OK, I admit it—on any scale—I am an analytic dinosaur. When I started as an intelligence analyst in the (yes) 1980s—it was truly a lifetime of technology ago. Pong was cool. Wang was cutting edge. All the analysts I worked with had amazing colored charts on the wall, big “scrapbooks,” stacks and file cabinets of message traffic a foot high that came from the communications room. When I established one of the first computer databases that my analytic team had ever seen they thought I had gone rogue.
Commercial data and tools are defining the future of geospatial intelligence for the agency tasked with providing it across a growing community. From new private-sector satellites to unclassified information extracted from open sources and social media, the ways of collecting, processing and disseminating geospatial intelligence are changing.
Adversaries have caused less of a disruptive aftermath on some U.S. military operations than a homegrown technology solution: big data.
Once viewed as a tremendous asset, troops can now be mired in the vast amount of information collected from ever-improving sensors of all kinds, impeding some missions in command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, better known as C4ISR. The quagmire drives leaders to seek solutions.
At the height of combat missions in Afghanistan, the U.S. military occupied nearly 825 military outposts throughout the war-ravaged region. That number now stands at roughly 20. The outposts served an extensive intelligence-gathering network, using surveillance balloons and wide-range signals intelligence collection operations. The rapid drawdown of these facilities following the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from the region created a black hole of information, with Afghan forces struggling to fill the gap.
The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) has released a broad agency announcement (BAA) seeking proposals to develop, and experimentally test, systems that use crowdsourcing and structured analytic techniques to improve analytic reasoning. At the same time, the organization released three requests for information and announced a March 11 proposers’ day for the Odin program, which is developing methods for detecting attempts to disguise a person’s biometric identity.
Persistent intelligence is moving from a reliance on time-driven collection to composing information from a broad range of sensors. In photographic terms, it is changing from a time-lapse to a multispectral scene. But this increased reliance on different sources of intelligence also increases the importance of data processing and mandates cooperative efforts among public and private researchers.
Late in 2014, I drafted an article titled “The U.S. Intelligence Community of 2025: Smaller by Design?” The question mark was an important part of the title. The point was not to recommend a conscious reduction in force, but rather to suggest that such an outcome should be given consideration if it could deliver equal or greater capability along with greater agility and efficiency. I received prepublication review approval of the paper, then never submitted it for publication.
Authorities should view modern emancipation not as a movement founded upon an emotional response to injustice, but as a tactical achievement using analytic methodologies to eliminate the despicable trade of human trafficking. The global threat of this human rights violation inherently is convoluted and requires an integrated response to mitigate root sources.
Before readers vent on that headline, they should read the accompanying text. The quotation marks should earn a moment or two of hesitation. Then you can vent.
Last month, for the second time in four years, I attended the Executive Women’s Forum (EWF) in Scottsdale, Arizona. I must admit, I typically do not frequent all-female groups or events. I always have believed that to succeed, women must be mainstreamed into all professions, companies and organizations. After all, I had entered the U.S. Navy and naval intelligence in 1979, at a time when only a handful of women were in this field. Many of the legal and policy tenets already were already in place to ensure I was given the same opportunity as my male officer counterparts. Of course, there were workplace behavioral challenges—but the framework was in place regarding equal pay, promotion and leadership opportunity for all under the law.
U.S. intelligence agencies are in the business of predicting the future, but no one has systematically evaluated the accuracy of those predictions—until now. The intelligence community’s cutting-edge research and development agency uses a handful of predictive analytics programs to measure and improve the ability to forecast major events, including political upheavals, disease outbreaks, insider threats and cyber attacks.
The Institute of World Politics (IWP) in Washington, D.C., and our colleagues at the Intelligence National Security Alliance, or INSA, are collaborating this fall on a series of conversations on cyber intelligence, tackling key issues that surround the phenomenon that increasingly influences—if not yet dominates—our lives.
Open-source intelligence strong-armed its way to prominence as a respected discipline out of necessity as the world of professional spies struggles to extract valuable information from the daunting amount of data in this technical age where Twitter posts contain intelligence and selfies can be evidence, according to experts.
While open-source intelligence, or OSINT, is a vital tooth in the cog, it is but one discipline critical to effective foreign policy decision-making, offered Joseph DeTrani, president of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance.
This year's Intelligence and National Security Summit cyber track, which Shawn Henry and I co-chaired, featured many insightful and compelling discussions across several key areas. But none was more enlightening and challenging than the final session focused on “An Unclassified Global Cyber Threat Assessment,” which began with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) national intelligence officer (NIO) for cyber, Sean Kanuck. Offering counterpoint was one of the best internationally focused cyber minds in the business, Melissa Hathaway, president of Hathaway Global Strategies. This panel was moderated by Rear Adm.
My school at the University of Maryland is reviewing its curriculum. In a meeting over the summer, colleagues were discussing ways to make our graduates more skilled in managing bureaucracy—how to integrate bureaucracy into policy decisions and so on. As I told a colleague later, we were missing the point. We should not be developing masters of the bureaucratic universe; we should be developing leaders who can help us move beyond bureaucracy as an organizing model. He smiled. I get that a lot.
The use of biometrics for force protection alone could be a bygone approach as the blossoming technology makes inroads toward the development of a new intelligence discipline. Biometrics intelligence ultimately could be the next INT in the menu of intelligence specialties.
The U.S. military’s interest in rapidly acquiring biometrics know-how to help today’s warfighter with tomorrow’s technology puts the private sector on the verge of a turning point.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the United States was the beneficiary of staggeringly important intelligence information transmitted through the CIA by Adolf Tolkachev, a Soviet engineer who held a high position in a Russian military radar design house. Tolkachev provided information that redirected U.S. defense spending and allowed the U.S. Air Force to maintain air supremacy against the Warsaw Pact and other nations that used Soviet air defense platforms and technologies—while saving more than a billion dollars in procurement spending. A recent book by David E. Hoffman categorizes Tolkachev’s importance by its title, The Billion Dollar Spy. Yet before Tolkachev’s information could be considered in U.S.
Four teams will share a grand prize of $110,000 for their work on the speech recognition challenge Automatic Speech Recognition in Reverberant Environments, or ASpIRE.
The winning teams are from Johns Hopkins University, Raytheon BBN Technologies, the Institute for Infocomm Research and Brno University of Technology, according to the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The days when the Free World’s intelligence community could focus exclusively on a monolithic threat are over. We may be living in the most uncertain security environment since World War II, and threat diversity is a major reason. The varying nature of threats, along with their effective capabilities, are impelling the intelligence community to expand its vision and revamp organizationally.
Having too little information once daunted the world of spies and intelligence analysts. Now the problem is too much data, and one of the biggest challenges going forward for the intelligence community is not a lack of technology but civilization’s dependency on it.
Today big data is one of the hottest segments of the information technology industry, successfully shrinking the world while creating an information overload that can paralyze analysts working to win the data-management war, experts lament.