This week the White House announced its next pick to head up the Defense Intelligence Agency. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a counterinsurgency proponent and vocal critic of intelligence efforts, was selected and now moves on to what is likely to be an interesting Senate confirmation. Flynn is known for a paper entitled “Fixing Intel” which criticized Afghanistan intelligence collection, as well as personal statements that offered a far-from-glowing assessment of intel operations.
The DIA has more than 16,500 employees worldwide. As the director of the DIA Flynn would be the principal adviser on military issues to the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His appointment signals a potential culture shift within the agency, as well as a possible resurgence in the importance and emphasis on military intelligence and the DIA. Flynn is known for his support of counterinsurgency and his criticism of the intelligence establishment. At the Joint Special Operations Command he helped transform commandos into intelligence gatherers.
Here’s a round-up of some of this week’s news coverage of the DIA nomination:
“This is seen as unusual since Flynn before complained (rightly) that military intelligence in Afghanistan “sucked.” This shocked people within the military establishment who are not used to being criticized…It also got him in some trouble with his superiors. In the military dissent is not allowed generally. Had Flynn been an enlisted man he could have faced charges for criticizing the military…”
“Long before he was moonlighting think-tank white papers, he helped transform the culture of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), getting its elite commandos to believe that collecting crucial clues from raids on terrorists was central to their missions. Although Flynn and his patron, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, left JSOC years before the attack on Osama bin Laden, the fact that the Navy SEALs left bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound with hundreds of thumb drives, cellphones and hard drives is part of their legacy…”
“Particularly given Flynn’s past enthusiasm for enhancing and leveraging human intelligence gathering capabilities, and increasing collaboration throughout the broader intelligence community, an overhaul of the Defense Department’s human intelligence capability is likely in the works. While it is too early to speculate in detail about what specific changes Flynn will bring to the DIA, his appointment marks an appropriate time to reflect on broader changes within the military, intelligence community and policymaking generally...”
“LTG Flynn has made a career of delivering actionable intelligence to war fighters, and is an excellent choice to carry on the important progress General Burgess has made at the Defense Intelligence Agency. He is a well-rounded intelligence professional who has supported conventional as well as special operations forces, and U.S. and coalition activities. I enthusiastically support his nomination as DIA Director...”