Intelligence Is an Embedded Activity

October 2005
By Vice Adm. Herbert A. Browne, USN (Ret.)

Changes are taking place in the world of intelligence. The creation of the new position of director of national intelligence, or DNI, illustrates how the U.S. government views intelligence as a vital element of virtually every defense and security activity—from the national level to the state and local levels. Not only are many intelligence functions being consolidated under one roof, but also other non-intelligence pursuits are interoperating with intelligence to an ever-increasing degree. And, in a way, AFCEA’s involvement with intelligence is a microcosm of those changes that are sweeping the community in the United States and in nations worldwide.

Intelligence is a vital part of AFCEA’s activities. Support for the intelligence community is paramount among the association’s priorities. Earlier this year, AFCEA sought to improve this support by attempting to consolidate its Intelligence Department with another professional intelligence-based association. The goal was to combine the resources of the two groups to provide a separate, top-notch service to all levels of the community.

However, after a great deal of work and planning, AFCEA decided not to pursue this initiative. We determined that AFCEA could support the DNI and the community best by keeping intelligence closely integrated with the other information technology disciplines in command, control, communications and computers.

AFCEA originally established its role in bringing government and industry together in an ethical forum by serving as the association for information technology professionals. Even before the digital age began to dominate electronics, this association recognized that command, control, communications and intelligence were inexorably linked in both development and exploitation. From the AFCEA perspective, peeling intelligence away from the “C” disciplines would be the wrong move at the wrong moment in history. And, this reflects the state of intelligence today. More than ever, intelligence is intertwined with even more government disciplines such as logistics and operations.

The AFCEA Intelligence Committee remains the centerpiece of the association’s intelligence activities. The symposia that this committee hosts are widely attended and are a tremendous source of professional development for the intelligence community. In addition, the 45 government and industry members of the AFCEA Intelligence Committee produce white papers that continue to contribute to the ongoing discussion about how to enhance our nation’s intelligence capability.

So, activities in support of the intelligence community will remain an integral part of AFCEA and its endeavors. We believe that this approach is best for the country, for our individual members and for our industry partners to understand the direction in which the DNI is moving. AFCEA will continue to hold classified symposia each year in Washington, D.C. And, we are looking into holding an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance event outside of the Washington area. We have opportunities to support organizations such as some of the unified combatant commands, and many of our chapters have an intelligence presence in their own local events.

But this does not imply any lack of cooperation with others on these efforts. AFCEA will continue to partner with other not-for-profit associations on behalf of the intelligence community. For example, the AFCEA Fall Intelligence Symposium in December is being conducted in partnership with the Security Affairs Support Association, or SASA. Having AFCEA and SASA put on this event together will produce positive results for the intelligence community as a whole.

Many important challenges are gripping the intelligence community today, and AFCEA has committed to work toward solving one in particular. I personally promised the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that AFCEA would commit its Intelligence Committee and its Technical Committee to helping find a way to foil the effort of those who use improvised explosive devices—IEDs. These devices, which are targeting both Iraqi citizens and our personnel who are trying to help them rebuild their country into a thriving democracy, often use the electromagnetic spectrum for operation.

That spectrum falls right in the center of AFCEA’s focus, and it serves as a good example of why intelligence should remain as part of the information technology community. AFCEA will be able to bring the best minds of its Intelligence and Technical committees to bear on helping coalition forces defeat IEDs.

Whichever way we approach this challenge, it points out the degree to which intelligence and the “C” disciplines are so closely integrated. Now is not the time to stovepipe intelligence—not nationally, nor at AFCEA. This association has seamlessly incorporated intelligence with its other areas of interest for many years. Now is the time to reap the benefits of that synergy.