Friday, November 20, 2015

Intelligence Community Culture Shift

On 27 October the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released a detailed plan for increased transparency for the intelligence community (IC). The IC model must make this shift in order to garner public trust. This model will also aim to improve public education on IC issues and demystify government work. This change comes in accord with a continued push for a adapted bureaucratic model post 9/11. the IC saw many failures prior to 9/11 primarily due to lack of adaptation to new threats. 

Today's IC faces complex threats like cybersecurity issues and extensive terrorist networks. This will create several new issues when paired with the massive refugee migration. Currently, Europe faces the largest security threats due to the dated model of international refugee management policies. These policies make it difficult to manage the massive flow of refugees while ensuring that proper vetting is possible in a cost and time efficient manner. 

These issues aside, the US IC must learn from its failures pre-9/11 and adapt to the new challenges of our time. The ODNI quietly announced in February 2015 that the IC would be making a culture shift towards a more open and transparent environment. The change comes a year and a half after infamous Edward Snowden leaked national security secrets and fled the country. The directive is also supported by this year's USA Freedom Act, which was passed this year and seeks to ensure civil liberties are respected and government transparency is made possible.
This shift is outlined by the ODNI in four major principles:
1) Provide appropriate transparency to enhance public understanding of the IC
2) Be proactive and clear in making information publicly available
3) Protect information about intelligence sources, methods, and activities
4) Align IC roles, resources, processes, and policies to support transparency implementation
These efforts not only include declassifying over five thousand documents, reports on steps taken for reform since the executive directive for an open IC in January 2014, the publication of statistical transparency reports, as well as increased public engagement opportunities. While the plan is ambitious, it also touches on several key gaps and challenges it will face. The IC is inherently a culture of secrets. This culture has been ingrained since the inception of all US intelligence organizations. The move towards a more open environment will be a struggle for the IC, as it is largely a bureaucratic beast. Reform does not come easy, but the ambitious plan leaves room for flexibility in making these important adjustments. This shift is a crucial change in operations of the US government and will be extremely important in the following months and years with respect to the modern warfare and national security threats the United States faces. 

Expanding a culture of openness will gain public support and confidence for the IC, and will additionally bolster international support when working multilaterally with agencies abroad. Intelligence sharing has already proven to be beneficial in times of crisis, with respect to the tragic attacks in Paris, France. The US must all be prepared to work with allies to meet the unprecedented challenges created by sprawling terrorist networks. 

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