ROBERT STEELE: The IC, DoD, and oversight agencies such as OMB and GAO have not sought to audit government spending on OSINT and probably could not do so effectively with the combination of ignorance on the part of the auditors and recalcitrance on the part of those who should be audited. The closest anyone came to setting the stage for this was in 2000 when Sean O’Keefe, DD/OMB, established code M320 to tag all spending by the US Government on contractor provision of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT). When O’Keffe moved to NASA, the impetus for getting OSINT right died. More recently, Joe Markowitz and Robert Steele met with senior civil servants at OMB and got a second approval for the Open Source Agency (OSA) contingent on a Cabinet secretary asking for it. There was universal agreement the OSA should not be under secret community management but rather under diplomatic and/or commercial agency auspices. Joe Markowitz and Robert Steele continue to favor Markowitz’s original idea, that the OSA be a sister-agency to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). It would of course provide near-real-time feed of all OSINT to the high side, the secret side, but all OSINT would remain outside the wire for liberal sharing with any other actor US or foreign.
What is known is that DoD treats OSINT as a technical processing challenge (this is ineffective since 80% or more of OSINT is not published, not digital, and not online); that ABLE DANGER was a very expensive program that included both digital OSINT and the digitization of visa application; that Document Exploitation (DOCEX) has received a great deal of investment within DIA, to the point that seriously silly claims have been made to justify new SES/DISL positions, e.g. that DOCEX is its “own” discipline. The two largest contracts in OSINT, both hosed by the client with the contractors going along, are the L-3 provision of OSINT technical and subject matter support to the CIA’s Open Source Center (the latter is NOT, by any stretch of the imagination, a national capability, just an over-hyped internal capability whose budget has been cut in half since the conversation from being the Foreign Broadcast Information Service) and the SOS International contract with USSTRATCOM to provide butts in seats that pretend to do IO/online OSINT monitoring (more idiocy).
Over-all, including classified projects, including DARPA and IARPA and hidden relationships with Google, Facebook, and Twitter, among others, and including non-secret non-national security element spending on open sources and what pass for methods, is no less than one billion a year, probably around three billion a year, and when counting all the buried pieces (e.g. contractors doing Mission X and creating their own OSINT support that is still not available for the CIA OSC), perhaps as much as five billion a year. All out of control, lacking any combination of intelligence and integrity, as much if not more of a waste than the $80 billion plus spent on technical collection that is not processed, with little regard for human intelligence and advanced analytics, all to provide “at best” 4% of what the President or a major commander requires to make good decisions.
The US Intelligence Community is irresponsible in the extreme with respect to its mission: producing decision-support for the US Government at all levels on any subject pertaining to national policy, acquisition, or operations. It will take a quarter century to unscrew the secret world, that that will only start once We the People re-establish honest government, beginning with the elimination of the two-party tyranny. What can be fixed, and fixed quickly, is federal policy and spending on OSINT — for that, we only need one honest Cabinet official or an honest D/OMB. The slower fix is already in motion, the public fix that by-passes the federal government entirely, and creates a new hybrid network for OSINT such as now exists for Free/Open Source Software (F/OSS). In my judgment it is a terrible mistake on the part of the federal government–a serious betrayal of the public trust–to be irresponsible about the craft of intelligence and to be oblivious to the urgency of creating a Smart Nation with OSINT as the foundation for M4IS2: Multinational, Multiagency, Multidisciplinary, Multidomain Information-Sharing and Sense-Making.
One bright spot: ADM James Stavridis, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) and Commander of United States European Command (USEUCOM), is now on record as saying that NATO has reached the limits of what can be done by force, that NATO must now look to “open source security” as a means of preventing and remediating government and societal collapses. This was the essence of what I personally briefed to all the generals and colonels in charge of military intelligence across all NATO/PfP countries, in 2000.