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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Cost of Intelligence

For John, BLUFProducing the intelligence we need to protect our nation is an expensive business.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

In yesterday's edition of The Washington Post is an article by Reporter Greg Miller that says a report to the President questions the current overall focuses of our Intelligence Community (IC).  The article, "Secret report raises alarms on intelligence blind spots because of AQ focus", says too much attention is being paid to the war on terrorism, thus causing neglect in other areas.  Here is the lede and following paragraph.

A panel of White House advisers warned President Obama in a secret report that U.S. spy agencies were paying inadequate attention to China, the Middle East and other national security flash points because they had become too focused on military operations and drone strikes, U.S. officials said.

Led by influential figures including new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and former senator David L. Boren (D-Okla.), the panel concluded in a report last year that the roles of the CIA, the National Security Agency and other spy services had been distorted by more than a decade of conflict.

This article raises some questions about how the new Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, will deal with this situation, now that he is running the institution that most benefits from this supposed distortion of our intelligence focus.

However, SecDef Hagel aside, this is a serious issue.  Intelligence collection and analysis is expensive business and at least part of the budget is hidden within the larger Federal Budget.  My friend, the late Colonel John Rothrock, used to say that the cost of tracking Soviet (it was some time ago) mobile strategic nuclear missiles would cost the GDP of a small nation.  Expensive.

The rule has to be, bring me an initiative, bring me a tradeoff.

Regards  —  Cliff

1 comment:

Neal said...

There is no tradeoff, unless the loss of a "few" lives is an acceptable price for reduced vigilance. Intel is a tricky business that involves some less than savory activities. The attitudes of small minorities and the media's insistence on knowing everything and then blabbing it to everyone has hobbled our intelligence gathering capability for several decades. The Clintons devastated our HUMINT capability and we may NEVER recover from that damage. Beyond that, we have opted for high cost, low density intel gathering solutions that in the end produce comparatively little and prevent the employment of simpler, more "traditional" methods.

Also, and not mentioned anywhere, I believe that our intel capability is weakened by a growing focus on domestic surveillance which necessarily draws energy and resources from the Intel community.

Finally, a question asked many times and never answered, why do we need so many disconnected and competing intelligence agencies?