Concerns, Potential Breakthroughs Highlight Intelligence Technology Goals

September 22, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman
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The community’s wish list is defined by threat requirements and looming innovations.


Factors ranging from weapons of mass destruction proliferation to nanotechnology advances are driving the development of new technologies to serve the U.S. intelligence community. Necessity and opportunity are well represented among items listed by agency technologists at the AFCEA/INSA Intelligence and National Security Summit 2014, held September 18-19 in Washington, D.C.

Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense is high on the list, according to David Honey, director for science and technology, Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Its proliferation is a challenge, as many countries and groups are willing to add to that proliferation.

Many of the threats from the Cold War still exist, he maintained, and the war on terrorism has many challenges as terrorist groups re-format. New technologies are needed to help provide an accurate picture of these groups and their intentions to decision makers. And, leaders need to know if home-grown violent extremists are lone wolves or the vanguard of a larger movement that will coalesce around their actions.

On the technology front, Peter Highnam, director of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA), cited biomedical technologies and superconducting as important research areas. Allan Sonsteby, director, Applied Research Labs, Pennsylvania State University, singled out graphene as a technology on the brink of breakthroughs that will offer a host of new capabilities. Citing the commoditization of sensors that is underway, he called for the commoditization of technologies that will improve on or replace batteries. Above all, he said, the greatest technology gains in the future will occur with the confluence of engineering, life sciences and physical sciences.

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