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 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
We are going to move – unless what we are doing is a turn in a direction of bringing people into the community, into an agency, but building that integrated single enterprise early and rigorously. One small step in that direction – critically important step – is sort of sharing of information on vacancies.
First, at a collective – even though we are very big, that we shouldn’t exacerbate or perpetuate gaps by simply replacing with a clone somebody who has left – in a single agency, bill it without regard to the larger community. If we have got three of those folks scattered around in other places, let’s get some complementary expertise, so making that transparent. And when resumes come in, as they now do, we get far more well-qualified applicants for most positions than we are going to hire. In most cases, the agency is going to hire one. The rest of those resumes used to go into the burn bag. Now they are shared around the community. Here are some good people. We didn’t pick them, but if you are moving toward a hiring opportunity for which this individual’s skill set might be appropriate, here they are. Take advantage of it. Posting jobs together. We are moving there by steps.
It is going to take, I think, the playing through of the generational change that we are now witnessing before it becomes easy and natural to do. And guys like me have to get off the metaphorical stage to allow, again, the 60 percent that have come in, in a very different environment to move into the management positions and interact with their colleagues with the same disregard for lanyard and organizational boundaries that they have for barriers in the real world.
Q: You mentioned the generational kind of difference between those folks that are about to – are at the sunset of their career and those that are at the sunrise – to use a metaphor, and that the – I might argue that – and many have – that the attributes that the newer generation are bringing are exactly those attributes that we would like to embrace and encourage. However, almost all of our systems – the people policies, the business and mission processes are geared toward this generation that is about to move on. And what is your feeling about the need to shift these policies and processes to better map to that younger generation?
DR. FINGAR: The need is acute and it’s palpable. The procedures and processes, the norms that we have in place that many of us have lived with – were not irrational. They were well-grounded, reasonable; they work – or worked. They work less well. And I think – you know, my experience, sort of seniors and that tiny little band of mid-level – sort of GS-14, 15 types – recognize that what worked well in the past is not working as well in the present, as it did in the past, and probably won’t work in the – we are not going back to the future. We are going into a new era.
The people who are gray and experienced and have been with this process for decades – I think by and large sort of recognize the dwindling adequacy of what we did – don’t have a clear idea of exactly what needs to replace it and are wary about transition, about running risk, about breaking something when you get from the known to the unknown. Natural. Social scientists will tell it. But naturally, the younger people that you referenced here that come in with a different set of skills and expectations – I think it is not simply pandering to the way in which they like to work – the digital generation. It is recognizing that technology and learning, availability of information is just very, very different than it was a decade – let alone three decades ago. And instead of being – we shouldn’t simply follow the whim of the youth in our workforce to make them feel happy about coming to work, so that they will stay on the job.
We need to be sensitive to that, but there is a – they have had more experience in a realm of capabilities that others of us have bumped up against after we were more set in our ways. For me, it is still kind of an unnatural, self-conscious act to do things with the computer that is totally intuitive to my kids. And as we link this back to the transition to the new administration, regardless of who wins – and this is not commentary on one or another candidate – regardless who wins, a greater percentage of those filling senior and mid-level positions are going to come out of that more digitally oriented generation, a no-limits generation, a no-barriers generation.
They are going to be used to receiving information in little bits moving across the computer screen, to multitasking. And we have to orient our mode of support to fit their mode of receipt. If they change the shape of the outlet, we had better change the shape of our plug. Otherwise, we are going to very quickly become unhelpful. If we become unhelpful, we become irrelevant. If we become irrelevant, we are obscenely expensive.
Q: Good morning, sir. One of the comments made a little earlier with the ICDs and all that are coming out, which, by the way, I think are great – good guidelines and all to work from and oversight, governance, performance measures coming up. My only concern is – not as an excuse or whining because I know the Army way is three bags full will do it no matter how many few people we have or how many are doing whatever. It is not that anyone chooses not to do something or elects not to, it is how many people you have. If you have three people and 10 tasks, it is doable. If you have three people and 20 tasks and oversight and reporting to do, something either has to drop or done later.
So the only thing – I guess what I am saying and not asking is that as all these ICDs keep coming out and provide a (inaudible) to do oversight on this and that. We are going to run out of people, especially when we have to start pulling from our analytic community to help do these things because the non-analytic community is small. Discussion yesterday came up about contractors, the percent versus government, converting to government, the percent of contractors to government. Certain things are government inherent in oversight. And we also have limitations on the growth to our government staff. So there is only so much we can do depending on how more and more ICDs and oversight requirements come out.
Just something to consider. I can’t necessarily tell you even right now where is the line as far as – you know – we have no more bodies to tap.
DR. FINGAR: This will sound somewhat Pollyannaish – probably admit that. I’d juxtapose it – I probably wouldn’t be where I had been over the last 20 years if I was just Pollyannaish. I think most of what you have described is both a very real problem and a transitory one. Let me pick out a couple strands of that.
ICDs – most of the community will say, you know, another set of rules, have got to follow them, have got to change and do it. Most of the ones in the – again, the analytic realm – (inaudible) – have actually been welcome. There is not very much resistance to this. These make sense. This is good. This is a good practice. But at least as a transition, supervisors that need to assign resources to ensure that the good practices being mandated are actually being followed – to tutor, to mentor, to pair people up for mentoring, so that they can do it correctly. The goal is not to have standards police. It is to internalize the behaviors, to train people, evaluate, reward their performance, recognize managers on their performance, so that this becomes internalized and you don’t need the same overlay of mentoring and monitoring that clearly is necessary in the short run.
We would be remiss, in my view, if we simply tossed it out there and said, here is the new rules. Get with the program or get out of town. It is, here is the rules. We are going to help you. We have trained – ODNI, by analytic integral standard – have trained people in each of the agencies. In some cases, we have made some money available to hire contractors to help get the programs off the ground. I will try to make a broader point here. It is not just the standards, but more broadly, it is not enough to decree new ways of doing things.
We have to involve people in their development and the system to understand and implement. But we will get there. And I think we will get there pretty quickly, where these become an accepted – because we have pretty quickly achieved that in the past at an agency-by-agency level, either with comprehensive, written-down, trained to procedures unique to that agency or had no training at all. And people on the job learned how to do it by watching others.
The numbers-versus-tasks problem that you point to is a tremendous motivator to get the training wheels off the bicycle of new people, whether they are new to the community or new to the account, as quickly as possible, so they can carry their load. So we are used to doing that. We will continue to do that, but in a – again, I think a relatively short period of time, we will have complementarity across the community, the ability to mentor across agencies because it is to the same standards.
The final point concerns the when do you take stuff off the list. This is hard. We are working at ODNI level – not just analytic – on a budget process that we went through a drill in April of folks in from – I think it was 50 different constituencies within the community, customer sets, non-title 50, non-title 10 agencies. I said, what do you need from the intelligence community? Part of the drill was what should we stop doing. What should we deemphasize? Where can we get some savings? It will surprise no one in this room that we had a list when we were done of 280 new requirements came out of this process.
And something on the order of two dozen – most weren’t serious – suggestions as to what we could stop doing. It is natural. It is normal. We don’t have a lot of unimportant things on our to-do list. And even the – in aggregate, least important is important to somebody. And we do pride ourselves on being able to provide customized support to niche activities. And in the aggregates, certain kinds of mapping support the fighter pilots – may not stack up real high on the list of – but it sure is important to the fighter pilot. And it sure is important to the commander that is going to dispatch people.
So striking the right balance. I think in the near term, getting things off the list is going to be hard. And what we have to do is insist two managers. You have been running some of these activities for a decade or more. And every year you ask for more money to perform that activity. What the hell kind of manager isn’t able to get efficiencies after a decade? So more and more – we want to try and identify areas that we can perform at an adequate level of service with fewer people, maybe fewer dollars, and have it tailored to get to exactly the people we want and not the broad brush – somebody might find this useful, and keep operating on it.
Sensitive to it because the community will step up and try to do everything it is asked. And if we get spread too thinly, again, we are not accurate. We are not useful. We are not relevant.
Q: Hi, Tom. Staying on the same theme of ICDs – in January of 2007, when John Negroponte was DNI, he signed Intelligence Community Directive 200, which essentially states the IC will not have the entire breadth and depth of expertise to cover all of its – and support its mission. It must reach out to academia, think tanks, NGOs, private business. How is, how should, how will the IC, whether it is ODNI or the entire community, reach out to those constituencies? Is it a one-way street via IC reaching out? Or does private business, academia, think tank knock on the door? Or is there a portal –
DR. FINGAR: It is a great question. And some of you think it is a setup question – those who know me and my passion for outreach. We finally got out – it is about a month, month-and-a-half ago – ICD 205, which is on outreach. It took two years to work through the system – a directive that basically said it is the responsibility of analysts to reach out to expertise. It is a responsibility of agencies to enable folks to reach out to the expertise.
CI concerns, notions of proprietary – who owns the experts that are outside of the intelligence community? We have collectors who think they own anybody that isn’t wearing a badge inside the community. They had to work through that. We are now working through implementing guidelines on this. But the basic approach is individuals – analysts is my world, collectors, technologists, IT types – know that there are people outside of their organizations, outside of the IC, outside of the U.S. government, who are knowledgeable, who are working complementary or the same issues. They know or can know which one of those are good and which ones are not nearly as good.
They should have as a part of the normal way in which we do work is spend taxpayer money to draw on as much expertise as we can – and efficiently. And I am talking here not about contracted activity – that might grow out of this. But the journalists, the professor, the corporate analyst or developer that is working a problem and is excited about that problem and publishes on that problem – to be reachable and willing to answer questions or share insights. This should be as natural as the conversation you would have with the person in the carrel or office next to you. It has to be a two-way street. It won’t work if it is all take and no give.
And here is why we have to be cautious here because we have to train people to compartmentalize – that, which they know because they are all source and they read the newspapers. They are exposed – and that, which they only know because of sensitive collection activity. And I recognize that it is quite different to talk about insights gained than it is to talk about the evidentiary base for those insights. And they can actually go quite far – but we have to actually make our folks comfortable. If we are not sharing insights and ideas with the people that we have reached to, what is in it for them?
Now, some get a thrill about, you know, group used to the intelligence community or components of the community. Some are just excited about the subject. But if this is going to be a meaningful exchange, there has got to be mutual benefit of this. We are developing a rolodex of experts, which I hope we are actually going to stand up pretty soon. These are outside experts, who have explicitly agreed to be receptive to approaches from analysts in the intelligence community.
We will try to work out rules to the road to make sure that the same individuals aren’t deluged. But a lot of them are already on a list of individual agencies to make this possible. It will surprise nobody here that we are going to have to make the rolodex of unclassified experts a classified document. (Laughter.) And therefore, hard for the outside people to update – had to develop all of the cutouts and so forth to make that work for sound CI reasons. But we have to make it a part of the way we do our business because I would hazard to say it is a part of the way every person in this room does their job now. You are in contact with colleagues and competitors, foreign folk working a problem at all stages of the process. We have to do the same because when we need that expertise – I mean, really need it – it is too late to begin the search. You have to have developed the ties, the relationship, the evaluative criteria. And my vision on this is to have a chunk of the vetting located in the open source center.
So if somebody has developed sort of an understanding of what Susie X’s field is, what she really knows – her talents, capabilities, how she has interacted – that that become (inaudible) to anybody in the community, so that they can start further up the learning curve or understand I don’t need to bother Susie because she is a regular interlocutor of my colleague in the other agency and I just get it indirectly.
We are on the way there. But this is a change of culture for the community, where if it ain’t secret, it ain’t real. If somebody is not cleared, they are not worthy. That is yesterday’s thinking. We have got to get to tomorrow, where not just our own people, but our customers live. I see John’s up, so my time must have been expired. Thank you for all of the work you do for us.
MR. BRENNAN: Thank you very much, Tom. We greatly appreciate your taking time out of your busy schedule to join us here. But I think more than that, we appreciate your many, many years of selfless dedication and service to our country and to the national security mission of the intelligence community. And I think I speak on behalf of all the folks here that it is heartening to know that at this time of a critical transition in our country that career professionals like yourself are at the helm and are able to steer the ship straight. So we wish you luck in that endeavor. And again, thank you very much for the time that you have been here.
DR. FINGAR: Thank you, John.
Evening Keynote Address
MR. BRENNAN: Good evening, everyone. Can I have your attention, please? I hope you enjoyed the meal and the conversation. As I mentioned earlier, we are truly fortunate to have America’s premier intelligence analyst with us, Tom Fingar, who has been able to spend time with us today speaking about analytic transformation and the business of intelligence. What we thought we would take advantage of is being here to address some of the substantive issues on our minds. And I passed along to Tom a couple of subjects and topics that people would like him to address.
But Tom is an exceptionally polished speaker, who has had to navigate the shoals of the political environment of Washington. But we very much appreciate his willingness to use this opportunity to address some of those issues confronting this administration and will confront the next. So Tom, please.
DR. FINGAR: A laptop in front of me – I have no idea what to do with that. I am not a PowerPoint guy; I am an outline guy. And what I would like to do this evening is to have a kind of a Build-A-Bear approach to a briefing – what I am hinting toward is a question-and-answer session – one of the things that I actually enjoy most is responding to questions and drawing upon the insights that I have gained from the people that I work with and have worked with for a long time.
But let me begin by thanking two people, John Brennan, again, for the support. (Applause.)
It at times is lonely out there on the forward edge of bureaucracy in trying to change deeply instilled practices and procedures. And having had INSA as a source of support from the days that it was SASA [Security Affairs Support Association]. One of the first talks that I gave on taking this job was to this organization. The feedback, the support, the encouragement, the reinforcement are genuinely appreciated by me and by all of my staff that work with you.
And the other is to Mike Wertheimer. I told him after his presentation that if only he had a little more passion – (laughter) – for what he does, we would be absolutely assured of success. But the opportunity – (applause) – the opportunity to work with colleagues like Mike. He mentioned Andy, who is here somewhere, I assume – Andy Shepard – and many, many others. This is not a solitary journey. This is a group effort, and a group effort that depends on continuous infusion of ideas and constructive criticism. And I am sure we will get both from you tonight and in the weeks and months that follow.
I also appreciate the opportunity to do substance for a change. In my Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis role, almost always I am speaking in the transformational mode, the standards mode, and so forth. But at heart, I am an analyst. And I enjoy thinking about, talking about, responding to questions about national security challenges. And what I would like to do tonight is to illustrate why it is important to smash barriers to collaboration by presenting two illustrations of what we face. One is subsumed under the rubric of 2025, the NIC [National Intelligence Council], now quadrennial look out into the future, which is done for new administrations.
We time this to be completed and released after the election, but before people are ensconced in their positions and are so busy with the daily grind that they don’t have any time to think. This is sort of the strategic-level considerations. The second will be an example that I will begin with Iran, which is one of the topics that John said someone had expressed interest. Cutting into the complexity and interconnections of the world in a kind of a six degrees of separation or from this morning, 6.2 degrees of separation that are absolutely a fundamental part of the world we live in. The interconnection, the overlap, the interaction of many seemingly discrete developments. And I will work that, and then we will segue into whatever questions you might have.
Let me begin with a discussion of the 2025 project. This is an undertaking that was begun by John Gannon, who I know spoke to you yesterday when he was the chairman of the NIC. This is the fourth iteration. Every four years, we go out an additional five. I think this one may have as sort of the maximum. We are going to have 17 years of forecasting and scenario building. And that probably is the outer limit, and we will have to pull it back in. But the idea here is to identify some of the developments, the dynamics, the dimensions, the drivers that will shape the world over the next now 15 years or so. Some of these are absolutely inevitable, almost immutable. Others are susceptible to policy intervention – policy that if wise and effectively executed can make the situation better – or if badly conceived or badly implemented will make it worse.
I will illustrate that in a moment. It is also intended to shape the thinking of new administration. One of the canards in my view that sort of exists in the commentary about the intelligence community and what it ought to do – more strategic thinking, less current intelligence. When hears it, reads it all the time. I have no idea what that refers to. Strategic thinking must be a part of what every analyst does every day if they are going to do their job. They have to have some sense of the larger trends if they are to interpret current developments.
But by my experience, administration’s notion of the strategic horizon begins in January, extends for four years, and gets shorted by seven days every week. If it is not going to happen in my tenure, it is beyond the realm of what I am going to worry about. There are exceptions to this, of course. But there is not a great market for strategic thinking. There is at the start of an administration. And the 2025 global trends series that we have produced is an attempt to sensitize folks to where we think developments are hidden – or more accurately, alternative scenarios that manipulate some key and explicitly articulated drivers and say this is where it is headed.
Usually the scenario makes us – some are kind of positive, favorable to the United States, and some not so favorable. The 2020 report, for those of you who didn’t read it or don’t remember it, it included sort of a post-Davos world in which there was sort of globalization led to mainly, sort of, happy, positive developments. It probably won’t surprise you that the President of the World Economic Forum thought this was a pretty terrific scenario. It also included the new caliphate – Islamic extremism triumphant in the Middle East. And much of the world that reads the 2025 global trends – 2025, as if it is the plan or the prediction or the aspiration of the United States government, and say, what part of the new caliphate did you think is in the interest of the United States? It is intended to highlight some good and bad outcomes.
To identify inflection points along those trajectories that may be susceptible to invention. If you like it, you may be able to reinforce it. If you don’t like where it is going, you may be able to intervene and bring about a happier outcome. And at a minimum, you will know what the side posts are to tell you which direction events are hitting.
For 2025, which is a work in progress, the way in which we have built this, each one has been done a little differently – was to have – convene a number of seminars around, in this case, the United States – for 2020, we did six of them internationally – to do a Rorschach set of expectations. What were the principal drivers and trends and where were they headed? We pulled that together into a draft and we took that out to international audiences. I participated in a session in Beijing that had representatives from all continents, nine countries to critique it, tear it apart. We reworked that after a number of the international sessions. And it is now being worked around American think tanks.
He is not right or wrong. It is plausible, implausible, right indicators or the wrong indicators. Do the scenarios help us? I am not going to deal with the scenarios. I am going to deal with some of the key drivers and key assumptions. And I do this not to tell you about this project, or not exclusively tell you about the project, but also because this is what we would be telling the next administration. This is what we think will be not the full answer and explanation and determiner of events, but will be in the mix. This is not an exhaustive catalog.
One of the key assumptions or projections that we have used in sort of looking at the world going out 15, 17 years – the first assumption is that the process of globalization that we have witnessed over a couple of decades will both continue and continue to generate both greater wealth and greater inequality. So the overall sort of economic status of the world will improve. But the gap between rich and poor – internationally, regionally, and intranationally will grow – the elites and the disadvantaged. There are strengths and there are hazards associated with this.
A second is that the U.S. will remain the preeminent power, but that American dominance will be much diminished over this period of time. That the truly anomalous situation that has existed since World War II we vivified after the demise of the Soviet Union of the overwhelming dominance that the United States has enjoyed in the international system in military, political, economic, and arguably, cultural arenas is eroding and will erode at an accelerating pace with the partial exception of military. But part of the argument here is that by 15 years from now, the military dimension will remain the most preeminent will be the least significant – or much less significant than it is now. Part of the – nobody is going to attack us with massive conventional force. Deterrence – nuclear deterrence will work. So the nature of international competition and challenges to cyber threat to cite one. It was just not susceptible to massive conventional military power. There was a sort of a – it poses a situation choices of how do we invest our national security dollars.
A third element here – this is partly an assumption, mainly an extrapolation of observable trends is that international institutions will be decreasingly – decreasingly capable of dealing with the new challenges of a more globalized world, a world in which the U.S. does not enjoy the preeminence that we did at the time the post-World War II system and institutions – the Dumbarton Oaks agreements and so forth were put in place. This is the United Nations. This is the World Trade Organizations. It is the successor to GAT, IMF, World Bank, the Alliance Structure; it is NATO first and foremost. These were terribly successful institutions. They worked extremely well. They achieved their objectives by and large of preserving peace and promoting prosperity. Their very success has rendered them increasingly OBE. And we need different or revivified, revitalized institutions to deal with the challenges, the consequences of globalization. Globalization is a short-hand reference for all of the changes that are taking place in the international arena.
Put together the last two points. Diminished U.S. preeminence and decreased efficacy of the international institutions that preserve order that had been really essential to our own role in the world, peace of the world, the prosperity of billions of people. They need to be adjusted, but we don’t have the capacity that we did almost 70 years ago to prescribe for the world what that replacement regime will look like. And indeed, at least for some period of time, international dissatisfaction with American actions or policy or attitude or behavior, triumphalism, or however we want to characterize this means that should we suggest perhaps a very, very good course of action, it is tainted, if not dead on arrival because it is our idea.
But look around the globe and you say who else could have an idea that isn’t going to be encumbered by the same baggage. A Russian proposal, a Chinese proposal, an Indian proposal, an EU proposal, if you could get one out of the EU – that there is enough baggage, historical legacy here. There is nobody in a position or likely to be in a position over this period of time sort of to take the lead and institute the changes that almost certainly must be made in the international system.
A different kind of factor in the mix – the effects of climate change. Directed by the Congress to do a study – we did a National Intelligence Assessment of the geopolitical effects of climate change – a subject worthy of discussion in its own right, if you are interested. But looking – that looked out to 2030, which goes beyond our 2025. But a couple things are worth noting this evening. One is we did not do the science of climate change. We accepted the international panel on climate change – a governmental panel on climate change, median projections, which have been validated by the American counterpart and other folks. One of the points it makes is that there is absolutely nothing that can be done between now and 2030 that will change the projected impact on climate change. That die was cast years or decades ago. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do things to affect the period of time thereafter. But at least the argument here is that the changes in sea level, the changes in temperature, the impact on agriculture, the impact on water availability, the impact that comes from melting in the Arctic and opening up resources and extending growing seasons in some places, and shortening them in others.
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