Deputy 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 Intelligence (firstname.lastname@example.org)Verzonden:zondag 7 september 2008 0:59:02Aan:email@example.com
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
As we go into the transition, we’ve got some challenges associated with simultaneous support of multiple customers, with quite different needs. And we’ve been thinking about this actually for several months. Again, having been around through a number of transitions, there is a natural and normal process in the latter years of an administration, particularly a two-term administration. They know a great deal about the issues being worked. The agenda narrows to that smaller number of issues that are really important to wrap up, if possible, before the end. And it’s not simply a legacy issue. It’s a desire to take advantage for the nation of the work, the effort that has gone into working hard problems, to try and push them over the line before a handoff in our nation gives potential advantage to the folks we are working with or against on a problem, where they have continuity and we have learning curve.
So as we approach the end – and it’s been certainly over the past year – the bar for us with this administration is very high. To come in with things that are very useful on Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea, Arab-Israeli issues, and a dozen or so other. It’s very high that the work that we do, the importance of the issues, the magnitude of the effort, the support to war-fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan, the magnitude of the effort in the global war on terror has resulted in the reallocation of effort within the community. Analysts, collection, resources, technical capabilities focused on these high-priority items. No matter who wins, we know for sure that the next administration will not be as high on the particular learning curves that I’ve just described, that the agenda will be different. It’s likely to be much broader. It will include all of the high-priority issues that will be there for the handover. But there will be many more.
So we started many months ago to wrestle with the how do we need to be using our rotational assignments, our recruitment practices across the community to rebuild capability that we have diminished in order to support higher priorities? We have to be ready to go on January 20th. We can’t take that as the starting gun for rebuilding capability in Southeast Asia, in Latin America, in Africa and some of the other areas where we have reduced effort. So that has been (inaudible).
In addition the normal rather heavy load of support that we provide analytic products, we’ve generated dozens of community level NIEs and NIAs, ICBs, and ICAs, and other array of products so that they’ll be ready to go. Again, experience indicates that people will want a fresh look at the issues. Sort of dusting off something with a 2006 or 2007 date on it, and saying things haven’t changed very much with respect to this issues is not going to instill confidence.
We need to do the updating. We need to do the rethinking. Some of what passed for conventional wisdom or analytic insight before we had instituted the new procedures for tradecraft and quality and collaboration were simply not up to the current expectations and have to be reworked.
And we will have a rather full shelf of materials ready to go. We will have groups of briefers ready to go on essentially any topic. Some of these will be done out of the NIC-coordinated community level. Most of them will be within agencies. Most of the products prepared for the customer supported by a particular agency will be from that agency. But again, we’ve got enough confidence in the quality of work done by one another that they will be leavened and enriched by products produced elsewhere in the community.
So part of what we need to convey from day one is that we are an integrated enterprise, that when you touch whatever your particular contact or normal or integrated intelligence unit, you’ve touched the community writ large. And we will worry the problem through. If we need to go to the Marine Corps, to the Air Force, to Treasury to get specific expertise and insight on a problem, we’ll do that for you. We’re not going to say go to Treasury for that question. And we’re not all the way there but we’re a long way toward where we need to be.
We know what we have to prepare for, for the next almost five months. We don’t know with any precision what comes next. We’ve begun to engage with the campaigns. The President authorized us to reach out to the campaigns to offer substantive briefings at a time and place of their choosing. We’ve now done one. The Obama campaign, indeed Senator Obama, received a briefing on Tuesday. Our approach in this is complete transparency. If one campaign asks for something or receives something, we notify the other. We don’t want to be an issue. We don’t want to appear to be or enable anybody to construe us as being partisan in this. We’ve provided an array of topics that we think sort of collectively in the community are ones that might want to know about early on. But we’ll of course receive any request.
It’s a little different this year than it has been in any previous year or many previous elections. It’s different because we don’t have an incumbent running for an office. But it’s also different because we’ve got three sitting Senators who can call up any one of us in the community at any time from their Senate capacity and ask for things. Is the request from the Senator as a Senator or is the request from a Senator as a Presidential or Vice Presidential candidate? As a Senator, we wouldn’t tell anybody else what was asked. Within the guidelines that we’ve laid out for the campaign, we want transparency here.
We’re preparing – and the agencies are preparing – materials on their specific missions and so forth. We’re also preparing a guide for customers of intelligence that will be common in many respects: how to read intelligence, what confidence levels mean, how to interpret sourcing information and the like, and specific to the agency in question and the customer sets that they support.
We will be more useful if we have better informed customers. And come January and February and March, again, no matter who wins the election, we anticipate having a large number of new customers who do not know the intelligence community. They know about us from infamy, from reputation, from caricature, from open congressional testimony, from scurrilous press, from good repute, through trusted interlocutors. But we will have to again build an understanding of what we can do and confidence in it.
I’m quite certain that we will be able to do this, not just because we’ve thought about it, because we have plans and procedures that are more or less in place, but because we do have a good product. We have good people. And we have confidence in ourselves.
Now, the pitch for support. I mentioned the partnership, the alliance, that the community is able to do all that it does, not just because it has a large workforce and a large budget but because we day in and day out work with people like you. You develop technologies. You have ideas. You have suggestions. You prod us. You taunt us. You talk us up or talk us down in the circles in which you move.
And though I certainly would never, never ask professional colleagues and friends to say anything about analytic transformation or the efforts of the ODNI or the intelligence community that you believe to be untrue or inaccurate, to the extent that you’ve caught the wave, share the excitement. Sense that we’re on the right track. See the potential in what has been built over the last few years. We ask that you share that with the friends and colleagues that you know. Your opinions carry weight.
And if we do all that we can in order to increase the likelihood that we start off at zero, if not in the positive side of the ledger, if we minimize the goddamn intelligence community kind of stereotypical starting point, the better for us, the better for the nation, the more quickly we will be able to move forward and focus on the real issues. And I will argue strenuously in any arena that the intelligence community should not be anywhere near the top of the next administration’s agenda. We are not broken. We are not the problem.
The nation has a long list of serious problems and challenges, and momentous if not historical opportunities that deserve and require the attention of senior people. On some of them, we can make contributions. On others, they’re just outside of our realm. But the focus should not be on us. We should not have another Monty Python moment of, “and now, for something completely different.” Let’s upend the game board, knock the pieces over, and rearrange them. We don’t need that. And I believe it would be very, very undesirable if not dangerous to do so.
I’ll return to that. But let me sort of prepare the way again by repeating the confession that we are not yet all that we aspire to be, that we haven’t done everything right, that there has been certain elements – maybe a high number of elements – of what the Chinese call crossing the stream by feeling for the stones with your feet. See what’s going to work. See which pilots are going to be successful and are worthy of further development and which should be abandoned. Since our approach at the beginning was not we know exactly what needs to be done and decreeing that – I’ve been around Washington, as have my colleagues, too long to know that and to attempt that.
Building confidence in a new organization, going from a white blackboard with no people to an organization charged with overseeing a budget that is larger than the gross domestic product of most nations, running a hugely complex operation is not something that one should willy-nilly make changes or not willy-nilly discard what is in place. We’ve done things more slowly than anybody would like. Everybody would like to get from current situation to a more desirable one as rapidly as possible.
But it’s important to remember the context. It’s a context that shaped us and will sound defensive and making excuses. But it’s a context that by and large will persist into the next administration. It includes such things as the sheer size and complexity of the community. It’s like trying to turn an aircraft carrier. It’s not going to turn on a dime.
Doing it in the midst of two wars – Iraq, Afghanistan – global terrorist threats, the long, growing list of complex challenges, nuclear proliferation, the rise of extremism, energy dependence, energy diplomacy, and the like – these ought to give anyone pause as they consider making the changes, that the challenge we’ve had and will continue to have is akin to what my friend Peter Clement described as swapping the wings on an airliner full of people at 30,000 feet. We’ve got to make fundamental change and have been making fundamental change without breaking anything. We don’t have the luxury to sweep that aside, do away with that activity. It has to be incremental if it’s going to avoid immediate and serious deterioration of the support we provide to a wide array of customers.
We’ve been through the challenges of a start-up organization. When I think back on things producing three budgets over a period of eight months – Caryn Wagner I think is here someplace – recruiting and bringing on board people – remember the first performance evaluations. We had people from 22 organizations of the U.S. government for more than those in the intelligence community being evaluated by people from 18 agencies using – used to, accustomed to 14 different evaluation systems. We’ve moved well beyond that. But that illustrates sort of the magnitude of what we worked our way through.
And now that we are mostly through that, the transformation agenda has taken root, is picking up speed, and as importantly has momentum. It has momentum so as it picks up speed it will be more self-sustaining. I think it’s terribly important that we not lose that momentum, that we not expend a lot of time and effort in another series of studies to determine whether round really is the best shape for a wheel. We just need to accept that we’ve got it more right than wrong and move ahead.
If my gray hair doesn’t convey it effectively, I’ve been in the intelligence community 38 years, 15 of them in senior positions. And I have never seen the community perform more effectively than it does today. That’s not simply because of ODNI. It’s because of the commitment, the dedication, the capabilities of individuals and agencies throughout the community. We are not broken. We are working arguably better than we ever have. And mostly, we know and agree on where we need to be. Getting there is always a challenge. The devil is in the details. Turf issues arise. Mythology is not yet dead about individual components. But we’re getting there.
It’s not necessary to revolutionize the community. And it’s also dangerous. The intelligence community, as you know as well as I, is fundamentally about people. We have great gadgets and gizmos and capabilities and creativity. But they came from the mind of some individuals. They’re usually individuals working collaboratively. And morale matters. And sense of achievement matters. And confidence matters.
And I worry a lot – and this worry is reinforced – I do monthly brown bags with analysts that we pull out of the analytic resources catalog. So they’re thematic; but other than that, they’re randomly generated. And as I look at our graying baby boomer contingent that’s been through a lot. From the halcyon days of the Cold War through the uncertainties of downsizing and rightsizing, to the excitement of rebuilding and transformation, I’m afraid that sort of let’s go back and start again, back to a blank piece of paper, back to square one, our most senior people will take advantage of the opportunities for retirement that they now have.
The other end of the spectrum are the 55 or 60 percent of the workforce that joined since 9/11. Exceedingly talented, committed, patriotic, professional, whose initial experience in the community, by and large, has been in the new dispensation, within the era of transformation, within the ability to work through, in, build expectations, career expectations in an environment they expect to be predictable. If we remove that predictability and they see the loss of the seniors at the top, I’m afraid that we will drive more of them in the direction that is predicted for the generation of short excursion tours in a variety of jobs and industries and activities.
And we don’t have to lose very many at either the high end or the youthful end of our spectrum before we are in a world of hurt as the expertise, the experience, the understanding of customer requirements that they have is absolutely critical. With that rather shameless pitch for your help, your support, let me shift to invitation for questions and comments. What did I miss? What should we be thinking about as we gear up to support a new administration? What should we be thinking about in terms of outreach to the Hill, to the media, influentials around the campaign? Preparing now for the arrival of people who may have no experience or indeed may have experience with the intelligence community from a different era?
With that, let me thank you for your attention and invite your questions and comments. (Applause.) I’ll come out here and get in front of the lights so I can see you. Do I just field questions? I will invite them. I hope I haven’t intimidated this crowd. Anybody?
Q: (Inaudible) – yesterday we heard colleagues getting up and say two things that were interesting. One was that it’s possible that we have too much information sharing going on in the community and that there will never be a change in the way we handle the department – (inaudible) – I don’t want to mischaracterize what you were saying. But I think the sentiment was that there is a lot of data to go through. Not everyone needs to know everything. I wanted to know – I wanted to hear your reaction to that.
DR. FINGAR: Yeah, that’s the point Mike Wertheimer has been making for three years. The conflict between the flood of information – that we take in enormous volumes of information – and we want to confound that problem by telling people to share it with one another. Let me just – several points of that – one is, through the physical sharing, sharing of the digits for the information, we facilitate not just collaboration but we facilitate divisions of labor. Trusted colleagues who I’ll follow this stream of reporting; you follow that stream of reporting. We’ll share our notes and observations.
We’ll do this when we get to A-Space sort of on a board where the senior comments are available to anybody, the juniors questions and comments are available to anybody. So that not everybody has to go through the same pile of data, that we have moved well down the road to making it accessible, making it sharable, making it interactive in facilitating the division of labor. We have to continue to push in that direction or people will simply never move away from their electronic inbox. It’d be constant constipation.
Can you have too much information sharing? The short answer is no, my short answer. There are materials that need to be protected that do not need to be, should not be shared with everybody. I thin of this as concentric circles. Most information in the community, the vast majority, should be available theoretically and actually to, say, everybody in the intelligence community with the right tickets. We’re clearing people in the different agencies to the same level. If they’ve got the same clearance, they should have the same access to the information, provided that the systems have been certified to the same level. And they now have been.
The innovation of a single community CIO responsible for the accreditation of systems, we’ve now moved to the point where – again, in theory – essentially any information can move across the electronic pipes between all of the components. I forced this one a little bit using my PDB responsibilities. As that became a community product, we had to be able to share drafts across the community. We had to get them off the dedicated LAN that they were – onto a larger one. And we did it. It wasn’t immediate, took a matter of several weeks.
Then, my argument became, if I can move the PDB containing the most sensitive information we’ve got across this system securely and it’s been certified, why the hell can’t I move garden variety secret vanilla materials across this same system? So most stuff should be available so that we can have the divisions of labor.
Everything should be discoverable. Everything will be discoverable in the Library of National Intelligence. That does not meant that everybody gets access to everything, that there do need to be compartments, and SAPs and so forth. But if you’re working on a subject as an analyst, you’re entitled to now – indeed, I’d argue you must know – if there’s a body of reporting, a body of analysis on your subject that you haven’t seen.
So discovery – and it could be really quite generic – Chinese submarines. Now, that we actually collect on and worry about Chinese submarines is not going to surprise anybody. There is no counterintelligence that we would do that. So you know that it exists. You need to be able to go to somebody in your own organization who has got access to that and say, I think I need that, to at least begin the dialogue that may result in, no you don’t. I’m in there. I review a product. I will ensure that you’re not saying anything that is inconsistent with that material but you don’t need it.
Or, yeah, I think you do need it. And a process to request and gain access to a specific piece, a specific document, or perhaps the entire compartment. So we need to have that kind of control on it to protect truly sensitive materials. But we have to be able to discover their existence. We have to have procedures that are not arbitrary and that begin from judgments about I need this to do my work as opposed to I decide on whom I will bestow the privilege of looking at this information that I’ve put into my compartment.
I hope that got to your question. Anybody else?
Q: As I was listening to Mike Wertheimer yesterday, I was struck by the implications for what he was saying about the analytic community. And you know, I applaud all of the standards that are being written and all of the other things that you are doing to normalize analysis across the community. The concern I have though is that once those documents are written and once they’re distributed, agencies are just by their natural inclination either going to move and put them into practice or say, okay, they’ve done their work. I know best, and ignore them. It goes on all the time in government.
So my question to you is, if you’re going to normalize the analytic workforce, are you thinking about the implications for what Mike has said? Should we be thinking about the implications for what Mike has said? For example, are we thinking about whether we ought to hire analysts into the community along the lines of the military services? So you hire them in as a batch of people; you put them through common training, common understanding. And then, from that pool of people, they go out into the individual agencies. Have you gotten to that point in your thinking or should we be thinking along those lines?
DR. FINGAR: This one is – there is a gap between my thinking, which would be my vision, and reality, and the what is possible. Let me preface the rest of the answer with saying, sort of my approach is that it’s a lot easier to argue from demonstrated success than it is to sell an abstract vision, which is a kind of a step at a time and prove its worth and keep moving. Don’t settle for anything that is good enough if you know there is something better.
I like the ideal. I share the ideal of being a member of the intelligence community. Where one happens to work within that community – CIA, INR, MCIA – sort of ought to be a function of interest, expertise, opportunities to build and use that expertise, not the basis of mythology about who is best and who is worst. It ought to be governed a little bit by proximity to residence. But building that sense of we are one community and analysts everywhere are as good as, as professional as those in any other part is a building process.
Pat’s catching my eye – the joint duty in the military that took a decade. You know, good idea – it took a decade to put into place. We are going to compress that – we are going to attempt to compress that. Some of the reciprocity, the access to data, but you can’t have joint duty requirement and rotate people around who you expect to be your senior officers, and have them go from one agency to another agency and say, well, when you are here, you no longer have access to what you had access to in your other organization, but you can have this stuff, which you won’t have access when you go back. So we have got to tackle that kind of problem.
There are serious differences of view among the leadership across the community as to whether having purple analysts here, bringing them into the community, giving them a sense of a community, and then specialized training, acculturation into an agency is the way to go. Or it is community agency; understand the values, the mission, the practices of this agency before you go out into the larger sea of people because then you can contribute to understanding. If you don’t know anything about your agency of assignment, you can’t sort of bring much to the table. And the opposite is if everybody is blank at the same time, they build confidence in one another and a network of friends that goes –
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