Phi Beta Iota: Speaking to the World Affairs Council on 6 November 2009, Admiral Dennis Blair, USN (Ret), now the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), offered up a faint-praise indictment of a national intelligence community that is pedestrian and mis-directed.
Top five prognostications:
Climate change accepted as a given top priority; state system still the foundation for analysis; technology search still focused on extraction of fossil fuels; potential for conflict grrowing; in 2025 the US will still be #1 power on Earth.
He stated that the goal of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) is to help policy-makers make wise policy; to provide effective actionable intelligence to the Whole of Government (WoG); and to move the IC toward the cutting edge of technology.
Here is what he did not say, and our critical comments:
No mention of the extraordinary waste and mis-direction accompanying an annual expenditure of $75 billion (roughly $50 billion he sort-of oversees, the rest in defense and not counting the off-budget stuff that Lockheed and others are doing).
No mention of the fact that we process less than 10% of what we collect, and that is being generous.
No mention of fact that we still do not have a geospatically-oriented all-source processing capability at the same time that our “all-source” analysts are spending up to 25% of their time trying to access disparate databases and Intelink remains–in the words of an Intelink manager–a “crapshoot.”
No mention of the fact that over a decade after the Aspin-Brown Commission declared that our access to open source information is “severely deficient” and should be a “top priority” for the DCI’s attention and a “top priority” funding, this is still a runt in the litter with no program line, no staff, and no adult direction.
No mention of the complete absence of any multinatinal multifunctional approach to information sharing and sense-making–the classified world is still bi-lateral and the Open Source Center (OSC) is still at 11 countries and paying lip service to all others.
Finally, no mention of the fact that the IC is NOT providing intelligence support to anyone other than a select cadre of national security (old definition of force on force) officials, and doing nothing at all for Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, etcetera, and certainly nothing of significance to how we train, equip, and organize the entirety of the U.S. Government for the future.
1) He mentions mathematicians and is probably unaware that the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is about to dismiss its best mathematician, a woman of Indian descent, because she won’t lie and her legacy managers with turgid brains cannot handle that.
2) He mentions tactical intelligence as if the IC were doing anything for the company commanders who had to create their own company-level intelligence analysis units out of hide, and neglects mentioning the complete incapacity of the IC with respect to the same problems that forced the US Marine Corps Intelligence Center to reject secrets and focus on open sources in 1988: Yemen, Somalia, Haiti, West Africa, pirates, gangs–you name it, the IC does not do it unless it can be done for hundreds of millions of dollars from outer space. Human Intelligence of all kinds in the IC is dead, dead, dead….
We have in the past given the DNI the benefit of the doubt. He is a good man with the best of intentions, and his desire to achieve WoG coherence is possibly unmatched within the ranks of those serving. However, taking all factors into account, we must now find the DNI to be a failure. He does not understand the modern world; the fact that everything is connected; the fact that “data entry” is something that cannot be achieved without a foundation that is both open and multinational; the fact that national intelligence must be judged on its outputs not its inputs; the fact that the USA is NOT going to be the #1 power in 2025, that honor will be shared by Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and perhaps Russia and Turkey….the list goes on. This is a good man sadly out of place (as are most of those surrounding the President, less Vice President Joe Biden, who may well be thinking about resigning–or should be).
Sadly, most of our detailed indictments in ON INTELLIGENCE: Spies and Secrecy in a Open World, remain valid. THAT is a crime against humanity, for properly done, Creating a Smart Nation is the one thing that is within the DNI’s unilateral power, and he simply does not get it, nor does he appear to want to get it. The White House is out of touch with the totality of reality and has no strategy, and the DNI is not doing a single thing to change that. See the HUMINT Trilogy for the dummy’s guide to doing good.
Our own presentation to the World Affairs Council in the auditorium at Main State remains relevant: