• Dan Coats, director of national intelligence, describes the challenges facing the community at the Intelligence and National Security Summit. Photography by Herman Farrer
     Dan Coats, director of national intelligence, describes the challenges facing the community at the Intelligence and National Security Summit. Photography by Herman Farrer

U.S. Intelligence Community Faces Four Major Challenges

September 4, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
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The DNI ascribes problems to a changing and more hostile world.


Economics, crime, terrorism and technology form the basis of four major challenges confronting the U.S. intelligence community, according to its director. Dan Coats, director of national intelligence, described the causes of these challenges to a large luncheon audience on the first day of the 2018 Intelligence and National Security Summit sponsored by AFCEA International and INSA at National Harbor, Maryland.

Coats described the first challenge as the growing demand for economic intelligence. This information can have a variety of national security applications. The second challenge is that the intelligence community must posture itself to face the problem of transnational organized crime.

The third challenge is that the global war on terrorism has entered a new phase, Coats offered. Groups such as ISIS have lost virtually all the territory they used to control, but they now are emphasizing the ability to strike against Western assets. And the fourth challenge is the intelligence community’s need for a more efficient collection and analysis cycle “that will enable a revolutionary step forward,” he said.

These challenges come against the backdrop of a more dangerous world. China continues to pursue a more active foreign policy, particularly outside its traditional areas of operation, Coats pointed out. Russia faces rising discontent over economic stagnation, which may lead President Vladimir Putin to turn public attention outside of Russia’s borders. Iran also is suffering unrest amid worsening economic conditions, and North Korea’s commitment—which Coats framed in visual hand quotes—represents a huge challenge to the intelligence community.

Weapons of mass destruction also occupy significant places on the intelligence community watch list. North Korea has nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles that threaten the United States and all its allies in the region, Coats offered. And, he expressed concern about the development of biological weapons in the guise of biomedical research. The community is watching this closely and expects the threat to grow, he added.

Coats addressed the concerns about cyber threats “I am deeply concerned about cyber threats to upcoming elections. But the cyber threat to the United States is not limited to elections,” he declared. He added that every kind of cyber operation leaves a trail, and analysts use this to track cyber actions back to their origin. “Rest assured, we are not just standing by. Every day, we are collecting and integrating intelligence on our adversaries,” he stated.

“Our mission has to be: to seek the truth and speak the truth, for the world that we view and the liberties we must protect.”

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