One Year Ago — CIA’s Strategy in the Face of Emerging Challenges

“Whether in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, or Latin America, the United States faces security threats on a number of fronts and by an array of actors, including extremist networks, rogue states, and emerging powers. The Central Intelligence Agency is charged with understanding these ongoing security challenges to the United States while also identifying emerging issues that will affect the nation’s security in the future.”

Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence

John Brennan

On July 13 2016, the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence hosted the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency John O. Brennan for an address on the emerging threats facing the United States and the CIA’s strategy for meeting those challenges. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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UPDATE — It is certainly a worthy exercise to watch this one-year old conference and compare it — in style and substance — with the recent appearance of CIA Director Mike Pompeo at the 2017 Aspen Security Forum. — END of UPDATE

Brookings Senior Fellow and Co-Director of the Center on 21st Century Security and Intelligence Gen. John Allen (USMC, Ret.) introduced Director Brennan, and Senior Fellow and Director of The Intelligence Project Bruce Riedel moderated a discussion following the Director’s remarks.

Whether in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, or Latin America, the United States faces security threats on a number of fronts and by an array of actors, including extremist networks, rogue states, and emerging powers.

“The Central Intelligence Agency is charged with understanding these on-going security challenges to the United States while also identifying emerging issues that will affect the nation’s security in the future. CIA has to evolve and innovate in order to effectively address today’s pressing problems without losing sight of those over-the-horizon issues.”


Thank you very much John for those too kind remarks and I want to thank you for your stellar service as a Marine Officer, as a military commander, as a civilian leader
for many, many years of heroic work and sacrifice to the service of this nation. Thank you all who are here today very much for being here. It certainly is a pleasure to be back at Brookings and to be among some very good friends and colleagues that I see here in the audience and I must say that Bruce Riedel and I have known each other for over 35 years. We looked much different 35 years ago I can assure you. I very much look forward to my conversation with Bruce this afternoon and to addressing your questions.

Bur first I would like to start off with some brief remarks. I had spoken recently in
public settings about the many overseas threats that we face as a nation and the importance and challenges associated with dealing with countries like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea and I’ll be happy to address your questions about such issues when we get to the Q&A session. Bur for now I’d like to focus my remarks on how CIA is working to meet these challenges. Specifically, the challenges of ungoverned spaces and of the digital revolution, two defining features of global instability that keep us quite busy at Langley and around the globe. Clearly the world in 2016 is witnessing a significant amount of instability and has been for some time. Now instability is a rather vague and antiseptic term but we all know that it carries some very real costs especially in terms of
humanitarian suffering, rising extremist violence and diminishing freedom throughout the community of nations. In fact, Freedom House this year reported an acceleration in a decade long slide in democracy around the world. The number of countries showing a decline in freedom for the year, 72, was the largest since the downward trend began.

The challenges we face today are unprecedented in both their variety and their
complexity. They are highly fluid, constantly shifting and taking on new dimensions. They are increasingly interconnected, testing our ability to anticipate how developments in one realm will shape events in another.

When CIA analysts consider the trends that are shaping the world’s events in the
coming decade they look at dynamics such as rapid population growth and urbanization in the developing world. They look at technological advances that vastly outpace the ability of
governments to manage them as well as slow economic growth globally. Now if these trends hold we could see greater volatility an increase demands on nation states which are already under the greatest stress we have seen in many years, perhaps going back to the period following the first World War. Governments worldwide have found that handling the daunting array of 21 century challenges on their own those related to economics, security, technology, demographics, climate change and so on is increasingly difficult if not impossible to handle on their own.

The United States and other nations are lending assistance to many of these
countries so that they can better deal with these pressures and maintain cohesion. And just as the various departments of our government provide and aide and expertise to their counterparts in weakened states the Agency plays a role as well. In many cases CIA helps to enhance the capability of foreign security and intelligence services so that they can increase the quality and quantity of intelligence they provide to us to help address threats of mutual interest such as violent extremism within and across their borders.

But our assistance and partnership come with conditions. These intelligence and
security services must adhere to standards of professional conduct and respect for human rights in order to maintain that partnership with us. And nowhere do we find greater challenges to effective governance then in the region that stretches from the Maghreb to South Asia. Based with rapidly growing and youthful populations, North Africa and the Middle East have some of the world’s highest unemployment among 12 to 24 year olds. These trends foster the appeal of militant ideas in states that are already struggling to govern territory and meet the very basic needs of their people.

Not surprisingly, this is the region where we have seen a dangerous rise in ungoverned
spaces. The kind of places where the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was able to establish its reign of terror. And these are precisely the kinds of places in which CIA must operate. To provide the President and his senior advisors with the insights they need they Agency collects critical intelligence wherever there is a need. And when we must acquire ground truth in austere and difficult locations where there is no official U.S. Government presence or established liaison partner the conventional approach of operating out of a station is not an option.

Given this imperative one of the things that we are looking at is how we can enhance further our expeditionary capabilities which depend on the ability to operate with agility and a light footprint. And because of many of our greatest national security challenges they have emerged in these ungoverned spaces and are likely to do so in the coming years, CIA must be expeditionary in both spirit and in action. This is a tradition that stretches back to the second World War when the Agencies predecessors and the Office of Strategic Services parachuted behind enemy lines and occupied Europe. And only 15 days after the September 11th attacks teams of CIA officers were the first Americans on Afghan soil leaving our nations response by taking the fight to Al-Qaeda.

And whether in expeditionary mission or in our day to day operations we have seen
since 9/11 that the power of integration is the single most decisive factor in optimizing our
intelligence capabilities across the board. To that end, the Agency last year launched a
modernization program which is a strategic effort to better integrate and leverage CIA’s unique as well as its many strengths. The centerpiece of our modernization initiative was the creation of 10 mission centers. The line organizations that now bring together our operational, analytical, technical, digital and support disciplines. Six of these centers focus on regions of the world such as Africa and the Near East. And four focus on functional issues such as counter terrorism and counter proliferation. We needed to create an architecture that would best position the Agency to respond quickly and effectively to current and future challenges. Much like the Department of Defense did in
the aftermath of the Goldwater-Nichols Act.

Today, our analysts, our case officers and our technical and digital and support
officers work together within these centers in much the same way they have learned to collaborate in stations around the world. And that means we can come up to speed far more quickly on any breaking issue that might emerge somewhere on the globe. Beyond the challenge of ungoverned spaces, the digital revolution is perhaps the defining feature of our unstable world in both the most positive and negative ways. The cyber realm and information technology have fundamentally transformed the most prevalent means of human interaction. These technologies have given rise to new information based industries that have displaced older ones sometimes deepening gaps within societies and between the developed and underdeveloped worlds.

They enable social interaction that can be swift and destabilizing as we saw in the
so called Arab Spring. And they invest individuals with unprecedented influence and even power for better and for worse. Cyber makes it possible for our adversaries to sabotage vital infrastructure without ever it landing and agent on our shores. And we have seen how our own citizens can be indoctrinated by terrorist groups online to commit terrible acts of violence here in our homeland.

Moreover, these technologies are transforming how an intelligence service which is
a quintessential information based enterprise how it conducts its business. And we at CIA fully understand that how we rise to the challenge of the digital age will determine the extent of our future success. That’s why last year as part of our modernization program we created a directorate of digital innovation, the first new Agency directorate in more than a half century. This new directorate is at the center of the Agencies effort to hasten the adoption of digital solutions into every aspect of our work. It is accelerating the integration of our digital and cyber capabilities across all of our mission areas. Espionage, all source analysis, open source intelligence, liaison engagement, covert action, counter intelligence. The directorate is deeply involved in our efforts to defend against foreign cyber-attacks. It has been an important role to play in human intelligence collection by helping safeguard the cover of our clan descent operatives in the information age.

Equally important the directorate oversees our open source enterprise, a unit dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and disseminating publically available information of value to
national security. Multiple elements of the Agency in the past have responded to the challenges of the digital area. But if we are to excel in the wired world the digital domain must be part of every aspect of our mission.

In practical terms it means that our operations officers must be able to maintain their
cover in a dynamic digital environment and collect in it as well. It means that our analysts must be able to quickly process and analyze enormous volumes of data. And it means that our IT experts must be able to harden our networks against intrusion and better protect our very important and sensitive sources and methods.

We at CIA and our colleagues throughout government are doing what we can to meet the challenges of the digital revolution. But even whole of government solutions are simply not
enough when it comes to cyber. That’s because some 85 per cent of the internet is owned and operated by the private sector which is why we need to have an honest, vigorous dialogue between public and private sector stakeholders about governments proper role in the cyber domain. In that vein we need to have a more robust and comprehensive national discourse about how the government and the private sector must work together to safeguard the security, the reliability, the resilience and the prosperity of the digital domain. Such public, private dialogue and partnerships will be increasingly important as technologies advance and new fields of endeavour emerge as we move further into the 21 century.

It is truly a tremendous honor for me every day to carry the title of Director of the
Central Intelligence Agency. It is my privilege and pleasure to work with some of the most dedicated American patriots that we have who everyday put themselves forward sometimes at great risk to themselves in order to protect their fellow citizens. It is an Agency that I am exceptionally proud of and as long as I’m Director of Central Intelligence Agency I will work with my colleagues to do everything possible to make sure the CIA is able to play an essential role in securing the future of this great country. Thank you so much, I look forward to your questions.

CIA’s strategy in the face of emerging challenges


CIA’s strategy in the face of emerging challenges


CIA’s strategy in the face of emerging challenges

One Year Ago — CIA’s strategy in the face of emerging challenges

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1 Response to One Year Ago — CIA’s Strategy in the Face of Emerging Challenges

  1. mohandeer says:

    Reblogged this on Worldtruth and commented:
    There are no credible threats to the US. (Many of us know the ugly and unspoken truth behind 9/11)What there is are threats to the intended World Dominance and spheres of influence BY the US.
    There’s a world (literally) of difference between the two comparisons. The US is the threat to other countries and itself.


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