12 June 2019

US - a new National Intelligence Strategy

Liviu Ioniţă

Image source: Mediafax

We must become more agile, more able and more creative.

This is the conclusion, or better, the advice, Daniel R. Coats, director of the American Intelligence Community gave in the end of the National Intelligence Strategy (NIS) of the US, presented in Washington on Thursday, 22th of January.

More agile and more focused on applying the most modern technologies seeking for truth will be done through the new Strategy which offers all the methods to get there.

This is the fourth document issued since department’s foundation in 2005, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, currently led by Daniel R. Coats, offering those 17 intelligence departments and agencies, members of the Community, the strategic directions for the forthcoming years.  

The current strategy is quite similar to the previous one, created by Obama’s Administration in 2014, being based on the national security priorities as shaped by the National Security Strategy (2017): the protection of the American territory, people and lifestyle, prosperity’s promotion, American influence’s increase.

The strategic document offers the vision of a safer nation, through a community fully integrated, agile, resistant, innovative accordingly with the American values, which are about to be accomplished through a “Mission”. This mission’s purpose is to provide pertinent and optimal objectives, as well as a relevant intelligence and informational support, necessary in taking national security decisions. Unlike the previous NSI, following president Trump’s campaign promises, America First, this strategy aims to protect the nation and its interests.

When creating the NSI, the intelligence community is subjected to the constitutional provisions, Congress’s laws and monitoring demands, following the professional ethics principles and transparency (The principles of Professional Ethics for the Intelligence Community and The Principles of Intelligence Transparency for the Intelligence Community), belonging to the ex-director, James R. Clapper.

The focus on transparency comes out not only because it is a new institutional, organizational objective, unexampled in 2014, but due to Danial R. Coats’s speech from strategy’s presentation.

Elaborating a seventh organizational objective, transparency, aims to increase public’s trust on what the intelligence community says and does, together with the other purposes, integrated mission management, integrated business management, people, innovation, information sharing and safeguarding, partnerships, privacy, civil liberties. 

The existence of a single NSI version, unclassified, public, hence, none to have secret information, would be, in director’s opinion, the guarantee that things are exactly as presented.

Besides transparency, there are two other key concepts, integration and innovation, that should be considered. The first (integration) refers to a harmonious intelligence community as the only way for the proper information to get to the adequate policy makers in an optimal time. The other one (innovation) is definitely necessary given that the new technologies, including anti-satellite weaponry, artificial intelligence, high-performant computers are creating, on one hand, economic benefits, and on the other hand, can offer others some influence over US. According to Daniel R. Coats… integration is the engine which will take us forwards, and its force will come from innovation.

This is a similar vision to the British one, wherein you have to face hybrid threats with specialized services and conscient citizens, to take advantage on the integrated intelligence community, as well as to have abilities and acknowledgements in order to take the necessary steps to change your enemy’s behavior (Alex Younger, MI6 chief, in a speech held in December 2018 at the St Andrews University, Scotland).

Threats are becoming more and more varied and interconnected, defining a complex and unsafe world, this way generating the quick change of the security environment. We are talking about a volatile environment, whose approach, the 2019 Intelligence Strategy, is no longer operating with the internal-international difference and wherein the traditional enemies are presented accordingly: Russia makes efforts to increase its influence and authority, China upgrades its army and continues to follow its economic and territorial influence purpose in Pacific, and North Korea is developing nuclear technologies and ballistic missiles, meanwhile Iran continues to offer support for the terrorist groups.

Along with the already usual specifications- technologies’ quick development, data and information abundance, extremist groups violence etc. – a less common formulation in security’s environment characterization is people’s urbanization, which, together with migration’ increase, would be a pressure element against the government, favoring society’s separation simultaneously with radicalization’s increase.

When approaching the security environment, the Intelligence community- more agile and inventive- has to identify and evaluate states and non-states entities’ capabilities, activities and intentions (strategic intelligence), to identify and evaluate the tendencies, changes, new opportunities and to provide warnings about threats (pre-emptive intelligence), to provide appropriate informative support for the afoot operations (afoot operations intelligence), to identify and understand the cyber-threats (cyber-threats intelligence), identify, understand and track terrorism-related activities (counterterrorism), detect and interrupt mass destruction weaponry proliferation activities (counterproliferation), detect, understand, deter, interrupt threats generated by foreign intelligence entities (counter intelligence and security).

The National Security Intelligence will be seen in agencies’ strategic plans and in the annual budgetary demands, projects and programs made accordingly with the objectives established by the strategic document. These will be evaluated by the Intelligence Community Director… an organization whose purpose is to continue to be world’s best intelligence community.

Translated by Andreea Soare