the nation against a major cyber attack, to support the
operations of our combatant commanders, and to defend DoD's networks.”
Vickers added, “We still have some work to do in this area in
terms of building the intelligence infrastructure to support these operational
forces, but we’re fairly well along.”
The final area involves fighting back against insider threats
by modernizing the security system though something called continuous evaluation
-- a change in how the department does security clearance investigations, he
Intent of the Transformation
“It will take some years to implement, but if you think of
something like credit checks where you're constantly updating them, it’s the
same basic logic. And we’re strengthening our insider-threat systems within the
department and the intelligence community,” the under secretary said.
The intent of the transformation “is not just to deal with
the challenges we face and to make sure we sustain the intelligence advantage
for our policymakers and operators decades into the future,” Vickers said.
“It’s also to inform and enable some of the new strategic and
operational approaches that will be required to deal with these challenges,” he
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter @PellerinDoDNews)
Michael G. Vickers
Special Report: Defense Intelligence
The Defense Department on Facebook
The Defense Department on Twitter
DoD News on Facebook
DoD News on Twitter
DoD News Broadcast Channel