Operative GD writes in (quickly, but we know our loyal operatives wait with baited breath for the next missive from the Castle) with some observations about the intel business:
I think another significant issue with our current intel effort is the shift in focus from HUMINT to SIGINT. Starting with Carter, but really getting into swing under Clinton, all intelligence agencies were sacrificing human intelligence (i.e.: agents) in favor of signal intelligence investments. At the time, there was some logic to it… why send a spy where you can send a satellite. It was also driven by the “zero defect warfare” (i.e.: no casualties) the media and public expect. Now, unfortunately, we are fighting enemies who (unlike Russia and China) do not rely on electronic signals, fleet movements, or air forces to plan and conduct warfare. I suggest we need to refocus on developing human intelligence assets and de-emphasize the wonders of technology.
Ok, so after ‘Puter and the Volgi had to restrain me with the last part — Seriously, you’re writing to me and saying “de-emphasize the wonders of technology” !?!?! — I regained my composure and re-read the post. Yes, I would agree there has been a shift. In fact, the use of UAVs has increased substantially under Obama – largely looking to satisfy both camps of the Iraq/Afghantisan issue within the U.S. (i.e. against war and casualties and tough on terrorism). There are good uses for SIGINT, MASINT, FISINT, etc. particularly in denied areas (areas where it is hard to get feet on the ground intelligence (HUMINT)). However, here is where I would diverge from GD’s post. We need all of the INTs to work together to improve the intelligence operations. The crux of the original post on Big Journalism was centered on HUMINT and the fight between the CIA and DoD. Once you add SIGINT, you add other agencies to the mix. To the best degree that we can, the government should view various agencies as, to borrow a term from the commercial side, “centers of excellence” for various aspects of intelligence collection, processing and analysis. And, to the best it can, the government should avoid duplication of effort between agencies and look for more cross-agency or joint operations to solve the problems. You might think that this would be difficult for the government and in the past it has been – but keep in mind, they do it frequently with contractors on large IDIQ contracts where they pick and choose the “best athletes” to work on efforts regardless of whether they all work for the same company or if they are even from the same prime contracting team.
And, no, there’s no de-emphasis of the wonders of technology. Sorry. That’s not in our master plan for world domination.