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Notes on Intelligence Blog

Notes On Intelligence – New Chair, Continuing Challenges

Sept 2012
Bill Nolte

            I did not want to finish my term as chair of the Intelligence Committee without providing a few parting thoughts.  First of all, my thanks to AFCEA and Kent Schneider for continuing to sponsor and support the committee.  It is an important activity, recognized as such by everyone in the intelligence profession.  Secondly, I, along with every other AFCEAN with an interest in intelligence, owe an enormous debt to Steve Ritchey and his staff, for all he and they do to make this committee functional.  They allow the members to think from time that we are responsible for the committee’s success, but we know better.  And I need both to thank and congratulate my longtime friend, colleague, and now successor, Maureen Baginski.  Mo’s record of innovation and leadership speaks for itself;  I leave the chair in good hands.
               Finally, let me thank the committee members – past and present – I’ve served with over the years.  Sometimes I hear it said that serving in the public sector is somehow nobler than serving in the corporate world, and I’ve simply never accepted that.  Different rewards?  Yes.  Perhaps a different manner of service?  Yes again.  But my experience with the committee’s members and its government liaison representatives convinces me the motive to serve remains the same.  That experience leads me to remind my students (over and over, they would probably say) that they can perform public service in the private sector as well as in government.    
            The American intelligence establishment, as with the rest of the national security structure, faces enormous challenges ahead, generated by the operating and information environments they face and by difficult budgetary circumstances.


Monday, October 24, 2011
Bill Nolte

Since starting these Notes two years ago, I have developed an admiration for journalists who write two or three columns each week. I started several pieces over the summer, but had to conclude in the end that if I wasn't interested in a topic, no one else should be forced to read my thoughts on it. This morning's (October 18) Washington Post item from Walter Pincus on Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's comments at the Geoint conference in San Antonio changed all that. I encourage everyone interested in the future of American intelligence to take a serious look at this presentation, available on the DNI's website.


Friday, June 03, 2011
Bill Nolte

Anyone who has not read the INSA report "Smart Change: Lessons of the Past, Direction for the Future" should do so. Led by Joan Dempsey of Booz, Allen, Hamilton, INSA's Smart Change Task Force has produced a document that should have significant shelf life over the next several years. Or so we should hope.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Bill Nolte

Near the close of this spring's AFCEA Intelligence Symposium, I noted that we were marking a shift in the national security environment. From September 2001, that environment had been marked by three characteristics: a focus on counterterrorism, sharp increases in spending, and an information environment marked by rapid - Moore's Law or better - change.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Bill Nolte

Until very recently, intelligence was a small, deeply secret aspect of public affairs. Terms like black chamber and secret service described functions that demanded to be performed but with little or no public notice. The name of the head of Britain's MI-6 was, as a remarkable reminder of this era, secret until very recent times. In the United States, the existence of the National Reconnaissance Office was classified until the 1990s, and we all know that the National Security Agency was often described, in jest but perhaps not fully in jest, as "No Such Agency."


Monday, February 14, 2011
Bill Nolte

One of two things has to happen for Stephanie O'Sullivan, principal deputy DNI designate. Either her luck or her timing needs to improve. Having one's confirmation hearing take place when members of the Senate are in arms about the Intelligence Community's failure to warn of the crisis in Egypt makes those hearings and the principal witness therein targets of opportunity for folks whose capacity for retrospective prediction is, as always, flawless.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Bill Nolte

I hope everyone who attended the Fall Intelligence Symposium at the National Reconnaissance Office shares my view that even within the high standards set for these events over the years, this was something special. First of all, the audience heard from an extraordinary set of speakers, from the DNI through the Director and Deputy Director of the NRO, and on and on. Consistent with our tradition, our guests had the opportunity to speak candidly in a non-attribution environment, and it was apparent they enjoyed the freedom to do that. In addition, we had the privilege of honoring two distinguished intelligence professionals, the late Dennis Fitzgerald and Lawrence Gershwin, the longtime National Intelligence Officer for Science and Technology. Finally, we had the opportunity to do this within the context of helping the NRO celebrate its 50th anniversary. It was especially fitting that we could honor Dennis Fitzgerald at an important moment in the history of the organization he helped lead and build over many years.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Bill Nolte

At a recent event sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center on domestic intelligence reform, the keynote speaker was Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. At the conclusion of his remarks, the floor was opened to the audience and the first question suggested that – the 9/11 Commission, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, and the passage of nine years notwithstanding - American intelligence remained imperfect. That is my characterization of the question, but you get the point. (As an aside, AFCEANs who are not familiar with the Bipartisan Policy Center and its activities should take a look at its website.)


Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Bill Nolte

The last few months have produced much turbulence for American intelligence. What's new? In our symposia, on the website, and in Joe Mazzafro's blog, among other opportunities, we'll address at least some of that. For now, however, I want to draw attention to two very important intelligence community programs: the IC Centers of Academic Excellence (IC CAE) and the National Defense Intelligence College (NDIC).


Friday, April 09, 2010
Bill Nolte

The publication of Christopher Andrew's Defence of the Realm, the authorized history of Britain's Security Service (or MI-5 as it continues to be known familiarly) is an extraordinary event, not least because it points to the differences between how the United States and Britain address counterintelligence and domestic security. Within the US/UK "special relationship," intelligence and security have been for nearly 75 years the most intimate part of an extraordinary partnership. Yet Professor Andrew's massive work (nearly 900 pages of text with another 150 pages of notes) highlights in a dramatic way that in Britain counterintelligence and domestic intelligence are core responsibilities, with the Security Service and its missions afforded parity with what the U.S. called, until 9/11, "foreign intelligence." It has been decades since American counterintelligence enjoyed similar prominence.


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