John Brennan Hauls US Intelligence Colossus into Cyber Age
On March 6, Central Intelligence Director John Brennan sent a circular letter to all staff members of the CIA under the heading: Our Agency’s Blueprint for the Future. It laid out the general principles of the profound, wide-ranging organizational overhaul which he hopes will prepare the vast spy agency for contending with future challenges.
Founded in 1947 in the aftermath of WWII, the CIA has undergone many changes, but the current one may be the most significant. This time, the agency must be remodeled to take on perils which are outside America’s past experience.
An intelligence agency is judged by a host of variables in terms of events, timelines, circumstances, the assessments of needs in different dimensions, and the results of their operations. Since most of those operations are hidden from the public view – and responsibility may be shared by diverse competing authorities, it is almost impossible to accurately gauge the value of their contribution to national security.
America has 16 intelligence services in addition to the CIA, including the Pentagon, the Air Force, the Navy, Police forces and other law enforcement agencies. Their areas of operation are often parallel to one another and sometimes overlap.
The CIA warrants close examination, not least in view of its admission, implied rather than explicit, that it missed the boat in its prognoses of the wide-ranging political, civilian, social and military processes besetting the world in the last 25 years, and their overwhelming repercussions on the national security of America and its allies.
Adapting to and exploiting the digital revolution
Brennan placed his renovation program under four main headings:
1. Investing in our people by enhancing our talent and leadership development and preserving a high standard of staff to deepen their distinctive tradecrafts, while also broadening their understanding of CIA, the intelligence profession and the national security mission.
This is to be accomplished by creating –
- A new Talent Development Center of Excellence;
- A new CIA university for all training courses;
- New systematic methods for better developing leaders and integrate activities across the Agency;
- A new Directorate that will be responsible for accelerating the integration of the agency’s digital and cyber capabilities across all its mission areas.
2. Adapting the Agency to the digital revolution which both gives agents undreamed of tools for levering their operations to new capabilities but also threatens the organization and by extension the United States.
- A new “Technological Innovation” arm will administer the CIA’s technological and cyber resources. Its director will report directly to the CIA director.
Excellence and Integration
3. Improving the way the CIA “conducts business.” The speed of world events requiring rapid and effective responses calls for a fundamental change in administration that extends to staff and directors broader freedom of action on the basis of solid information. Therefore –
- The senior CIA administrative staff will be granted more authority and more leeway for action
- More efficient supply lines under a special staff
- The systems and methods governing the work of the lower and operational ranks will be improved and made more efficient.
4. Integrating all the Agency’s activities so that all branches will cooperate closely for better results in the complex and challenging tasks ahead.
- New task forces will be provided with all the resources necessary for each mission: technology, operational tools, intelligence and manpower on the principle of interoperability among the various units;
- Each new Mission Center will be led by an Assistant Director;
- The National Clandestine Service, one of the CIA’s four main arms will be renamed Directorate of Operations Intelligence – DOI. Another arm will be renamed Directorate of Analysis.
Interoperability for coping with abounding cyber threats
John Brennan’s Blueprint for the Future, while laying out fundamental improvements also bares the weaknesses that cry out for repair, DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence experts note.
America’s primary intelligence and espionage organization has long suffered from organizational sclerosis and structural inadequacies that rendered it unsuited to function in the contemporary technological and engineering environment of the hi-tech world. Notwithstanding its huge budgets, the CIA is slower in its responses to challenges and not up to the proactive and technological initiatives required for breaking through to leadership roles.
Brennan’s plan, although it comes 20 years late, aims to raise CIA standards level to the big global hi-tech corporations by a structural overhaul of the organization. No more insider bodies keeping tight hold of intelligence, operational and technological resources to serve their exclusive needs, but an opening up of across-the-board collaboration and the integration of resources.
The reform is also framed to blow away the dozens of compartmentalized technological bodies functioning inside the CIA. The excessive overlap and too little cooperation are wasteful and cause the Agency as a whole irreversible damage. They must all come under a single roof body for serving the Mission Centers with all the technology required for a given task.
Security of developed world nations at highest risk of terror
The downside of this reform is that reduced compartmentalization opens the door to leakages of data, systems and the destinations of ongoing missions.
However, the United States like the West at large has no time to lose before going forward to confront the global cyber war which already poses a major peril to the security of world nations.
A terrorist organization may decide to take control of the cooling system of an atomic reactor in central Europe or North America – is one scenario; shutting down powers stations supplying Chicago in a freezing winter, or switching off the signaling lights for oncoming passenger trains – are others.
None of these scenarios may any longer be relegated to horror films or dismissed as he sales pitches of security systems purveyors. The developed countries of the world are the most at risk because their societies subsist on computerized infrastructure with its extreme vulnerability to attack.