Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, reflects on what has changed and what remains consistent in the threat landscape
Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), began his keynote address from the main stage on Wednesday with a look at what has changed and what remains consistent from the perspective of his 40 years of service.
Since the 1960s, the mission of DIA has been to function as the foundation of military intelligence to be “the Master Sense makers of the strategic, operational, and tactical environment around the world. That is, we are supposed to know everything about every military in the world,” Berrier said. “It’s the same today; much of all that we do is really grounded in foundational military intelligence, which starts with GEOINT. That has not changed. What has changed, though, is the threat landscape.”
Military intelligence in decades past focused on the binary of the Cold War and the proliferation of nuclear weapons that came with it. The present landscape is very different, though Russia remains a significant concern as before. Berrier likened Russia to a house, saying the foundation of that house, laid down in the Cold War under the Soviet Union, remains intact, though the house itself is a bit more flimsy in construction.
Similarly, the People’s Republic of China is a longstanding intelligence concern, though one that has expanded considerably in scope. Berrier stressed that since the 1990s the PRC’s military capability has grown exponentially posing a serious threat, in terms of “space, cyber, and every domain in between land, sea, and air.”
Other matters of concern include, of course, North Korea, and extremists in the Middle East including organizations such as al Qaeda, Al Shabaab, and ISIS, all of whom intend harm to the allies of the United States. The mission of the DIA in all cases remains to supply foundational military intelligence, though the scope of challenges has necessitated changes and restructuring. The new focus includes several hundred analysts dedicated to looking at China and Taiwan, as well as investing in new capabilities in the areas of upgrading databases with the integration of AI and other tools.
“And within five or so years,” he said, “we’re really focusing on security upgrades to equipment, and making sure that we have the right tools, in the right place, at the right time.” Berrier also stressed the importance of modernizing “the ability for our human intelligence enterprise is to operate safely,” and spoke of enhancements in the DIA human resources programs.
Barrier praised the DIA’s relationship with the CIA and other agencies, saying, “We will continue to make sure that we have the standards, the training, the tradecraft, and the catalogs of data available to the entire defense intelligence enterprise.” Emphasizing the importance of partnerships across agencies, he said, “Do you think that the directors of the [Russian intelligence agencies] SVR, the GRU, and the FSB had coffee this morning? I don’t think so. We did. And we do frequently; we talk to each other all the time. Those relationships over there are competitive. Here, we collaborate.”
Berrier also described the relationship between the DIA and NGA as “inextricably locked. Wherever you go, whether that’s in a combatant command, whether that’s down in Charlottesville or Reston, where there are DIA officers, you are bound to find officers working side by side, our analysts, fusing single-source and all-source into a picture that creates decision space for the Department of Defense.”