By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2013 – In a global environment where crises such as the one occurring in Syria become sudden priorities and where fiscal, cyber and geopolitical disasters simmer on the world’s back burners, intelligence is a critical guarantor of U.S. national security, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency said here last week.
Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn spoke to those attending a panel on intelligence community challenges and priorities at the Intelligence and National Security Alliance Summit. INSA is a nonprofit public-private organization whose members include current and former high-ranking intelligence, military and government agency leaders, analysts and experts.
“In light of future trends … and in light of the absolutely critical role of intelligence for our national security, we must do the following,” Flynn said. “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 these undertakings must be woven into the fabric and culture of DIA and everything it does.
“At DIA,” he said, “we have already laid the groundwork for that future.”
The agency recently reorganized into a centers-based model that networks and integrates talent from across the agency — analysts, collectors, collections managers, technicians, technical experts, targeteers — and brings them together as one team to solve critical problems, Flynn said, describing the model as a “critical personal lesson that I learned from the past decade of war.”
At the core of the centers are the following three qualities, the general explained.
– A fusion of analysis and collection, which, based on experience from Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, is the most successful model for intelligence production and support;
– Flexibility, so team members no longer have to contend with organizational boundaries; and
– Integration, as each center has interagency embeds from across the intelligence community and tight relationships with combatant commands and service intelligence centers.
“That’s not the model that we had coming into the last decade of war,” he said.
Today, Flynn said, DIA’s Middle East-Africa Regional Center, in close coordination 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, is handling the DIA assessments of the Syria crisis.
“And I have the utmost faith that they have the right talent, the right tools and the right resources to get the job done,” he said.
The agency also has pushed more of its intelligence professionals — collectors and analysts — into the field to “thicken the edges,” the general said, ensuring that they and the agency have an appreciation and working understanding of developments across the globe.
“My constant drumbeat is to make the edge the center,” Flynn said. “The unique perspective of these officers in the field often made the crucial difference in our support to policymakers during the [al-Qaida] threats in Yemen, operations in Mali, instability in Egypt and certainly growing unrest in Syria.”
Recently, he added, feedback from an intelligence officer in a particular country went directly to the secretary of defense in advance of his talks to allies about instability in the Middle East.
As the United States finds itself with new national security crossroads to navigate, the general observed, DIA is focused on being in the right place at the right time.
Flynn said DIA’s role in the U.S. government’s response to the crisis in Syria has been intense and continuous from the beginning.
“In our agency we have over 6,000 civilians who have served in a combat environment in the last decade,” he said. “That’s pretty extraordinary. Those that served in Iraq and focused on … al-Qaida, … but certainly on the Middle East militaries and the kinds of capabilities they have. They’re worth their weight in gold right now.”
The Defense Intelligence Agency is deeply involved as a member of the community, the general added. DIA, he said, is part 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 also is involved on the policy side, he said.
“We have provided what I would call the nation’s experts on chemical warfare to the State Department. They are today helping Secretary [John F.] Kerry negotiate that issue. They were called on a dime, and the individual I’m thinking about in this case absolutely jumped right into it,” Flynn said.
The crisis in Syria shows how rapidly a challenge from the list of global threats can bubble up to the surface and completely change the nation’s course and commitment of resources, the general said.
Another such issue on the horizon, he noted, could be the tactical use of cyberattacks for strategic purposes.
“We are all aware of the cyber threat,” Flynn said.
Summit attendees spent a significant part of the afternoon talking about a range of cybersecurity topics, he said, from rogue hackers to insider threats to state-sponsored actors.
In May, the general added, appropriately at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in no uncertain terms that the destructive potential of cyberattacks has become the national security challenge of the age.
“While we grow ever more worried about threats to infrastructure in our increasingly wired society, DIA is increasingly focused on threats that can degrade our military capabilities,” Flynn said.
Militarized cyber weapons are a new world for DIA, he added, one in which the agency needs to understand the doctrine and intent of cyber foes to best manage the risk such enemies pose to the nation.
“DIA has been the all-source leader on enemy doctrine and discipline, order-of-battle research and offensive capabilities for more than 50 years,” Flynn said.
The agency is working hard with its intelligence community partners, he added, “to understand the security challenges that we face in our era.”
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