Home or away, intelligence investment is of increasing importance
This past year, the impact of intelligence on immediate threats to the United States, its allies, and the world has been noted in the successes seen against the Islamic State group, both in terms of coordinating effective airstrikes on militant targets and in reducing jihadist recruitment into the battlespace.
"If you want to know why our operation's quantifiably more effective today than they were a year and a half ago, it's because our intelligence is getting much better," confirmed Marine General Joe Dunford. “I won't go into great detail right now, but in terms of how you fully harness the intelligence community — getting the right people in the right places to do target development — has been something that, frustrating to me, we relearned. But over the last several months, I think we've made some improvements that result in the progress that we have made."
At time of writing, 3,600 Coalition airstrikes are understood to have eliminates thousands of targets and fighters since operations began. Meanwhile, the flow of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq have dropped from roughly 2,000 a month to 200 within the past year.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter has praised the "sharing and fusing" of information as being largely responsible in the prevention of attacks and the restriction of foreign fighters' movements. This fusion extends to national security services and those operating in the digital space. Important wins have included the obtaining of a 22,000 document cache leaked from IS bookkeepers that revealed the names of thousands of IS recruits. Several major terror plots against domestic targets are also said to have been thwarted.
In spite of these successes, the need for improvement continues, particularly as capability comes under increased pressure to keep up with demand.
Foreign and homeland technology
The NSA is planning to launch an innovative acquisition marketplace designed to improve the process and cost-effectiveness of private solutions employed by the agency.
Jennifer Walsmith, NSA senior acquisition executive, admitted that the agency’s industrial base is struggling with attracting and retaining talent, saying, “We have more people leaving right now in our industrial base to the commercial market.”
One of the major problems has been the disconnect between the commercial sector and the government, with private companies outside of the defense industrial base not having enough familiarity with the federal acquisition process and culture to find a foot in the door – or even to become aware of the opportunities available to them. As a result, an overhaul is underway in the form of ‘NSA 21’, which seeks to encourage the development of innovative products and services by moving away from the traditional in-house development strategy.
The CIA is also in the process of a shakeup, standing up its first new directorate in more than half a century. The Directorate for Digital Innovation (DDI), established in October 2015, is designed specifically to accelerate the integration of new techniques and technologies throughout the agency.
A preceding review had determined that the agency needs to modernize its leadership and embrace new cyber capabilities. The DDI, as the CIA’s fifth directorate, will therefore promote change in the agency’s digital strategic framework, improving IT systems and training models.
CIA Director John Brennan described the launch of the DDI as a milestone on the agency’s ‘modernization journey’
“The modernization effort is about much more than changing the way CIA is organized,” Brennan said. “It is about how we work together every day to bring the best of the agency to the challenges we face."