Flynn: Integrated Intelligence System Provides Advantage
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2012 Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn has become Defense Intelligence Agency director at a time when 17 intelligence agencies and organizations -- an enterprise whose transformation began on 9/11 -- are maturing into an integrated community that Flynn calls a strategic advantage for the nation.
Flynn became DIA director July 24 in a ceremony at the agency’s headquarters, where he also was named commander of the co-located joint functional component command for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance that is part of U.S. Strategic Command.
“For the United States intelligence community, [the lesson from the tragedy of 9/11] was about transforming ourselves into something much better for the nation,” Flynn told American Forces Press Service.
He also quoted National Intelligence Director James R. Clapper, who said in his vision statement that a fully integrated intelligence community makes the nation more secure.
“I believe that we failed the country because we lacked what we know we have today, and that’s a much more integrated community,” Flynn said. “That lack of integration was the part-and-parcel reason why we were surprised.”
The idea of integration has always been around, Flynn said, “but over the last decade we have matured as a community into what I believe is a strategic advantage for this country. And we are far better today than we have ever been.”
Many challenges remain, the director said. After assuming the agency’s helm, he wrote a letter to the men and women of DIA in which, among other things, he warned of a world driven by accelerating rates of change and increasing complexity.
“But I think the machinery of the U.S. intelligence community, and certainly the Defense Intelligence Agency as a major part of that in general [is] rowing together now,” Flynn said.
Flynn’s priorities at DIA, detailed in his recent director’s guidance to the agency, include growing tomorrow’s leaders, strengthening human intelligence through DIA’s Defense Clandestine Service, established in April, and providing timely, responsive and relevant analysis as fast as a customer needs it.
But Flynn added that he’s also focused on other agency needs: to understand a new kind of enemy, disseminate intelligence to the widest possible audience, support the Defense Department’s rebalance of resources to the Asia-Pacific region, and engage international partners in new ways for an uncertain future.
For DIA, a new kind of enemy has arisen from some of the popular revolutions that have burned across North Africa and the Middle East since December 2010, from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen to the ongoing and deadly civil war in Syria.
In Yemen, for example, which has 26 million people, high unemployment and an unstable government infrastructure, money from narcotics and other criminal enterprises can buy the services of young men who have nothing else to do, Flynn said.
“That’s a fundamentally different kind of enemy to understand,” he said. “Somebody who feels no hope is different [from] someone who puts on a uniform and decides he’s going to be your enemy. It’s completely different, so we have to have a different mindset to deal with it. We have to be able to go into these environments -- Afghanistan being one, as well as future environments -- with a much different level of preparation.”
On another issue, Flynn said DIA improved significantly over the years at disseminating intelligence to the widest possible audience.
“It’s an open world and we’re a closed society, especially the intel system,” he said. “So we have to drive our knowledge to a level where it’s much more open.”
If 10 years of war and conflict have taught the intel community anything, Flynn said, “it’s ingrained into the DNA of the workforce that we have to disseminate information to the lowest [classification] level possible as fast as we can … and not allow the bureaucracy to get in the way of [giving] those soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines … the information they need to save lives.”
DIA also is moving to support the Defense Department’s goal of rebalancing resources to the Asia-Pacific region, as outlined in the Defense Strategic Guidance released in January.
“I think that we participate [in the rebalance] through the missions we have in terms of our collection, our analysis … [and] how we put a footprint out into that theater in the right places,” working with military and international partners, Flynn said.
The director described an opportunity he had in March to represent the director of national intelligence during the 2012 Jakarta Defense Dialogue, a meeting of Southeast Asia security specialists and military officials.
“Everybody talked about the importance of that part of the world and how we can better work with each other in partnership and collaboration,” he said. “The guy who spoke before me was … a three-star [general] from China. The presentation that he gave -- he could have given mine and I could have given his. They were that similar in theme and message.”
Before becoming DIA director, Flynn was assistant director of national intelligence for partner engagement. He was used to thinking about U.S. partnerships. He noted that the idea of partner engagement is highlighted in the May 2010 White House National Security Strategy and especially in the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance.
“We will only win as a coalition,” Flynn said, adding that a coalition is defined as a group of nations that participates in a series of operations or campaigns or in war.
“We have to rely on our partnerships internationally and they have to rely on us,” he added, “so if I learned anything [in the previous position], it’s that there’s a much greater need [to improve] how we do that.”
The United States must determine how to innovate and create new forms of partnerships, how to sustain the long-term strong partnerships that exist today, and how to build better processes, he said, including the one that governs intelligence sharing.
“Intel sharing in the 21st century is like money was in the last century; intelligence is a currency,” the director said, adding that a kind of quid-pro-quo practice has existed in the community -- “I give you some intel, you give me some intel back.”
But moving into the future, “maybe we engage partners in new ways by sharing intel, and what we really want [in return] is their political support or physical support,” he added.
“If we want forces to participate in some coalition, we may want basing support or we may ask for help in some other effort, … and they provide us a footprint where we can operate from,” Flynn said. “Maybe intelligence is the currency we use among others to gain their trust and confidence.”