HASC Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations Hearing


               With high visibility cyberattacks paralyzing entire sectors of the American economy, attempts by foreign governments to sow discontent among the population, and further global online movements to undermine trust in the liberal democratic order—the digital landscape has become the intelligence community's most significant battlefield. As a result, top intelligence officials warn that the United States is losing competitiveness in the fields of cyber and beyond. Agencies are mobilizing to collaborate and provide a community-wide response to the rising threat.

               On 11 June, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations, led by chairman Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), held a hearing on "FY22 Defense Intelligence Enterprise Posture Hearing." Witnesses included Mr. Ronald Moultrie, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence & Security; General Paul M. Nakasone, Director of the National Security Agency; and Lieutenant General Scott D. Berrier, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. In their presentation to the committee, the witnesses discussed the Defense Department's intelligence strategies, policies, and programs. In addition, their overview covered the strategic security environment and long-range emerging threats faced by the Defense Intelligence Enterprise. It assessed the organization's current and future posture to support operations related to high-consequence hazards.

              Both witnesses and representatives spent an overwhelming amount of time on cyber and digital issues. Moultrie, just eleven days into office, warned that America’s adversaries are using nontraditional and illegal methods to threaten her interests, and that significant technology issues existed. When asked about possible gaps in the Defense Intelligence Enterprise's capabilities, specifically in terms of the recently released budget, Moultrie stated he could offer little insight during the current session. He pledged to return and brief the committee in a closed session once he has a better sense of the situation. Moultrie gave similar answers when asked about budget optimization, the overreliance on temporary workers by defense agencies, the possibility of a digital service academy, dealing with digital footprints of new intelligence operatives, and several other issues.

              The idea of a new digital service academy received a warm, but surprised reception when it was floated by LTG Berrier. While Representative Scott Franklin (R-FL) mentioned he had heard of the idea in other meetings, he pressed the witnesses to consider and report back to the committee on the subject. Moultrie acknowledged it sounded like an effective approach to the broader digital talent shortage which both committee members and witnesses spoke of often. Berrier was perhaps the most enthusiastic proponent of the idea, explaining it would be a reliable pipeline of digital talent into the community. He suggested congressmembers forward rejected applications to U.S. military academies to organizations like the DIA to tackle diversity and talent issues. Nakasone emphasized those that in his agency, the problem was more of a talent retention issue, rather than a shortage. All agreed, finding and keeping data literate men and women in the defense intelligence workforce was a visible concern.

              Disinformation by foreign actors and security classification reform intertwined often during the hearing. Moultrie in his introduction spoke to reviewing clearance processes, spreading classified information more widely with partners, and releasing certain classified information with the public to counter disinformation. Representative Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) followed up on the subject later, looking for an explanation as to how the intelligence community is trying to overcome its "natural propensity" for secrecy. Moultrie assured the committee his department was working to prevent "overclassification" of information. He stated they are focused on establishing a global reach and message by disseminating information between government agencies.

               In all, the DIE has undoubtedly almost fully transitioned to a cyber-oriented strategy and is looking to transform its workforce and talent pool to support that mission. The intelligence community is looking to support big and bold cutting-edge technologies, but its biggest hindrance will be recruiting a workforce that knows how to use it.

Topics: Budget, Cybersecurity

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