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American Forces Press Service

Vice Chairman Talks Intelligence at Geospatial Conference

By Tech. Sgt. Adam M. Stump, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 23, 2007 – Intelligence sharing between nations needs to be re-examined and improved, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here yesterday.

Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright gave the keynote address to more than 2,600 in attendance at the Geospatial Intelligence 2007 Conference. The audience included people from the Defense Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, Department of Homeland Security and the Secret Service, along with people from 17 foreign countries.

After his speech, the general took questions from the audience. One question concerned classification being a barrier to international intelligence collaboration.

"If you're a parent, explain this one to your kids: It's OK to share a foxhole with an Aussie, have him die for you, but we can't tell him which way the threat's coming from," Cartwright said. "It's just ludicrous." He said collaborating with other nations while protecting classified information is imperative.

"We have to be able to start to differentiate between what it is we really want to keep secret," the general said.

The challenge of intelligence sharing was recently displayed during a national-level exercise, Cartwright told the audience. American and Australian officials tried to get into each other's computer systems to share intelligence, which proved difficult.

"Not sharing is unacceptable," he bluntly said.

During the question-and-answer session, Cartwright also said developing and expanding a common program to gather intelligence information is important to the future of intelligence capabilities. A current system operates like commercial search engines, he explained.
"The customer decides what it is they want to know,” he said. “It's more akin to My Yahoo! or Google.”

That system has limitations, he said. The way ahead, he told the group, is to let the user tell the search engines what to search for as well as what not to search for. However, Cartwright said, fielding intelligence capabilities shouldn't always involve throwing money at the problem to solve it, likening that challenge to the one posed by improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"It's akin to IEDs," the general said. "We can't afford the solution, but we're going to keep trying to spend the money to do it in some technical way instead of stepping out of the architectures and stovepipes," he added, referring to developing an “outside the box” way of solving the problem.

(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adam M. Stump is assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff public affairs office.)

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