State of the US Intelligence Community 1

Foreign intelligence is an essential component of statecraft. Knowledge of the world around us is the prelude to decision and action in the formulation of foreign policy, diplomatic relations, treaty monitoring, and in the conduct of military operations. Intelligence includes the collection of data—both openly available and that denied us by our adversaries—and its analysis to enable the nation’s political leaders, civil servants, and military commanders to anticipate events, consider alternatives, and take decisive action.

Today, US Intelligence is strong, agile, and more capable than at any time in its history, yet not infallible or omnipresent. The diversity of the national security challenges we face poses unique problems for us as a nation and for the Intelligence Community in particular.  At the outset of fiscal year 2001 we were witnessing growing regional conflict in South Asia, stability in the Balkans, and heightened tensions with China. By the end of 2001, our focus had shifted and alliances were renewed as the nation went to war against global terrorists and the states that sponsor them. 

Fiscal year 2001 began with the continuation of a decade-long budget decline for US intelligence.  New sources and methods—often requiring large investments in cutting edge technology—were not financed; personnel costs continued to rise, driven by the aging of our work force and growing retirement costs; and our infrastructure, such as our aging information technology systems, began to break. Through tough budget trade-offs, new business practices and strong management, we managed to provide superior intelligence for the government. The FY01 Budget Supplemental, however, began the process of addressing the most critical Intelligence Community needs.

Increased Intelligence Community collaboration has been the key to our overall success in times of constrained resources, and over the past year it has reached unprecedented levels. Intelligence collected from the efforts of a variety of agencies is more readily integrated for processing, analysis, and dissemination. Consumers have access to more finished products derived from multiple sources through secure websites than ever before, and we are establishing links with a broad set of new customers, ensuring that they receive the intelligence they need, while protecting our tradecraft and sensitive intelligence sources. We also are cooperating extensively with foreign liaison services to increase our capabilities against terrorist and other intelligence targets.

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Challenges Ahead

The Intelligence Community faces a number of challenges, both substantive and administrative.  During FY 2001, with the help of the Congress and the White House, we have undergone many reviews of our activities and capabilities. 2  Our understanding of the substantive challenge ahead of us is quite good and we have begun to make investments in our capabilities against these threats with our FY 2003 budget submission.  These include:

  • Homeland Defense.  A variety of adversaries increasingly will target the US Homeland. The United States is likely to remain the dominant world power, and America will be viewed with a mix of admiration, envy, and sometimes hatred. The IC must be able to disseminate information to policymakers to forestall attacks and, if such efforts are unsuccessful, to provide the information needed to mitigate the effects of the attacks.
  • Precision Warfare.  Military threats will be quantitatively and qualitatively different. US involvement in overseas contingencies on very short notice will require flexibility. Precision in identifying enemy targets, providing safe ingress and egress routes for our military forces, neutralizing enemy detection and weapons systems, and minimizing or even eliminating collateral damage are important components of US military strategy. 
  • Crisis Warning and Prevention.  Warning of global crises will continue to be more difficult because of the scope and complexity of requirements and the speed of events. The need for intelligence information and sophisticated analysis to anticipate and avert foreign crises and immediate support to day-to-day or minute-to-minute activities will be an ongoing challenge.
  • Preventing Technological Surprise.  Revolutionary information technology capabilities will be available to friend and foe alike. The IC will have to provide accurate assessments of the scientific and technical capabilities of foreign nations and groups.
  • Protecting Intelligence Capabilities.  Adversaries will use new, highly effective means to detect and neutralize sensitive clandestine operations or technically sophisticated collection devices. Because of growing government and industry reliance on satellites, these systems and their supporting infrastructures increasingly will become potential high-value targets.  Traditional intelligence collection techniques will be the subject of even greater public and hence hostile foreign awareness. We must adopt new systems and methods to protect our collection, exploitation, and analytic capabilities.

The success of the Community in the years ahead will depend on the extent to which we leverage technology, manage our resources, invest in our people, collaborate across agency lines, merge databases, and streamline management.  The administrative challenges that face us in conducting global intelligence gathering and analysis are also well understood.  Many of our needed investments in this area will be addressed through the supplemental funds provided to the Community in FY 2002 and with the additional funding for intelligence proposed by the President in FY 2003.  Chief among these challenges are:

  • Maintaining a World-Class Work Force:  Continuing to recruit and maintain a work force with the skills and commitment to accomplish the mission. As a significant portion of our work force becomes eligible to retire over the next decade, we must ensure that we maintain the critical capabilities that are required to carry out our collection and production missions.
  • Embracing the Information Technology Revolution:  Taking full advantage of innovations in information technology and keeping pace with new data handling and storage techniques. In addition, we are increasing our efforts to protect our information systems from cyber attack and compromise by adversaries who view the information technology explosion as both an opportunity and challenge. 
  • Innovating and Investing in New Sources and Methods:  Pushing beyond our successes of the past fifty years and developing innovative collection capabilities—whether in space, the air, on the ground and sub-surface—will be critical to our future success. Efficiently acquiring these systems, secretly so that our adversaries will not develop countermeasures, is also key to our success.
  • Enhancing Human Source Intelligence:  Broadening and making more robust our in-depth coverage into areas that might support terrorism activities and potential hot spots around the world, before they become crises, is critical to providing strategic warning. Improving our ability to evaluate quickly and disseminate credible information will be key in the future. 
  • Strengthening our Infrastructure:  The Intelligence Community infrastructure needs modernizing to better cope with tomorrow’s threats. Many of our facilities need improvements to accommodate modern technology. Our collectors and analysts need better and broader band connectivity. New tools are needed to meet new challenges. For example, NSA has already begun “re-tooling” itself to deal with future challenges. This strengthening of our infrastructure will be an enormous undertaking at which we must succeed.


(1) The Intelligence Community (IC) is composed of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA), The Department of State Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), as well as the intelligence units of the Departments of Treasury, Justice, and Energy and the intelligence elements of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. The intelligence element of the Coast Guard was added by Congress in 2002.

(2) Among the reviews conducted during FY 2001 include those by the NIMA Commission, the Space Commission, the Quadrennial Intelligence Community Review (QICR), and the President's Review of Intelligence as tasked by National Security Presidential Directive – 5.

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Posted: May 01, 2007 06:25 PM
Last Updated: Jan 03, 2012 12:53 PM