The 2021 Intelligence and National Security Summit cohosted by AFCEA International and INSA kicked off with Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines. Eight months into the job, she said ODNI continues to have relentless focus and an unchanging mission. The people within the intelligence community (IC) are the top priority, and it’s about making the workforce better and adapting to change. Haines contends that attracting and retaining talent in the IC is a critical component of meeting mission goals. But the talent comes and stays for one very specific reason: “There’s no greater mission and no better opportunity to contribute in the IC.”
Key Priorities in the IC
As Haines works with the 17 IC components, she confirms that all eyes remain on China. Staying proactive and reactive to threats requires specific focus areas.
Getting the right talent in the door is critical to meeting current and future challenges. As technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning grow, the IC needs people who speak the technical language and add the human interpretation. And that means hiring and retaining a diverse workforce.
2. Science and Technology Investment
Investing in S&T is not a one and done decision. It’s a continuous practice to invest in short and long term projects in order to maintain current capabilities and grow future capacity of the IC. In order to have a competitive edge, the national security industry needs to continuing making S&T investments.
3. Emerging Expertise
As technology grows, the IC needs expertise in emerging areas in order to better integrate new processes and technologies into daily work. Although answering long term threats is critical, it’s also needed in the short term, daily work.
Making and keeping partnerships is critical to the effectiveness of the IC. Haines noted the strength of current U.S. partnerships, but she also pushed for more partnerships to grow at every level – international, locally, state-wide, tribal, academia, etc.
The reality is that new threats will continue to emerge, but how the U.S. is equipped to respond is the game changer. Haines emphasized the resilience needs to be continually added before the middle of a crisis. And that means shoring up supply chains and cybersecurity.
A Call to Industry
A key piece in partnership is the connection to industry, Haines noted. Not only does the private sector have a lot of value to add, but they also own a lot of critical infrastructure that has a major impact on the stability of the country. And with advances in areas like biotechnology, it’s important to work together and collaborate. ODNI is considering how more companies can get involved going forward. The nation’s international partnerships are strong, and many of them have similar challenges and agendas.
Afghanistan and Terrorism
Haines acknowledged how deeply personal Afghanistan was and is to many who work in the IC, particularly on the heels of the 20th anniversary of September 11. Without troops in Afghanistan, the U.S. has lost ability to collect intel – at least in the way it was previously gathered, said Haines. However, the diminishing intelligence presence in Afghanistan is one that the IC has prepared for. And over time, the capacity of international terrorists has also diminished. So while the collection methods have changed, the threat is managed and the team has developed indicators in order to provide warning abilities, Haines emphasized.
While the capacity of international terrorists has diminished, Haines said domestic and homeland terrorist threats have grown. Homeland terrorists are inspired by international terrorists, but domestic terrorists have a variety of ideological stances, said Haines. Both are growing concerns that require the FBI and DHS to take the leading role on navigating the U.S. response to terrorism rising from within.
Science is a key Component in the IC
Haines explained the importance of science in the IC, and how it can help intelligence professionals question assumptions and get better insights. “Enhance your knowledge – enhance motivation. Science is critical,” said Haines.
Haines ended her talk by praising the people within the IC, as well as INSA., emphasizing that everyone plays different roles in improving national security and bringing various sectors together.
“The IC is a learning organization – and that’s what makes it fun,” said Haines.