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American Forces Press Service

Defense Intelligence Office Marks 10 Years of Progress

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 4, 2012 – Ten years ago this month, an entry in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2003 created a position in the Defense Department that for the first time harnessed and focused the department’s diverse intelligence assets.

Today, Michael G. Vickers is the third undersecretary of defense for intelligence in an office whose 500 combined personnel are boosting the department’s ability to tackle conventional and emerging national security threats and its work as a partner with those in the broader intelligence community.

“The silent professionals in the intelligence community are really some of the most dedicated and hardest working people I have ever met and are really committed to trying to protect this country and rarely get the recognition they deserve for the great work that they do to protect this country,” Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said at a dinner last night, held to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the position.

“I thank everybody in this room for everything you do to protect this great country of ours,” the secretary added. “You are this country’s first line of defense.”

In 2001, eight DOD agencies had intelligence responsibilities. Of these, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, what is now the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office reported directly to the defense secretary, Vickers said. The four military service intelligence agencies reported to their service chiefs.

Even then, defense officials understood the need to improve the department’s intelligence management, but the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on U.S. soil made the need more urgent.

The key function of the undersecretary position, Vickers said, “is to exercise the secretary’s authority, direction and control over defense intelligence -- the four big agencies and the rest of the enterprise.”

Several months after the position was established, he explained, a similar reconfiguration took place in the broader intelligence community.

In 2004, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act established the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to unify and manage intelligence community efforts. Before the legislation created this office, a single person served both as director of central intelligence and director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

In 2007, the defense secretary and the director of national intelligence signed a memorandum of agreement that added intelligence responsibility as director of defense intelligence, reporting directly to the DNI and to the defense secretary, to the portfolio of the undersecretary of defense for intelligence.

As the third undersecretary of defense for intelligence, Vickers follows former directors Stephen A. Cambone, who served from March 2003 to December 2006, and retired Air Force Gen. James R. Clapper Jr., who held the position from April 2007 to August 2010. The Senate confirmed Vickers for the position in March 2011.

“It’s been a pretty tumultuous couple of years,” Vickers said, with the continuing war against al-Qaida, the surge of forces in Afghanistan and the start of the drawdown of U.S. forces there.

Vickers’ watch also has seen the morphing of the December 2010 Arab Spring into ongoing political turmoil and violence in the Middle East and North Africa; the NATO campaign in Libya from March to October 2011; the operation that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011;, and the 10-year, $487 billion reduction in defense spending that prompted a major strategic review of all programs.

During his tenure, Vickers said, he’s tried to strengthen his organization’s integration with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, its role in policy and operations, its oversight of the principal defense intelligence agencies and defense analysis, and its relations with congressional oversight committees and foreign intelligence partnerships.

He launched a multiyear initiative to strengthen the capabilities and contributions of defense HUMINT, or human intelligence collection, at the national level, and supports initiatives under way to strengthen DOD-CIA operational integration.

Strengthening ties between DOD special operations forces and defense and national intelligence also is a top priority, he said.

“Today, we’re further along on all these metrics, … and some of the initiatives, like improving defense HUMINT, we’re well under way with that,” he added.

Vickers said his priorities can be divided into the areas of operations and capabilities, and are derived from President Barack Obama’s top national security priorities.

The four big operational areas, Vickers said, include dismantling and strategically defeating al-Qaida, setting conditions for a successful transition in Afghanistan, preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and defending the nation against cyber threats.

The undersecretary also has objectives on the capabilities side. Vickers wants to “further strengthen [DOD] capabilities in counterterrorism and counterproliferation … and to significantly improve the department’s capabilities to project power in what’s called anti-access or area-denial environments” related to the department’s strategic shift to the Asia-Pacific region, he said.

Countering these efforts has an intelligence dimension, an operational dimension and others, he added, “and I’ve put a lot of emphasis on that.”

Vickers, with Clapper, who now is the director of national intelligence, has focused attention on integrating defense intelligence with national intelligence, he said.

“Intelligence has never been more important for supporting policymaking [and] operations, so the integration of intelligence and operations is critical in a number of areas,” he said.

Also important, he said, is budgetary integration between the military intelligence program and the national intelligence program.

“When we do strategic planning as we go through our budget cycles, we are completely transparent to each other. We have executive committee meetings, joint off sites, where we discuss the problems we’re trying to solve and the resource decisions and shifts we would make,” Vickers said. “We make sure we’re solving both problems simultaneously -- the demands of national intelligence and the demands of defense intelligence -- and the integration is much deeper.

“There’s a lot more operational and intelligence integration across the whole spectrum of capabilities,” he added, “and the budget process rationalizes that [and] makes it transparent.”

Agencies in the intelligence community are becoming more integrated internally and externally, Vickers added.

“NGA, NSA, CIA, DIA and NRO are working together, and [their] people are going from agency to agency, sitting side by side on problems,” the undersecretary said. “We’re bringing multiple intelligence disciplines -- imagery and [signals intelligence] and HUMINT -- together to solve a problem … so you can look at integration in a lot of different ways, and they’re all important.”

In a period of declining resources, he said, “integration is not only the right way to do business, it’s essential.”

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