Officials: Defense-Intelligence Integration Strongest Since 9/11

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8, 2011 — The 9/11 attacks on the U.S. home­land forged a bond between the Defense Depart­ment and nation­al-mis­sion intel­li­gence agen­cies that has nev­er been stronger and that grows with each new chal­lenge, defense offi­cials said in the days before the tragedy’s 10th anniver­sary.

“The biggest change in intel­li­gence capa­bil­i­ties since 9/11 has occurred with­in intel­li­gence orga­ni­za­tions … and not across them,” Michael G. Vick­ers, under­sec­re­tary of defense for intel­li­gence, told Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice.

“Improved intel­li­gence is more about focus, pri­or­i­ties, addi­tion­al capac­i­ty and new capa­bil­i­ties,” he added.

Four of the five big nation­al intel­li­gence agen­cies are part of the Defense Depart­ment, Vick­ers said. These are the Defense Intel­li­gence Agency, the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency, the Nation­al Geospa­tial-Intel­li­gence Agency and the Nation­al Recon­nais­sance Office.

The CIA is an inde­pen­dent agency whose pri­ma­ry cus­tomer is the pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States.

The need for improve­ment among intel­li­gence agen­cies was addressed in the 2004 report of the Nation­al Com­mis­sion of the Ter­ror­ist Attacks Upon the Unit­ed States, called the 9/11 Com­mis­sion.

Accord­ing to the report, legal, pol­i­cy and cul­tur­al bar­ri­ers among fed­er­al agen­cies, includ­ing intel­li­gence agen­cies, seri­ous­ly imped­ed the kind of infor­ma­tion shar­ing that might have dis­rupt­ed the 9/11 attacks.

This month, in a “Tenth Anniver­sary Report Card” to the nation on how com­mis­sion rec­om­men­da­tions have been imple­ment­ed, 9/11 Com­mis­sion Chair­man Thomas Kean and Vice Chair­man Lee H. Hamil­ton said key intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty rela­tion­ships seem to be improv­ing and mov­ing in a con­struc­tive direc­tion.

“Infor­ma­tion shar­ing with­in the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and among fed­er­al, state, local author­i­ties and with allies, while not per­fect,” the report authors said, “has con­sid­er­ably improved since 9/11.”

Part of the improve­ment results from an intel­li­gence bud­get that has risen to more than $80 bil­lion, more than dou­ble what was spent in 2001, they added, and fed­er­al, state and local author­i­ties inves­ti­gate leads and share infor­ma­tion in 72 fusion cen­ters and 105 joint ter­ror­ism task forces.

“The FBI, CIA and the broad­er intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty have imple­ment­ed sig­nif­i­cant reforms,” they said, “dis­rupt­ing many plots and bring­ing to jus­tice many ter­ror­ist oper­a­tives.”

In response to com­mis­sion rec­om­men­da­tions and to uni­fy and focus the com­mu­ni­ty, in 2004 Con­gress cre­at­ed the Office of the Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence, which assumed many func­tions of the posi­tions of direc­tor and deputy direc­tor of Cen­tral Intel­li­gence.

At the same time, Con­gress cre­at­ed the Nation­al Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Cen­ter, part of the ODNI, with experts from the CIA, FBI, Defense Depart­ment and oth­er agen­cies.

Cre­ation of the Office of the ODNI and DNI “lets the CIA direc­tor focus on the core busi­ness of run­ning the CIA and its many activ­i­ties and oper­a­tions,” Vick­ers said.

The ODNI has pro­vid­ed more depth on such jobs as over­sight of intel­li­gence resources, he added, not­ing that man­ag­ing the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty was one of three jobs for the for­mer direc­tor of cen­tral intel­li­gence.

But new posi­tions and cen­ters do not dri­ve the depth of inte­gra­tion occur­ring among DOD and nation­al-mis­sion intel­li­gence agen­cies, he said.

Today, many “intel­li­gence agen­cies are embed­ded in each other’s orga­ni­za­tions,” Vick­ers said, ” … and a lot of the inte­gra­tion has been hor­i­zon­tal and dri­ven by mis­sion and not imposed top down” by the DNI.

“The ana­lyt­i­cal com­mu­ni­ty had gen­er­al­ly been pret­ty inte­grat­ed,” Vick­ers said, adding that there has been much more inte­gra­tion among those who per­form oper­a­tional intel­li­gence func­tions.

“So [sig­nals intel­li­gence] and [geospa­tial intel­li­gence] and oth­ers are embed­ded in each other’s orga­ni­za­tions, we have more CIA rep­re­sen­ta­tives around in the com­mands, and there’s just a lot more orga­ni­za­tion­al inte­gra­tion than there’s been in the past,” Vick­ers added, not­ing that he speaks dai­ly with the CIA act­ing direc­tor and the per­ma­nent deputy direc­tor.

These orga­ni­za­tions, the under­sec­re­tary said, “have com­mon cause like they’ve nev­er had before and they need each other’s capa­bil­i­ties to get the job done.”

In Vick­ers’ cur­rent posi­tion, he said among his top pri­or­i­ties are “to make sure we have even tighter inte­gra­tion between defense and nation­al intel­li­gence and between our spe­cial oper­a­tions forces and intel­li­gence, as demon­strat­ed by the bin Laden raid.”

In the face of declin­ing bud­gets, the under­sec­re­tary added, the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty must max­i­mize its capa­bil­i­ties.

“As we decide which tech­nolo­gies or resources to invest in, and how much struc­ture to keep, it’s impor­tant that we do this across the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty,” Vick­ers said.

“The DNI, the sec­re­tary of defense and in my posi­tion as exer­cis­ing author­i­ty, direc­tion and con­trol on behalf of the sec­re­tary,” he added, “it’s very impor­tant that the three of us work that very close­ly.”

At the Defense Intel­li­gence Agency, Deputy Direc­tor for Analy­sis Jef­frey N. Rapp said inte­gra­tion among DOD, DIA and the rest of the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty is “one of the real­ly big suc­cess sto­ries for DIA.”

Col­lab­o­ra­tion with DOD sis­ter agen­cies such as NSA and NGA has been “superb,” Rapp said, and has improved with oth­er agen­cies in the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty, includ­ing CIA.

“Our ana­lysts cer­tain­ly work very well togeth­er,” Rapp said. “On a dai­ly basis they inter­act and col­lab­o­rate on pro­duc­tion,” includ­ing prod­ucts that go to the pres­i­dent.

The deputy direc­tor for analy­sis said he and his CIA coun­ter­part meet reg­u­lar­ly and work togeth­er in sev­er­al intel­li­gence forums, and that the orga­ni­za­tions joint­ly host ana­lyt­ic con­fer­ences.

“They attend our con­fer­ences and we attend theirs,” he added, “so they’re full-blown mem­bers and col­lab­o­ra­tive part­ners on a wide vari­ety of top­ics and pro­duc­tion areas for us.”

Inter­nal­ly, Rapp said, DIA has become an expe­di­tionary com­bat sup­port agency.

“We’ve got almost 150 ana­lysts deployed for­ward right now,” he said. “I don’t think that was the pat­tern pre-9/11. In cer­tain niche areas we’d deploy an ana­lyst here or there, but DIA in my view real­ly stepped up to the plate in terms of pro­vid­ing sub­ject mat­ter exper­tise and ana­lyt­ic capa­bil­i­ty.”

As DIA has engaged over the past decade in Oper­a­tion Endur­ing Free­dom and Oper­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom, Rapp said, infor­ma­tion shar­ing with coali­tion part­ners has improved dra­mat­i­cal­ly.

“The agen­cies have real­ized a need to do this to enable mis­sion accom­plish­ment at the front end, so you see high­ly inte­grat­ed efforts on the bat­tle­field where infor­ma­tion has per­isha­bil­i­ty, it’s oper­a­tional­ly focused and it’s need­ed to con­duct oper­a­tions,” he said.

“Everybody’s come to the table on that,” Rapp added. “When you go for­ward, you find CIA, NSA, NGA, DIA — every­body work­ing togeth­er right there on the floor in a tac­ti­cal oper­a­tions cen­ter or sup­port­ing a com­mand. It’s real­ly pret­ty remark­able the kind of col­lab­o­ra­tion and inte­gra­tion that’s going on to enable oper­a­tions.”

As far back as Desert Storm, he said, there was shar­ing but it was clunky — stovepiped in some places, pro for­ma in oth­ers.

“Today it’s much more enabled because lead­er­ship at the high­est lev­els in the ODNI, in the agen­cies, have got­ten behind it and fig­ured out a way to do it with­out com­pro­mis­ing sen­si­tive mate­r­i­al and sources,” Rapp said.

Joint duty has also helped fos­ter inte­gra­tion, the deputy direc­tor for analy­sis said.

In 1986 Con­gress passed the Gold­wa­ter-Nichols Act, man­dat­ing that pro­mo­tion to high rank in the mil­i­tary ser­vices required duty with a dif­fer­ent ser­vice or a joint com­mand.

In 2007, then-DNI Mike McConnell signed imple­ment­ing instruc­tions for the intel­li­gence community’s Civil­ian Joint Duty Pro­gram, a civil­ian per­son­nel rota­tion sys­tem.

“That’s start­ing to make a dif­fer­ence as we send our per­son­nel out to work in oth­er agen­cies and with­in the com­mu­ni­ty in oth­er posi­tions,” Rapp said.

“They come back with a dif­fer­ent under­stand­ing of how those agen­cies [and those cul­tures] work and how they do busi­ness, and … oth­er agen­cies send folks here and get that same under­stand­ing.”

All over the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty, Rapp said, lead­er­ship at all lev­els stress­es col­lab­o­ra­tion.

“If lead­er­ship isn’t … demand­ing that it be made a part of the cul­ture, it doesn’t hap­pen,” he said, “And lead­er­ship is tru­ly com­mit­ted at many lev­els to try to make this work bet­ter.”

Per­haps the most vis­i­ble result of the increased inte­gra­tion among defense and nation­al-mis­sion intel­li­gence agen­cies was the suc­cess­ful assault this year on the com­pound in Abbot­tabad, Pak­istan, that killed Osama bin Laden.

“Hav­ing been at CIA on the day of the Bin Laden oper­a­tion, that was for me a crys­tal­liz­ing moment,” George Lit­tle, who served as direc­tor of pub­lic affairs dur­ing Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panetta’s tenure as CIA direc­tor, told Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice.

“It wasn’t about what uni­form you wear or what badge you wear or what orga­ni­za­tion you work for,” said Lit­tle, who is now press sec­re­tary for the Defense Depart­ment.

“Both the U.S. mil­i­tary and the CIA were one team, one fight, and in this case one oper­a­tion,” he added. “It’s a vivid and obvi­ous­ly high-pro­file exam­ple of the coop­er­a­tion that can take place and I think that’s going to con­tin­ue.”

On the 9/11 Commission’s descrip­tion of bar­ri­ers to infor­ma­tion shar­ing among intel­li­gence agen­cies, Lit­tle said the impor­tant point to real­ize “is that on 9/12, both orga­ni­za­tions imme­di­ate­ly went to work to pro­tect the nation and have been at a wartime ops tem­po ever since.”

In the CIA’s Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Cen­ter, Lit­tle said, “a sign hangs to this day that says, ‘Today is 9/12.’ And I think both the CIA and the U.S. mil­i­tary are oper­at­ing with that kind of sense of pur­pose.”

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