The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is taking aim at reforming and refocusing the Defense Intelligence Agency.
The Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal 2018, which was passed by the committee the week of July 17 and passed the full House July 28, outlines several roles, responsibilities and programs to eliminate or transfer from DIA to other organs of government.
“HPSCI is following an initiative to streamline and more tightly focus the DIA,” Jack Langer, director of communications on the House Intelligence Committee, wrote in an email to C4ISRNET. “In our oversight work, we’ve identified some functions that would more suitably be performed by other entities.”
“In the last 70 years, many reform efforts have targeted defense intelligence within the Department of Defense, but today’s defense intelligence apparatus is cumbersome, duplicative, and expensive,” the bill’s report released on July 24 said. “As a result, the Committee is examining the defense intelligence enterprise, beginning with a review of Defense Intelligence Agency roles and missions.”
The report notes that DIA’s roles and missions have grown from “19 discrete functions to more than 100.”
“We’re doing a deep dive on the Defense Intelligence Agency. It’s been a long, ongoing investigation,” the committee’s chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said during a July 27 House Rules Committee hearing. “Quite frankly, we’re trying to get them back in the defense intelligence business and trying to move towards a more efficient way to spend money.”
DIA has suffered from a bit of an identity crisis over a number of years, according to David Shedd, who was formerly acting director of DIA. The issue for DIA is who am I and who do I support — is it strictly for combatant command J2 (intelligence) or is it to national leadership to include the Pentagon and president, he said to C4ISRNET.
If something didn’t fit neatly anywhere else within the DoD intelligence enterprise, he added, it was given to DIA, contributing to this wide and expansive mission set. Over time the list continued to grow and diffuse the mission focus of DIA as an all source analytic agency.
While an increasingly complex world with a growing array of diverse threat actors (often referred to as the four-plus-one: Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and violent extremism) faces the U.S. and plays a role in a lack of mission focus, Shedd noted that the complexity of foreign government structures also creates a lack of clarity.
Often, civilian heads of state will be intertwined with their military and their security services as part of their defense establishments. It can be difficult when an agency or analyst has “defense” in their title in which the core mission might not be national leadership. However, Shedd said, when that leadership is intertwined with military and their security services are part of the defense establishment it gets much harder to get to that mission.
Nunes noted that this is just the first step of many in this investigation and after examining documents the committee has requested from the administration, they expect to have bolder reforms next year.
Shedd added that it’s critical to have partnership between the director of national intelligence and the undersecretary of defense for intelligence to define and refine what DIA’s mission is to maximize support to the war fighter, especially considering DIA supports national level customers as well to include the Secretary of Defense and the intelligence community with resident experts on things of interest to the national customers.
The Senate Intelligence Committee passed its version of the Intelligence Authorization Act on July 27, but the committee did not respond to a request as to whether or not it is also looking at similar defense intelligence reform efforts.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.