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Intelligence Gathering Needed to Ensure National Security, DIA Director Says

by Wendy Innes, published
Defense Intelligence Agency / Wikimedia Commons

Defense Intelligence Agency / Wikimedia Commons

Intelligence is a critical guarantor of national security, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) said this week at the Intelligence and National Security Alliance Summit. When crisis arise, having the ability to gather the intelligence needed to ensure national security -- no matter what form that intelligence takes or where it comes from -- makes all the difference to securing the nation and providing our war fighters the information they need to get the job done.

Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn told the summit, "In light of future trends … and in light of the absolutely critical role of intelligence for our national security, we must do the following."

"We must adjust our operating model to refocus on our mission and our unique strengths. We must continually emphasize burden sharing, partnerships and integration. And we must instill flexibility and agility to respond to crises. That is our new normal."

Flynn said that these changes are the result of hard learned lessons over the last decade of war.

Indeed, prior to September 11, 2001, the country's intelligence gathering capabilities were fractured between multiple agencies that rarely communicated with one another and still expected threats to come from other nations, instead of terrorist organizations.

As an example of the "new normal,” Flynn used the ongoing situation in Syria. He said the DIA’s Middle East-Africa Regional Center is working closely with U.S. Central Command, the Joint Staff, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the White House to monitor the crisis.

Flynn further stated:

"Whether it's determining our support to the allied campaign in Libya, debating our relationship with Egypt after continuing shifts in power, or deciding our role in Afghanistan after U.S. troop withdrawal – we are constantly facing a wide and broad range of major security decisions, the dynamics of which are constantly shifting, and the effects of which will be felt for years and decades to come."

The Defense Intelligence Agency is integral as a member of "an integrated team supporting Central Command, European Command, Africa Command, certainly Cyber Command. And we also support the military planning that's going on at every level up to and including the Joint Staff." DIA is also involved in policy making.

Cyber security was a hot topic at the summit and attendees spent a significant amount of time discussing a variety of issues in regards to it, including inside threats and state-sponsored attacks. The militarization of these types of attacks is new to the DIA, one that it is actively trying to understand and counter.

Public debate about the future of intelligence gathering, particularly in the realm of cyber security, and what it means to national security continues, especially in light of the recent news reports that the National Security Agency (NSA) was collecting data about American citizens.

While some digging into the facts of the NSA's activity in that case show that the NSA was not spying on Americans any more than or do in collecting personal data, it again raises the ever present question of how much privacy must be sacrificed in the name of security.

As important as intelligence gathering is to national security, it is not immune to the financial problems the country is facing, according to Flynn.

"We are an extremely valuable asset to the national security enterprise,” he said, “and one whose demand signal is skyrocketing, while available resources for the foreseeable future will only be further constrained."

He added:

"Getting America's fiscal house in order is and should be a major priority for the U.S. government," Flynn said."Right now, though, we are strongly concentrating on maintaining the valuable and irreplaceable asset of intelligence and making sure we are managing sequestration so that we can maintain the strength and success of the community, absorb risk where we can, and invest for our future – the right training, regions, and issues where the next crossroads will pop up."

As with many other areas of defense, the DIA is being asked to do more with less.

Flynn said the DIA is in the process of its first-ever full audit and he has launched a special task force to focus on the agency’s reliance to spend money as wisely as possible. While mandates to cut waste are taken seriously, he said he also wants to make sure money is being allocated correctly so the agency can effectively fulfill its purpose to strengthen national security.

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