Intel Agency Director Cites Value of Shared Knowledge

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Ger­many, July 27, 2011 — A height­ened lev­el of shared knowl­edge, speed of infor­ma­tion and send­ing pro­fes­sion­als to the bat­tle­field are cru­cial to future mil­i­tary endeav­ors, the U.S. military’s top intel­li­gence offi­cer said here yes­ter­day.

Army Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess Jr., direc­tor of the Defense Intel­li­gence Agency, spoke to about 200 peo­ple at the Pro­gram on Ter­ror­ism and Secu­ri­ty Stud­ies and the Sem­i­nar on Transat­lantic Civ­il Secu­ri­ty at the George C. Mar­shall Euro­pean Cen­ter for Secu­ri­ty Stud­ies.

Although shar­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties may have pit­falls, such as the events lead­ing to the Wik­iLeaks pub­li­ca­tion of clas­si­fied mate­r­i­al, Burgess said, the val­ue of shar­ing infor­ma­tion tran­scends the tem­po­rary dam­age it may cause.

“You can’t let an event like that slow down what you know to be the good­ness of what it is you’re try­ing to do,” he said. “While that hap­pens, you need to fix what may have caused leaks like that and ensure you put safe­guards in place that allow you to pro­tect infor­ma­tion. You can’t let it detract you from what you’re try­ing to do over­all.”

Burgess said intel­li­gence prod­ucts are being shared to a degree he nev­er thought pos­si­ble, thanks to good rela­tion­ships. And the time to build those rela­tion­ships and the shar­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties they pro­vide, he added, is before things fall apart.

“When crises occur,” the gen­er­al said, “that is not the time to be build­ing rela­tion­ships.”

Speed of infor­ma­tion also is para­mount in his world, Burgess said, not­ing that the Inter­net, social media and “you name it” have raised that speed lim­it. He cit­ed “the commander’s eter­nal quest for cer­tain­ty” and the need for pol­i­cy mak­ers to move on events quick­ly as rea­sons his agency needs to get it right quick­ly.

“Every­body wants to know as much as they can. The speed of that sys­tem has tak­en on a whole new mean­ing,” he said. “Nobody wants to make deci­sions with only half of the puz­zle.”

With 875 peo­ple from his agency deployed in the­aters across the globe, Burgess cit­ed a water­shed change in busi­ness prac­tices that pulled the experts out from inside the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., Belt­way and put them side by side with the warfight­ers.

“Intel­li­gence is just one line of infor­ma­tion com­ing into a com­man­der,” he explained. “As such, they deserve our best assess­ment of what is going to hap­pen. They should demand it. We’ve had the most suc­cess when placed along­side oth­er intel­li­gence dis­ci­plines and agen­cies.”

Though his agency didn’t have an “upfront and cen­tral role” in find­ing and killing al-Qai­da leader Osama bin Laden, it did play a part in the May 2 oper­a­tion, Burgess said. The agency sup­port­ed the ele­ment that went in to do the mis­sion, he added, but “all source” intel­li­gence was the key to suc­cess, along with the fus­ing and shar­ing of that intel­li­gence infor­ma­tion.

“Very sel­dom does sin­gle intel­li­gence infor­ma­tion by itself pro­duce actu­al intel­li­gence,” he said. “It does hap­pen, but for the most part, it’s a fus­ing of all source intel­li­gence, and that’s what hap­pened with bin Laden. A lot of things came togeth­er.”

For his own part and the parts played by his team, Burgess was blunt. “We speak truth to pow­er. … We’re not paid to have a point of view,” he said.

Burgess also talked about the impor­tance both Mar­shall Cen­ter pro­grams have to the warfight­ers and the world at large.

“It demon­strates with each class the val­ue of shared knowl­edge,” he said. “At this very moment, our sol­diers, sailors, air­men and Marines are work­ing side by side on the bat­tle­field. We owe it to them to chal­lenge our­selves.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)