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Intelligence After Next: Mission-Based Challenges for the Intelligence Community

For every document with a lasting impact in shifting the focus of the IC, there are dozens of others that have come and gone with no lasting and real impact. This paper proposes five mission-based challenges for the IC as an alternative approach.

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Former Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats in the 2019 National Intelligence Strategy (NIS), wrote “we have to become much more agile, more innovative, more creative.” Given the dynamic nature of demands on the Intelligence Community (IC) and the rapid pace of emerging technology, it is hard to disagree with Director Coats’ statement. At the same time, it is hard to look at the IC one year later and see real movement toward this goal or impact from the 2019 NIS.  One could argue that it is not only the 2019 NIS that has failed in this way, but that the halls, safes, and hard drives of the National Capital Region are littered with failed strategies and initiatives to increase innovation or drive development of the favored technology of the day to support national security. For every document which has had lasting impact in shifting the focus of the problem set the IC addresses—there are dozens of others that have come and gone with no lasting and real impact.

As an alternative approach, this document proposes five mission-based challenges for the IC to take on in the next 3-5 years.  They include:

  • Countering adversary malign influence campaigns before they broadly impact our population.
  • Mitigating insider threats rapidly and effectively through detection and protection.
  • Enabling free flow of information and communication in ‘smart’ cities under authoritarian governments with exquisite surveillance capabilities.
  • Finding peer high value relocatable targets (HVRTs) within the window when they are exposed for critical operations, thereby enabling traditional kinetic or non-kinetic attacks against them.
  • Providing greater non-traditional and non-kinetic means for disabling critical targets.

Identifying measures of success and accompanying metrics for each of these will be key to achieving measurable progress in facing these challenges. Solving them, however, will not solve every problem the IC confronts today. No set of 5, 15, or even 50 challenges could do that. However, if the IC can solve even 2 or 3 of these challenges, it will have enhanced its impact while exercising its ability to identify the right emerging technologies needed for these specific challenges and the ability to adopt and adapt those technologies as needed for its problem set. Those behaviors will be critical enablers for addressing the other pressing problems the IC faces.