Intelligence Agencies Work, Communicate Better Together, DoD Official Says


The Pentagon’s intelligence agencies work and communicate better with each other today, and that transformation must continue, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence said at the Defense One Summit here today.

Marcel Lettre told Defense One Executive Editor Kevin Baron that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks pointed to the need for intelligence agencies to work more closely together. And in the 15 years since those attacks, such teamwork is evident, he said.

Marcel Lettre, left, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, discusses intelligence transformation with Kevin Baron, Defense One executive editor. DoD photo by Jim Garamone
Marcel Lettre, left, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, discusses intelligence transformation with Kevin Baron, Defense One executive editor. DoD photo by Jim Garamone
Marcel Lettre, left, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, discusses intelligence transformation with Kevin Baron, Defense One executive editor. DoD photo by Jim Garamone
Intelligence Transformation
Marcel Lettre, left, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, discusses intelligence transformation with Kevin Baron, Defense One executive editor. DoD photo by Jim Garamone

“The biggest thing that has changed in my view is that it’s [now] an integrated effort across 17 organizations, but it is also an integrated effort across intelligence disciplines, with human intelligence organizations tipping and cueing signals intelligence and geospatial intelligence in unprecedented ways,” Lettre said.

Counterterrorism Operations

The result is most apparent in support of military counterterrorism operations, Lettre said. The intelligence community works very closely with the special operations community, with results visible on the battlefields, he said.

All of this, he said, is being done in a social media world, where operations are sometimes available on Facebook or You Tube before planners are aware they are complete. And that is a challenge, Lettre said.

On one hand, Lettre said, the American people need transparency in knowing what is being done to protect them.

“It explains what we are doing and why,” he said.

You Tube Effect

There is another dynamic that Lettre referred to as, “the You Tube” effect, which moves the department into a world where there is always some visibility on what were once clandestine operations. The department cannot control this, and must simply adapt to it, he said.

“The successes we have had in our military operations will for a long time to come depend on that combination of special operators and intelligence officers working in close tandem together,” Lettre said. This cooperation, he added, happens on the battlefield with reach back all the way to Washington.

Lettre said the special ops/intelligence relationship is part of the overall strategy to put pressure on groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant at all points.

This is an important point, Lettre said, as ISIL is a diffused organization with no central mind that’s directing operations. Instead, ISIL has nodes that begin in Iraq and Syria and reach into West Africa, Libya, East Africa, Afghanistan, and potentially into South and Southeastern Asia, the undersecretary said.

“This is why we remain concerned, even as we … will be successful in removing ISIL from Mosul and Raqqa … we will almost certainly continue to face continued threats and challenges from affiliates of ISIL seeking to conduct external plots particularly in western Europe,” he said.

Resources

Lettre said enough resources are being employed to counter violent extremism. But in a world of finite resources that means taking those resources from other areas, he added.

“In the military context, we are also very focused in how to counter Russian hybrid warfare and aggression, how to go after understanding the support we need to deliver in Afghanistan, how to do cyberdefense [and] how to operationalize the Asia-Pacific rebalance,” Lettre said.

All of these are priorities and all require resources, he said. But finding the right mix and the right priorities remains a puzzle, the undersecretary added.

“It’s kind of a zero-sum game at one level, when you are thinking about what we have today to work with,” Lettre said.

All this means it is even more important that the intelligence transformation continues, the undersecretary said. And, deciding what new technologies, methods and tactics to employ will be key factors in squeezing the last bit out of every penny spent on intelligence, he added.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)