Scaled-up software, streamlined capabilities, inter-operable platforms, and community-wide fusion are the new “how’s” behind Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence Stacey Dixon’s refreshed IC agenda.
Over the course of her 20-minute speech in the Colorado Ballroom Tuesday morning, Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence (PDDNI) Stacey Dixon laid out the Intelligence Community’s (IC) major tasks of the moment and shared her input on how it might accomplish them. As her predecessor Sue Gordon put it in her closing remarks, Dixon “took us on the most incredible journey, from the brilliance of our system to the role intelligence plays; to the advantages technology can afford to the challenges we still have to address; to the recognition that it isn’t about secrecy, it’s about national security.”
As Dixon herself said, much of the mission is the same it was 17 years ago, when the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) launched in response to September 11. Only now the IC is several plot-points closer to realizing it, and—thanks to more recently developed skills and technology—armed for acceleration. “I see that at this conference,” said Dixon. “I see it in the advances taking place at the cutting edge of technology. I see it in the incredible capabilities that those here enabled and the collaboration taking place that prepares those capabilities to be exploited and leveraged.”
Priority number one, said Dixon, is “integrating the INTs.” It’s a years’-old agenda item to be sure, but it comes to the community today with tighter focus and clarified strategy. Greater interconnectivity will dramatically reduce the time it takes for information to go from being sensed to being acted upon, creating an accelerated tipping and queuing process that drives more meaningful outputs,” said Dixon. “Doing this is a matter of routine. But doing it to scale is critical.”
Toward that effort, Dixon mentioned one pilot program currently underway. Known as Unity, the interconnecting system software fuses knowledge across INTs and integrates existing platforms and workflows. “It will take advantage of machine-learning models to improve output and feed up those workflows,” Dixon said. “This will allow us to sift through enormous quantities of noise and focus on the information that we seek.”
Pulling off integration on such a grand scale calls for Herculean-level streamlining, red-tape removal, and above all, information sharing, which brings Dixon to her second priority: reducing barriers and increasing inter-operability. “Finding the right balance between protecting sources and methods and enabling the benefit of sharing information with our partners and the public is tough,” Dixon said. “But it’s also necessary.”
Dixon lauded the leaps in transparency and sharing that have been made by the community over the past 17 years but insists there are miles to go. “We also know that when we’re looking at the national-security implications of climate change or health security, for example, the best minds working on these are not always in government,” Dixon said. “We must engage regularly with experts outside government, in academia, and think-tanks.”
With the private sector, as well. “When it comes to protecting our vital capabilities, such as our critical infrastructure, we must work closely with industry,” she said. “You have seen the results of the declassification of intelligence related to Russia’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine. Commercial industry enabled that sharing and continued to update the public as the war has raged on.”
Dixon sees no better time than the present to shift from agenda to action. “It’s within the IC that [these] capabilities and disciplines reside, with many of those organizations having a presence here in Colorado.”
The U.S. Space Force recently became the 18th member of the U.S. Intelligence Community. During a Wednesday keynote at GEOINT 2022, Deputy Chief of Space Operations for Operations, Cyber, and Nuclear Lt. Gen. G. Chance Saltzman explained why the Space Force is not just a new IC member, but also a vital one.