28 February 1999. Thanks to Anonymous.
Source: Hardcopy CIRA Newsletter, Volume XXIII, Number 4, Winter 1998/1999. Published by Central Intelligence Retirees' Association, Box 1150, Ft. Myer, Virginia 22211.
Jump to encryption remarks.
CIRA President Maurice Sovern introduced guest speaker John Millis, Staff Director of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Millis agreed to speak in place of HPSCI Chairman Porter Goss (R, Florida), who was detained by a family emergency. Millis is a former operations officer who spent about 12 years in the Agency, primarily in the NE Division. After serving on the staff of the Deputy Director of NSA, he joined HPSCI in 1993, becoming Staff Director in 1997. Noting that Millis had served "over the ten-year mark," Sovern said in introduction, "I think I have persuaded him to join CIRA... so his lunch today is not free."
Well, I guess the good news is that since Congressman Goss is not here, Mo has said he is giving you each personally a 20% rebate on today's cost.
First of all, Congressman Goss thought that he would be able to be here today but this morning he went with his wife for a checkup. It has been a difficult time for him. He wanted me to say thank you to all of you because he has heard from so many of you, his old friends, and he appreciates the kind thoughts and wishes that have come his way. The good news is that his wife is doing much better; she's going to require about four or five weeks' of convalescence, and she has a new pacemaker. So, he's very pleased with that news but he was very unhappy that he couldn't be here with you today.
This was a talk that he was looking forward to. This was to be a sort of old-home week for him, many of you being his peers and colleagues from his thirteen years in the DO, which he regards as being some of the best years of his professional life. And he had a personal message which he wanted to deliver to you on the topic of building a constituency for intelligence. He thinks of you as being a core organization and you individually as being the people that can help do this.
I'm not going to give that speech. I hope -- and he hopes -- that you will invite him back, and when he does appear before you he will want to talk about this proposal. I will also not try to tell you anything about the intelligence process itself. I'm very sorry the Congressman is not here because I will confess to being intimidated talking to you. As Maurice mentioned, I was in the DO from '81 until '93, and you're the stars that formed the firmament when I was a young officer. You're the giants, and I know that there is nothing I can tell you about intelligence that you don't know better than I do. So, what can I talk to you about? I thought that what I might do is give you a survey of opinions: what we see from Capitol Hill; a state of the Intelligence Community from that perspective. Now, a couple of things first. When I've talked in this area before, I've noticed a tendency on my part to concentrate on the negatives. That's characteristic of the Hill approach; because if we're to do our jobs well, we need to know what's not working well in the Intelligence Community, and believe it or not, to try and help. To do that, we have to be able to make assessments of what works and what doesn't.
I also hope that my comments aren't going to feed a tendency in some former intelligence officers who for lament the "Good Old Days." The veil of retirement is permeable to bad news but not much good news seems to escape out into the broader community. If I think back to my days inside, there was an awful lot of griping and grousing; in fact, that was (I know from my experience), at least basically what we did best when we weren't actually working. But we had the context of knowing as well the good work that we were doing. When you are no longer doing the good work all you're hearing is just the noise, the negative news. So, I hope I'm not going to feed that tendency even more and I hope you'll keep that in mind as I speak. The fact of the matter is despite all the negative things I'm going to say, there is some absolutely phenomenally good work going on in the Intelligence Community. It costs a lot of money; the American taxpayers, I'm happy to say, are getting what they pay for, and more. I don't think you can say that about most of the US Government.
Let me start with the first piece of truly good news. It's one word: George. George Tenet from my point of view is exactly what the doctor ordered for CIA. You all know one of the most important things, if not THE most important thing that a manager must do, is to pick good people to help implement his policies and to advise him, and I think George has done a very good job of that. If you look at the group of people that he has put together, I think that it is a very strong team.
I want to talk about the whole Intelligence Community, because if you are just going to talk about the CIA exclusively, you're missing the big picture. And the big picture is what is important right now. There are five particular areas I want to go into. These are themes that we have used on the Committee in trying to make decisions about allocation of resources. We've taken some rather significant actions in the Intelligence Authorization Bill that just went to Conference. This involves, in the broadest brush of terms, taking a great deal of money out of overhead collection systems and moving it into other areas: to NSA, principally to modernize some of its new collection capabilities; some of it into the CIA too, again to put a little flesh back on the bare bones of both the analytic and the operational capabilities; also, to rebuild analytic capabilities across the rest of the Intelligence Community. We did that by taking some money from the NRO, but also by adding money over and above the President's request. It's a small percentage, but it amounts to millions of dollars that we hope will go to good purposes.
But I want to talk to you about some of the themes behind what we do with the budget, and behind what we do in all our activities in trying to oversee and assist the Intelligence Community.
First is to try to rectify what we believe is a continuing and historical imbalance between investment in collection and investment in what is sometimes called "downstream" activity: processing, exploitation and most importantly, at the end, analysis. The second is to try to move away from the sort of ad hoc and bureaucratically motivated investment strategies for technical collections systems. This is a complicated point involving, one; the crisis affecting SIGINT systems; two; a revolution taking place in imagery, caused by capabilities in commercial imagery that have been growing exponentially; and three; issues involving the NRO. My third major point is the need for more espionage, to turn back to some old-fashioned spying and some new-fashioned types of spying that basically reside in the Clandestine Service. The fourth point is the need to rebuild covert action capabilities, and I'm thinking here in terms of the paramilitary and also media covert action capabilities. Finally, and this is a large a philosophical point but it's one that dominates many of the decisions being made in the Intelligence Community: There is a need to rebuild a strategic -- or what we sometimes call the national capabilities -- to end what has been an absolute and total fixation on near-term, tactical intelligence. So those are five themes I want to talk about.
First of all, the imbalance between collection and downstream activities: Someone compared the Intelligence Community to a library on which we have expended billions of dollars -- the world's best library; more volumes, more information than any other library in the world -- and yet the reading room is limited to a few seats. That's the Intelligence Community. The actual cost of all-source analysis is 1% of the intelligence budget, and yet we scrimp and we save and cut here and cut there. The idea was that we can't afford to have DIA and the DI both doing the same sort of analysis; that we can only afford to have one. That's ridiculous. An analyst costs less than $200,000 a year, including salary, retirement benefits and the cost of putting the PC's and such on the desk. We can afford many more analysts than we have. Instead, we spend more money on one satellite in one year than we dc on all the analytic capabilities combined. We believe that that's something that needs to be changed.
One of the programs -- in, fact, THE program that has occupied us most for the last six months -- is the Future Imagery Architecture (FIA). This is a dollar system that is to give us state-of-the-art imagery for the next twenty years. Multibillion dollars. . . This program was put together and presented to us, and only afterwards did anybody realize that there was not one dollar budgeted for tasking this system, for processing the data from it, for exploiting it or for disseminating it. That struck us as strange.
Right now, well less than half of the pictures taken by our satellites ever get looked at by human eyes or by any sort of mechanized device or computerized device detecting change. Under this new system we will increase anywhere between five and fifteen times the number of pictures that will be taken from the sky. We have fewer imagery analysts than we had five years ago; we have many fewer than we had ten years ago. And there is at present no plan to build up an imagery analytic capability to deal with this new collection. It's a mindset. People get fixated on hardware. We're trying to change that mindset.
My second point is what I call an ad hoc and bureaucratic approach to investments and technology types of collection. I'm talking here of signals intelligence and imagery intelligence. It strikes us as ad hoc and bureaucratic because there is no discernible overreaching rationale behind it. It's ad hoc in the sense that we buy it a la carte, system by system, each presented individually and without relationship one to the other, without management by the Intelligence Community. If you're hearing something that you've heard for the last thirty years, it's because the issue is still the same. There is still no management of the Intelligence Community. The intelligence agencies are each managed, but there is no one in a position to make the tradeoffs within the Intelligence Community that will make a coherent, efficient organization that will function as a whole. So, we end up doing it on Capitol Hill. And I've got to tell you, if you are depending on Capitol Hill to do something as important as this, you're in trouble.
But we're often the first people who ever look at these things, the first to say: well okay, if they're doing this in SIGINT and this in IMINT, is there redundancy? Is there overlap? Are we better off spending a little more money in a clandestine type SIGINT activity rather than investing a huge amount of money to collect this type of imagery? There needs to be some authority at the top of the Intelligence Community. This is supposed to be the task of DCIs, and we continue to try and work with the DCI, to encourage him to step up to this challenge. As you know, it is very difficult to exercise authority over the National Foreign Intelligence Program and all its agencies, because 90% of them are funded and owned and operated by the Department of Defense.
Let's talk about the problems with technical collection.
Signals intelligence is in a crisis. We have been living in the glory days of SIGINT over the last fifty years, since World War II. SIGINT has been and continues to be the INT of choice of the policy maker and the military commander. They spend about four or five times as much on it as they do on clandestine collection, and the fact of the matter is, it's there quickly when needed. It's always there. Or it has always been there.
In the past, technology has been the friend of NSA, but in the last four or five years technology has moved from being the friend to being the enemy of SIGINT. You know Moore's law says that computation technologies change every eighteen months; in telecommunications, the pace is more rapid than that. There are 2 couple of problems in the SIGINT collection crisis. It gets classified very quickly, but let me suggest to you a couple of ideas to think about.
The media of telecommunications is no longer SIGINT-friendly. It used to be. When you were doing RF signals, anybody within range of that RF signal could receive it just as clearly as the intended recipient. Well, we moved from that to microwaves, and people figured out a great way to harness that as well. Well, now we're moving to media that are very difficult to get to. Compounding this is encryption, which is about to take off no matter what we do. This is a huge policy issue that I know some of you have followed fairly closely. No matter what we do, encryption is here and it's going to grow very rapidly. That is bad news for SIGINT, so it is going to take a huge amount of money invested in new technologies to get access and to be able to break out the information that we still need to get from SIGINT. That money is not being invested at present. NSA continues to do what they can do, but they need to be thinking about five years from now and trying to invest in those new technologies.
We're spending huge amounts of money and this leads me to my third sub-point: the agency that eats the NFIP, the National Reconnaissance Office. We spent incredible amounts of money on overhead collection and it threatens to overwhelm the intelligence budget. We have already spent more than twice as much money on the NRO than on any other intelligence agency. You do both imagery and SIGINT from satellites, but it doesn't make a lot of sense doing SIGINT from there any more. Excepting ELINT, you shouldn't be spending one dollar more than we do to try and intercept communications, regular voice and data-type communications from space, but we do make that investment. This is something that we think that we have to move away from.
Further, a revolution is coming in imagery. ADM Dantone, the first Director of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA), had a very good illustration of that revolution. He said, "Picture two large TV screens behind me. On one is an incredibly detailed picture from space showing one meter or less resolution of a desert. You can see tank tracks; you can see tanks; you can see ammo depots; you can see where communications lines have been laid down; you can see communications towers; you can see where headquarters have been set up; you can see what the direction of movement is. It's everything that you needed to know back in 1991-92, when we were going up against Saddam Hussein. The other screen is blank. That's what Saddam Hussein had.
We obviously had a huge advantage. Now picture two screens again. The one over my left shoulder has a little better imagery, a little better resolution. This is what we're going to have five years from now. And over my right shoulder -- Saddam's screen five years from now -- is the imagery quality we had before. There will be some leveling of the field. In the next year three US companies will be launching satellites with close to one-meter resolution, and one will be better than the one-meter resolution. This product will be for sale. In the foreign arena, four countries in two or three years will be at that same point, and they will be selling their imagery commercially to whoever has the money to buy it. That's a big change.
The other thing we need to be wondering is why are we spending huge amounts of money from the intelligence budget to collect pictures from overhead when our capabilities now are well known? It's hardly an intelligence discipline any more. It's being funded by the National Foreign Intelligence Program, but it is not involved in collecting secrets; it's for certain surveillance purposes. Our gut feeling is if the military needs to keep an eye constantly on some target for strictly military purposes, we should not call this a national intelligence system.
This gets to the third point: the need for more espionage. There has been a sea change; I don't know how many of you have noticed it. Two or three years ago, everybody was constantly beating up on the Clandestine Service at the Agency. Now, I'm quite amazed at the change. We get lots of calls daily from journalists, and they hardly ever call up anymore wanting just to do a story that gratuitously beats up on the CIA's Directorate of Operations. They're out there trying to do stories about the value. The Ames case took a terrible toll for three or four years, poisoning the perception of the CIA's Directorate of Operations. It seems we're getting beyond that. There seems to be close to a consensus of opinion that we need to rebuild these clandestine capabilities. The question is how do you go about doing it? Again, we're very pleased by what Jack Downing has done in the DO in trying to fix the problems and the damage which was done over the last several years. We believe that it's going to take more resources, but I must say that we are not inclined to throw money at the DO. We have to rebuild slowly; we have to give graduated larger amounts of resources to the DO. We need to make sure that it is being used as intended, not for the miscellaneous things that they shouldn't be doing anyway. We are going to watch this closely.
The fourth thing is the rebuilding of covert-action capabilities. Again, without getting classified, there's not that much I can say; just a couple of observations. We believe that we have to keep a very strong paramilitary capability on the shelf for the Directorate of Operations. It's always hard to anticipate what the next crisis is going to be, but we can be sure that it will be there. And the paramilitary capability the DO has is uniquely well suited for many of the types of situations that we're seeing around the world. The media side was never popular among most case officers. "Where are the metrics? How do I know that what I'm doing is of any value?" Well, the fact is the Agency got out of the business totally. And believe it or not, there are some situations in the last year or two where it would not have hurt the US to try and swing world opinion our way. We see that we are losing world opinion against Saddam Hussein. There are countries that are being taken over by narco-traffickers. There are countries that are harboring terrorists. It would be nice if we could do something other than deliver a demarche or have USIS out there with the media guidance. That covert capability is totally gone. We believe again this is something that the CIA did very well, and has just as much application today as it did in the past.
Finally, there's a need to end the fixation we have on tactical intelligence. Since DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM, we have abandoned the strategic mission in large part to meet the pressing requirements the military has made for tactical intelligence. We all remember Gen. Schwarzkopf's criticisms of intelligence support, but again our memories are selective because he also repeatedly said in a positive sense that no commander of any army had ever had the intelligence support that he had had. There has been a tremendous pull from the Department of Defense for more and more and more support. The CIA stepped up to the requirement and has done outstanding job of providing that support. ] this is an era of declining resources and people and so it has been done at the cost of the national mission. Some people used to come to us and brag that the CIA is the 911 of the Government. Well, if you're dialing 911, intelligence has already lost the opportunity of doing what it should be doing, which is telling you in advance that you are going have a problem and helping you avoid it before it gets to the crisis.
The idea of being able to give a wonderful paper on the problem that broke out in Kosovo yesterday is, from my point of view, not a particularly valuable exercise, particularly for the CIA. We have to get back in the business of having deep long-term penetration of intelligence problems, of having a strategic look into the future.
So, these are some of the themes that we's pursued as we've made about three or four hundred changes in the Intelligence Budget submission that came to us this year.
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