Updated 11 Dec 2012 to add Graphic: Intelligence Requirements, Collection, Evaluation, and Capabilities Building
The Senate moved last week to restrain the rapid growth of the Defense Clandestine Service, the Pentagon’s human intelligence operation.
Under a provision of the FY2013 defense authorization act that was approved on December 4, the Pentagon would be prohibited from hiring any more spies than it had as of last April, and it would have to provide detailed cost estimates and program plans in forthcoming reports to Congress.
“DoD needs to demonstrate that it can improve the management of clandestine HUMINT before undertaking any further expansion,” the Senate Armed Services Committee wrote in a report on the new legislation.
Longstanding problems with defense human intelligence cited by the Committee include: “inefficient utilization of personnel trained at significant expense to conduct clandestine HUMINT; poor or non-existent career management for trained HUMINT personnel; cover challenges; and unproductive deployment locations.”
The Committee noted further that “President Bush authorized 50 percent growth in the CIA’s case officer workforce, which followed significant growth under President Clinton. Since 9/11, DOD’s case officer ranks have grown substantially as well. The committee is concerned that, despite this expansion and the winding down of two overseas conflicts that required large HUMINT resources, DOD believes that its needs are not being met.”
Instead of an ambitious expansion, a tailored reduction in defense intelligence spending might be more appropriate, the Committee said.
“If DOD is able to utilize existing resources much more effectively, the case could be made that investment in this area could decline, rather than remain steady or grow, to assist the Department in managing its fiscal and personnel challenges,” the Senate Committee wrote.
The Washington Post published a revealing account of Pentagon plans to expand the size and reach of the defense human intelligence program in “DIA sending hundreds more spies overseas” by Greg Miller, December 1.
Along with overhead surveillance, bolstering human intelligence has been the focus of one of two major defense intelligence initiatives, said Under Secretary of Defense (Intelligence) Michael G. Vickers last October. The Defense Clandestine Service “enable[s] us to be more effective in the collection of national-level clandestine human intelligence across a range of targets of paramount interest to the Department of Defense,” he said.
The latest issues of the U.S. Army’s Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin, released under the Freedom of Information Act, are available here (in some very large pdf files).
“A Short History of Army Intelligence” by Michael E. Bigelow of US Army Intelligence and Security Command, dated July 2012, is available here.
ROBERT STEELE: The Senate is half right. DoD has not justified its Human Intelligence (HUMINT) capabilities short-falls because DoD has not actually done the heavy-lifting that the D/DH and DISL/DH should have known would be needed [01 itemize defense requirements demanding clandestine HUMINT collection; 02 document the failure of CIA over decades to address those defense requirements]. However, the Senate is also half wrong — CIA has not been held accountable for its persistent failure to address military needs (or the needs of anyone else for that matter), and the Senate is avoiding the tough question that needs to be asked: outside of a handful of non-official cover (NOC) officers that have not been blown (this excludes all the “lite” NOCs based in the USA), how do we justify CIA’s existing clandestine service when 90% of what it passes off as clandestine can be gotten by having one liaison officer in each foreign capital, and 50 analyst debriefers across the USA to handle the legal traveler debriefings?
Here is my prescription for satisfying the very legitimate Senate reservations about DoD HUMINT/CI:
First, you identify all of your requirements for foreign intelligence across all services and OSD functional areas.
Second, you triage out all of those requirements that can be answered by my long-standing and long-ignored FIND, GET, BUY, STEAL guidance — often we already know this but have lost it; often we can get it from an ally or coalition partner or even the Department of Commerce; and most often we can buy it from commercial intelligence practitioners (none in the USA that I would recommend).
Third, if you cannot FIND, GET, or BUY, you triage it out as ICMAP tried to do, among the classified collection disciplines, with the technical disciplines all being grossly over-funded and under-performing, each long over-due for a 50% cut in funding.
Where DoD has failed most miserably in the past several decades is in failing to be serious about structuring its requirements for foreign intelligence across all mission areas; prioritizing those requirements, and then holding CIA accountable for failing to meet 95% of DoD needs for foreign intelligence best acquired by HUMINT/OSINT.
DIA’s clandestine expansion plans are grandiose, unrealistic, unsupportable as well as undocumented, and very unlikely to do anything other than create another bureaucracy that is blown to every local counterintelligence service from day one, and a second laughingstock in the modern intelligence world (CIA being the first).
It merits observation that DoD’s concepts, doctrine, and practices for Information Operations (IO) are desperately in need of strategic, operational, tactical, and technical coherence. No matter what JP-3 might say, IO is not just about disrupting enemy IO while protecting friendly IO. Friendly IO stinks — it is incomplete, incoherent, and largely absent at all four levels (strategic, operational, tactical, technical). It is the sucking chest wound in Whole of Government, M4IS2, and Continuity of Government operations. Secret intelligence is 10% of all source intelligence, and all source intelligence is 10% of IO. Strategic Communication has been declared dead — and rightly so (it was never more than a concept for telling lies in a very expensive manner). What the Services and DoD now need to do is what they have avoided doing for fifty years: define the requirements, mission area by mission area, for prioritization of effort; policies; acquisition, and operations. Only then can a Service credibly document where it needs to reduce spending (MASINT, SIGINT, IMINT in that order) with offsetting increases (HUMINT/CI, OSINT, M4IS2).