Michael G. Vickers,
DOD: Defense-Intelligence Integration Strongest Since 9/11
September 13, 2011
9/11 attacks on the U.S. homeland forged a bond between the Defense
Department and national-mission intelligence agencies that has never
been stronger and that grows with each new challenge, defense officials
said in the days before the tragedy’s 10th anniversary.
“The biggest change in intelligence capabilities since 9/11 has occurred
within intelligence organizations … and not across them,” Michael G.
Vickers, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, told American
Forces Press Service.
“Improved intelligence is more about focus, priorities, additional
capacity and new capabilities,” he added.
Four of the five big national intelligence agencies are part of the
Defense Department, Vickers said. These are the Defense Intelligence
Agency, the National Security Agency, the National
Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office.
The CIA is an independent agency whose primary customer is the president
of the United States.
The need for improvement among intelligence agencies was addressed in
the 2004 report of the National Commission of the Terrorist Attacks Upon
the United States, called the 9/11 Commission.
According to the report, legal, policy and cultural barriers among
federal agencies, including intelligence agencies, seriously impeded the
kind of information sharing that might have disrupted the 9/11 attacks.
This month, in a “Tenth Anniversary Report Card” to the nation on how
commission recommendations have been implemented, 9/11 Commission
Chairman Thomas Kean and Vice Chairman Lee H. Hamilton said key
intelligence community relationships seem to be improving and moving in
a constructive direction.
“Information sharing within the federal government and among federal,
state, local authorities and with allies, while not perfect,” the report
authors said, “has considerably improved since 9/11.”
Part of the improvement results from an intelligence budget that has
risen to more than $80 billion, more than double what was spent in 2001,
they added, and federal, state and local authorities investigate leads
and share information in 72 fusion centers and 105 joint terrorism task
“The FBI, CIA and the broader intelligence community have implemented
significant reforms,” they said, “disrupting many plots and bringing to
justice many terrorist operatives.”
In response to commission recommendations and to unify and focus the
community, in 2004 Congress created the Office of the Director of
National Intelligence, which assumed many functions of the positions of
director and deputy director of Central Intelligence.
At the same time, Congress created the National Counterterrorism Center,
part of the ODNI, with experts from the CIA, FBI, Defense Department and
Creation of the Office of the ODNI and DNI “lets the CIA director focus
on the core business of running the CIA and its many activities and
operations,” Vickers said.
The ODNI has provided more depth on such jobs as oversight of
intelligence resources, he added, noting that managing the intelligence
community was one of three jobs for the former director of central
But new positions and centers do not drive the depth of integration
occurring among DOD and national-mission intelligence agencies, he said.
Today, many “intelligence agencies are embedded in each other’s
organizations,” Vickers said, “ … and a lot of the integration has been
horizontal and driven by mission and not imposed top down” by the DNI.
“The analytical community had generally been pretty integrated,” Vickers
said, adding that there has been much more integration among those who
perform operational intelligence functions.
“So [signals intelligence] and [geospatial intelligence] and others are
embedded in each other’s organizations, we have more CIA representatives
around in the commands, and there’s just a lot more organizational
integration than there’s been in the past,” Vickers added, noting that
he speaks daily with the CIA acting director and the permanent deputy
These organizations, the undersecretary said, “have common cause like
they’ve never had before and they need each other’s capabilities to get
the job done.”
In Vickers’ current position, he said among his top priorities are “to
make sure we have even tighter integration between defense and national
intelligence and between our special operations forces and intelligence,
as demonstrated by the bin Laden raid.”
In the face of declining budgets, the undersecretary added, the
intelligence community must maximize its capabilities.
“As we decide which technologies or resources to invest in, and how much
structure to keep, it’s important that we do this across the
intelligence community,” Vickers said.
“The DNI, the secretary of defense and in my position as exercising
authority, direction and control on behalf of the secretary,” he added,
“it’s very important that the three of us work that very closely.”
At the Defense Intelligence Agency, Deputy Director for Analysis Jeffrey
N. Rapp said integration among DOD, DIA and the rest of the intelligence
community is “one of the really big success stories for DIA.”
Collaboration with DOD sister agencies such as NSA and NGA has been
“superb,” Rapp said, and has improved with other agencies in the
intelligence community, including CIA.
“Our analysts certainly work very well together,” Rapp said. “On a daily
basis they interact and collaborate on production,” including products
that go to the president.
The deputy director for analysis said he and his CIA counterpart meet
regularly and work together in several intelligence forums, and that the
organizations jointly host analytic conferences.
“They attend our conferences and we attend theirs,” he added, “so
they’re full-blown members and collaborative partners on a wide variety
of topics and production areas for us.”
Internally, Rapp said, DIA has become an expeditionary combat support
“We’ve got almost 150 analysts deployed forward right now,” he said. “I
don’t think that was the pattern pre-9/11. In certain niche areas we’d
deploy an analyst here or there, but DIA in my view really stepped up to
the plate in terms of providing subject matter expertise and analytic
As DIA has engaged over the past decade in Operation Enduring Freedom
and Operation Iraqi Freedom, Rapp said, information sharing with
coalition partners has improved dramatically.
“The agencies have realized a need to do this to enable mission
accomplishment at the front end, so you see highly integrated efforts on
the battlefield where information has perishability, it’s operationally
focused and it’s needed to conduct operations,” he said.
“Everybody’s come to the table on that,” Rapp added. “When you go
forward, you find CIA, NSA, NGA, DIA -- everybody working together right
there on the floor in a tactical operations center or supporting a
command. It’s really pretty remarkable the kind of collaboration and
integration that’s going on to enable operations.”
As far back as Desert Storm, he said, there was sharing but it was
clunky -- stovepiped in some places, pro forma in others.
“Today it’s much more enabled because leadership at the highest levels
in the ODNI, in the agencies, have gotten behind it and figured out a
way to do it without compromising sensitive material and sources,” Rapp
Joint duty has also helped foster integration, the deputy director for
In 1986 Congress passed the Goldwater-Nichols Act, mandating that
promotion to high rank in the military services required duty with a
different service or a joint command.
In 2007, then-DNI Mike McConnell signed implementing instructions for
the intelligence community’s Civilian Joint Duty Program, a civilian
personnel rotation system.
“That’s starting to make a difference as we send our personnel out to
work in other agencies and within the community in other positions,”
“They come back with a different understanding of how those agencies
[and those cultures] work and how they do business, and … other agencies
send folks here and get that same understanding.”
All over the intelligence community, Rapp said, leadership at all levels
“If leadership isn’t … demanding that it be made a part of the culture,
it doesn’t happen,” he said, “And leadership is truly committed at many
levels to try to make this work better.”
Perhaps the most visible result of the increased integration among
defense and national-mission intelligence agencies was the successful
assault this year on the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that killed
Osama bin Laden.
“Having been at CIA on the day of the Bin Laden operation, that was for
me a crystallizing moment,” George Little, who served as director of
public affairs during Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta's tenure as CIA
director, told American Forces Press Service.
wasn’t about what uniform you wear or what badge you wear or what
organization you work for,” said Little, who is now press secretary for
the Defense Department.
“Both the U.S. military and the CIA were one team, one fight, and in
this case one operation,” he added. “It’s a vivid and obviously
high-profile example of the cooperation that can take place and I think
that’s going to continue.”
On the 9/11 Commission’s description of barriers to information sharing
among intelligence agencies, Little said the important point to realize
“is that on 9/12, both organizations immediately went to work to protect
the nation and have been at a wartime ops tempo ever since.”
In the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, Little said, “a sign hangs to this
day that says, ‘Today is 9/12.’ And I think both the CIA and the U.S.
military are operating with that kind of sense of purpose."