Tom FingarDeputy Director of National Intelligence, Dr. Thomas Fingar, Addresses the 2008 INSA Analytic Transformation Conference (Morning & Evening Speeches – September 4, 2008)Van: Office of the Director of National IntelligenceVerzonden:zondag 7 september 2008 0:59:02
Remarks and Q&A by the Deputy Director of National Intelligence
For Analysis & Chairman, National Intelligence Council
Dr. Thomas Fingar
2008 INSA Analytic Transformation Conference
September 4, 2008
Morning & Evening Keynote Speeches
Morning Keynote Address
MR. JOHN BRENNAN (Chairman, Intelligence and National Security Alliance): It is a great honor and privilege to have somebody who has been so instrumental in seeing through and standing up the task of orchestrating the analytic community within the intelligence community. And Tom Fingar, who has had a long and distinguished career and was most recently at INR before he came over to the Office of the DNI. Tom has done a superb job from a substance standpoint as well as from interacting with the analytic workforce throughout the community. And so, without further ado, I’d like to introduce Tom Fingar, the Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis.
DR. THOMAS FINGAR (Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis & Chairman of the National Intelligence Council): I trust you can see me because I can’t see you. The lights are really quite, quite bright. I know I’ve got many friends out in this audience and I thank you for coming. I thank John Brennan and INSA for convening you and for giving us the opportunity to build upon the foundation we laid in Chicago and the subsequent meetings in Washington, to give reality to the term alliance, and the partnership between the intelligence community, and between those of you who serve and support from outside of the government.
The opportunity, indeed the necessity, to combine what each of us know separately to form a larger body of more relevant and more timely information to keep our nation safe is one that we must not squander. My task this morning is to talk about customer relations on the eve of an administration change. I’m delighted for that even though I had no idea what the title meant when it was assigned to me because it provided an opportunity to think about three messages that I’d like to lay on you this morning and begin a dialogue. And I mean that sincerely. As we talk about the transition, the change of an administration, what are the things that we need to do that we may not have yet initiated? Or that we may not have told you about? What are the problems you think we need to be aware of as we go into a transition?
One of the bottom-line realities is that the Officer of the Director of National Intelligence has never before been through a transition. And simple questions like how many and which members of the senior staff are expected to hand in letters of resignation or expected to stay on into the next administration or to be around for just a period of transition? In parts of the government, certain positions, this is spelled out very clearly in law. It doesn’t affect very many people in the ODNI. In others, there are precedents and traditions and patterns and the hardcore civil service component that is there, the career service. We’re staffed, roughly 50 percent, by detailees, who by pure coincidence, are on terms of rotation that would normally expire at about the same time as we will change administrations. So there’s a lot of, sort of, housekeeping detail that involves making it up as we go along. That means there is both wide latitude for mistakes, but also great opportunity to take advantage of insights, suggestions that you and other friends of the community may have.
What I’d like to do this morning is to present a brief overview of the state of play, with respect to the ODNI and the transformation agenda. I will be speaking from the perspective of analysis. That’s the one I know best. I’d like to provide a sense of what we are doing as we go into the ODNI’s first change of administration. And then I’m going to rather shamelessly seek your support and they go to the bottom line of my presentation and my pitch, if you will, that though I am certain that we have not done everything perfectly, that there are still some pretty ragged edges around the transformation, around the stand up of an organization and the integration of the community, I think we’ve done more well than we’ve done badly and I think that one of the worst things we could do to our community over the next six months to a year, was to suggest that we ought to start all over again. It’s neither necessary nor desirable to upend the grain board, make intelligence, the intelligence community, the centerpiece of partisan politics or reinvention. I’ll come back to that point, but that’s where I’m headed in this presentation this morning.
First, where are we, with respect to customer support? What’s our relationship with our customers? When I accepted this job three and a half years ago, one of my highest priorities was to restore confidence, customer confidence, congressional confidence, the self-confidence of the analysts in our community. We’ve been pretty badly battered, not just by the experiences of 9/11 and the Iraq WMD estimate, but by the way in which the tar brush was so liberally applied to tens of thousands of people who had not been involved in the production of the estimate or involved directly in 9/11-related activities. Morale was pretty low. The gang that can’t shoot straight, the keystone cops, couldn’t connect the dots. You remember the imagery and verbiage that was used. We didn’t have to sort of win confidence of people who didn’t know about us. We had to restore confidence among people who had been dealing with us for some period of time.
We had to do this, in part, by restoring confidence in the quality of the work. Quite simply, we had to make it better. Many of you heard me say before, the overall quality of work was much better than it was depicted in the caricatures of the incompetent, bumbling community. But it was nowhere nearly as good as it could be, as it needed to be, to meet the much more complex array of issues of which we were asked to provide information and insight. We seriously had to tackle the trade craft issues, the collaboration issues, the sharing issues, in order to produce better support, better analytic support, more timely support from the collectors to military forces in the field in a very different kind of support for the intelligence community to our first responders, the law enforcement community, fire departments, and so forth inside our own country.
The term better doesn’t simply refer to the quality of tradecraft in the product, however. The support that we provide had to be noticeably more useful. It had to be timely. It had to be on target. It did very little good to restore confidence, indeed, very little good for the security of our nation to, at annual evaluation time, critique, in a rather boastful fashion, how many products we had produced, how significant that product had been to this or that customer. We had to be truly useful. We had to be there at the right time, in the right place, with the right information, with important insights. We had to be able to move these across IT boundaries and across institutional boundaries. We had to know exactly what our customers need and when they needed it and in what form they needed, at what level of classification they could use it, and a whole array of related questions.
We tackled this with a multi-pronged approach. Beginning with the, what our customers need, starting point, we decided to take advantage of the existing structure of the community, a structure that is widely caricatured, ridiculed, why do you need 16 intelligence agencies? Sixteen is actually a number that is too small when you consider that there are major players like the National Counterterrorism Center or the National Intelligence Council that aren’t counted in that number. But they exist.
And they exist for one fundamentally important reason. Each of the customer sets, each of the missions that they support is in some ways unique, requires tailored support, customized support, the right kind of expertise. So as a collective, we’ve got a wide array of customers and issues. But you also have a wide array of experts and organizations designed to support them.
Wanting to take advantage of the up-close-and-personal relationship between an individual briefer and the people they support, the folks who are down the hall in the same building, the weekly or other interactions that occurred to know what people needed, to vacuum up those tasks so that we could translate them into more useful products. To take advantage of the difference in expertise, the difference in missions to capture synergies – synergies that in the past were too often lost because we didn’t know about work being done at another component of the community. We didn’t know who was working on the same or related activities. If we did know who they were and where they were, we didn’t know how to contact them. If we knew how to contact them, the wires or the firewalls or the other technical impediments were in the way.
And if we’d solve that – there would be some, but that database is not open to people of this agency – kind of impediment. And even if you overcame all of that, there was very little knowledge of the quality of work being done by colleagues who were not known personally. Very difficult to take advantage of divisions of labor, to capture synergies without fundamental confidence in the competence of prospective colleagues. So the confidence in our work is in part a confidence in one another to reinforce the self-confidence that we had to build.
We can talk, if you wish, in the questions, about some of the specific ways in which we improved the tradecraft, the adoption of standards for products, for sourcing of materials, the training programs, the way in which an increasing number of products – beginning with the President’s Daily Brief – through single agency products are being done with input from colleagues in other agencies. This is mostly a bottom-up phenomenon. It’s not senior managers going around and saying Fingar told me I have to make you do this. It’s analysts who now that they have a vehicle through the ARK (sp) and the Yellow Pages, through interconnected e-mails to find one another, have realized that they produce better products with input from colleagues.
So this bottom-up phenomenon has resulted in a steady increase in the number of products. And where I count them is in the President’s Daily Brief because it’s in my job jar. The analysts get it. They’re now discovering new ways and feeling more comfortable about producing better product and understand what’s necessary to produce that better product. All of that is still in the nice to do category. The real issue is do those we support think we’re doing better. Do they have greater confidence in our work?
And here, I think the answer is overwhelmingly yes. If anyone out there or several of you have picked up a different view, I would love to hear it, because that would mean it’s a specific problem that needs attention. But the general situation, I think, is really quite good.
And let me cite some illustrative examples, which I recognize – as a 40-odd-year-long analyst do not constitute definitive proof of my proposition. Let me begin with the first customer. The President spends between 30 minutes and an hour with us six days a week. He’s a very busy man. He’s a very demanding senior executive. If he thought we were wasting his time, we would get short shrift. The views directly and indirectly from him, from Steve Hadley, from the cabinet members who now attend at least one day a week sessions built around the intelligence presentations, the introduction of what we call deep dives. Read-ahead papers provided to the principals, analysts going into the Oval Office to present and defend and respond to questions sort of demonstrating who we are, what we know, to be able to say directly what we don’t know, what assumptions we are making, to talk about the collection capabilities. We’ve done almost 100 of these deep dives. We’ve had more than 200 analysts who have been participants in this.
I confess to a high degree of trepidation when we began this. I knew we could start off with a bang. I wasn’t sure how deep our bench was. John Kringen and I, when John was the DDI, sort of can’t believe that the balloon is still up there. I keep waiting for the air to come out of it. But after 100 of these, we are still going strong. And we have them scheduled out for weeks, and in some cases months in advance, because they have proven useful. That is an important vote of confidence.
Second is our oversight folks, both congressional committees, and the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board. The PIAB did its own evaluation of analytic performance and has pronounced it much better on several dimensions. Congress and oversight is a little more mixed. That we have restored confidence in the product is tempered or obscured by the highly partisan character of an awful lot of exchanges.
Something that has produced a situation that is a little bit uncomfortable for us, for me personally, that as we have restored confidence in the product we have increased the incentives to use the intelligence community and intelligence products as a club with which to bludgeon opponents on issues. And the desire to have unclassified products, the need to appear in sessions that are clearly structured with among the objectives embarrassing folks in the other party, that it’s very gratifying when members come up to me in person and compliment the product. And when I have sought to gain dispensation from producing certain products or appearing in certain sessions, it is no, we trust you. The you is not Fingar. It’s the analytic community and the intelligence community, because we have confidence in you that we think it important that your insights be presented as a part of the public debate. That’s more gratifying than comforting.
Third measure of quality and factual basis for confidence because we share it are the evaluations that we perform. We established under the IRTPA legislation an analytic integrity and standards group. With an action group comprised of representatives of all the agencies developed the standards. Those standards are applied by evaluation teams of some ODNI staff and many contractors. We are now standing up in agencies that did not have them evaluation programs of their own. But the end of the year, all agencies will have them. They will apply a common set of standards to their own product.
The vote of confidence – more than a dozen agencies have come to us and asked for special evaluations of product lines. This is kind of cool, right? When the kid comes to the teacher and asks for extra homework and then to have it graded. Agencies are using these evaluations of strong points and weak points to adjust their training programs, to provide extra help to managers that have some weakness and so forth. And it’s clear, because we’ve now got data on thousands of products that in aggregate, we’re getting better. Probably agency by agency, we’re getting better. I say probably because we have gone out of our way, again, to build confidence in the process by doing everything we can to preclude invidious comparison.
When we share results outside of an individual agency, they’re always aggregated – the community as a whole. We give the results to the agency that requested them. They can do with them as they wish. But they own that. And you can use it for diagnostic or pedagogic reasons. But we’re not trying to introduce an element of unhealthy competition that would get in the way of confidence and collaboration. And it’s working.
And finally, a point that I alluded to a moment ago with the bottom-up, agencies and analysts have more confidence in what we’re doing. It’s sort of you know – it’s like pornography. You know it when you see it. If you’ve been around the intelligence community, you know what good and what is not as good. You know when the reaction to your product is one that elicits a, I can use this. Or even more frequently the case, when the ideas and the insights are stolen without attribution. It’s not stolen. We are a support organization. We provide the input. I’ve been around policy-makers long enough to know if there’s a good idea in there, and it becomes their idea, that’s a big win for us. They take ownership of it. They’ve accepted it. They’ve accepted the quality of the work that underlies it. And it shouldn’t bother us that we don’t get credit.
Some of the transformational tools, techniques that you’ve heard about from others and will hear about – intellipedia, A-Space, and so forth – have crossed a threshold or tipping point here. To be not something that is sort of novelty – for many not something that is viewed as zero-sum. I could do my real work or I can play in that particular sandbox. But becoming tools that they have found useful. And the numbers of users, the requests to be pilots in A-Space, from the beginning when this stands up to have some of the issues – enigmatic facilities, the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas in Pakistan and so forth, to be a part. They see value in this.
So we’ve restored confidence in who we are and what we do and how we do the work. Confidence is always, in my view, a fragile commodity. Hard to build; easy to lose. As my friend Ron Burgess has put it, one “oh shit” wipes out 100 “atta-boys.” Just as in so many other endeavors, we have to be good every day in all respects or it undermines the confidence in everything we’re doing in all areas.
Transformation Conference (Morning & Evening Speeches- September 4, 2008)(1)
Transformation Conference (Morning & Evening Speeches- September 4, 2008)(2)
Transformation Conference (Morning & Evening Speeches- September 4, 2008)(3)
Transformation Conference (Morning & Evening Speeches- September 4, 2008)(4)
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