We live in a dynamic world in which the pace, scope, and complexity of change are increasing. Globalization – while it has certainly opened up avenues for growth and prosperity around the world – has also complicated persistent threats and has generated emerging missions, such as cyber, energy, and infectious disease. In addition, changing demographics, population stresses, and resource scarcities have the potential to create economic and political instability worldwide, which will create an entirely new set of national security challenges for the United States, Canada, and other Western nations.

To succeed in this new world, we must be able to rapidly and accurately anticipate and adapt to complex challenges. And we must be able to out-maneuver our adversaries – not just out-muscle them.

This makes intelligence more critical than ever.

Our mission in the U.S. intelligence community is to create decision advantage through a globally-networked and integrated intelligence enterprise. Decision advantage means that we improve our ability to make decisions at every level – from our top leaders to the soldier on the frontlines – while denying our adversaries the same advantage.

An important aspect of decision advantage lies in addressing critical national security missions and preparing our decision-makers for strategic surprises – that is, those forces or issues that lie outside the current agenda but may emerge to challenge our intended outcomes. In an increasingly interconnected and complex world, the Intelligence Enterprise must enhance its capabilities to evaluate the entire spectrum of global threats and risks affecting our national security.

In July, the Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, released Vision 2015, which discusses the key components necessary to achieve a globally networked and integrated intelligence enterprise. Here are a few key elements:

Ø Against the backdrop of an expanding customer landscape, we need to transition to a more customer-driven intelligence model. By 2015, the Intelligence Enterprise will be expected to provide more details about more issues to more customers, who increasingly will demand more tailored operational and analytic support. The key decision makers of the future will include individuals who will demand instant information, access to seamless technological expertise, and greater cross-agency collaboration in the development of products and information.

Ø We are also moving toward more mission-focused operations – a concept of operations that transcends the current agency-centric model towards a more mission-based configuration that is agile, synchronizes collection, and connects dispersed and divergent expertise to collaborate on hard problems. That’s why we established the NIC-C (the National Intelligence Coordination Center) back in October 2007 for all-source intelligence collection coordination and tasking deconfliction. The NIC-C provides a mechanism to strategically manage and direct collection across defense, foreign, and domestic realms, and will ensure that we are able to leverage existing capabilities all across the U.S. government.

Ø We want to build a net-centric information enterprise – a common information infrastructure that provides seamless access to intelligence information, services, and tools across multiple agencies and databases. It’s not always easy to break down some of the longstanding policy and technological barriers in place, but we’re making excellent progress. For example, we’ve taken some best practices from the private sector and have implemented “Intellipedia,” an internal web destination where analysts across the CIA, FBI, DIA and other intelligence agencies can swap what they know with one another. The result is a collective intelligence that goes beyond the “smarts” of any one agency. We’re also working on something called A-Space – modeled after highly successful social networking such as Facebook and My-Space – which allows analysts to post their research, so that others can read and comment on the information, and share videos, audio, and documents. It essentially allows for a virtual dialogue in real-time among a much larger group of users. Intellipedia and A-Space represent a new way of thinking and a fresh approach for the U.S. intelligence community.

Ø Finally, we are moving to a more integrated enterprise. Collaboration does not just “happen.” It needs a strong institutional foundation that integrates the vital components of the Intelligence Enterprise – policy, people, processes, infrastructure, and technology – to remove longstanding barriers to collaboration.

Sans Frontieres
We know that the challenges we face are increasingly without borders – persistent threats such as cyber attacks, threats to global commerce, terrorism, and transnational crime. In its report on “Mapping the Global Future,” our National Intelligence Council highlighted globalization – the growing interconnectedness reflected in the expanded flows of information, technology, capital, natural resources, services and people throughout the world. The report referred to globalization as an “overarching ‘megatrend,’ a force so ubiquitous that it will substantially shape all the other major trends in the world of 2020.”

Our infrastructure of global networks of information, finance, commerce, transportation, and people increasingly is being targeted for exploitation, and potentially for disruption or destruction, by a growing array of state and non-state actors.

In this new environment, geographic borders and jurisdictional boundaries are blurring; traditional distinctions between intelligence and operations, strategic and tactical, and foreign and domestic are fading; the definitions of intelligence and information, analysts and collectors, customers and producers, private and public, and competitors and allies are changing. Even distinguishing between intelligence and non-intelligence issues may prove to be a major challenge.

In response, Vision 2015 spells out the need to develop strategic partnerships without regard to borders. This includes developing enduring partnerships with segments of our societies that have not traditionally been thought of as intelligence resources, and even deeper relationships with our closest allies.

Of course, the U.S. and Canada have cultivated and maintained an outstanding security arrangement for more than a half-century. As a result, our countries have developed a strong and multifaceted intelligence relationship. Building on an already outstanding relationship, the U.S. will continue to seek ever greater cooperation with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and broaden and strengthen intelligence relations with other Canadian agencies.

Forging a law enforcement/intelligence nexus could provide new opportunities and venues for collaborative work on gaps and targets, and U.S./Canadian cooperation in the intelligence arena is certainly a relationship that we want to continue, and improve.

Across organizational boundaries
Partnership and collaboration are not limited to our international allies, however. Within the U.S. intelligence community itself, we are also working to break down stovepipes and partner across organizational boundaries, where the model of individual agencies controlling information collected by specific disciplines (IMINT, SIGINT, etc.) no longer works as it did during the Cold War.

Now, this is not to imply that breaking down these barriers – be they cultural, technological, or legal – is easy. We simply cannot get around the fundamental reality that change is hard – and unfortunately, change is often slow. And in fact, very often, a large bureaucracy will choose failure over change. As we all know, however, in our business failure is not an option.

So we are committed to breaking down these boundaries within our 16-agency intelligence community, but just as important, we’re committed to working with our international counterparts to assist in your efforts to streamline your own intelligence enterprise. We would welcome the opportunity to share with Canadian counterparts some of our “lessons learned.”

For example, one of the simplest and most effective changes undertaken in the U.S. is a standardized badge that will enable access to each other’s intelligence agencies. Seems like a no-brainer, but it actually turned out to be one of the first steps to having our personnel view themselves as part of an integrated intelligence enterprise.

To deepen and further promote that cultural integration, the U.S. intelligence community has implemented a program called Joint Duty. The inherent cross-cutting challenges require professionals and senior leaders with an understanding and awareness of the entire IC, as well as established relationships beyond one single agency. The joint duty program provides rotational career opportunities for civilian IC professionals, enabling intelligence officers to gain an enterprise-wide perspective, cultivate cross-organizational networks, and share information with their counterparts more easily. Ultimately, we hope that joint duty will result in a wide cadre of intelligence officers with a keen appreciation for another agency’s culture, body of expertise, and business practices.

We also need to develop new partnerships; this means reaching out to nontraditional resources that might include government organizations outside the intelligence community or beyond the federal level.

Our interdependence among defense and national security contractors when it comes to critical infrastructure and defense information systems means that we need a fundamental re-thinking of our government’s traditional relationship with the private sector. A high percentage of our critical information infrastructure is privately owned, and industry need to know what government knows about our adversaries’ targets and, to the extent we understand them, their methods of operation. When it comes to cyber security, government and the private sector need to recognize that an individual vulnerability is a common weakness.

Canada faces many of the same issues that we in the United States face, and we must continue to work together – not only to identify and address the critical intelligence issues of our time – but to jointly develop solutions to remove the remaining barriers that inhibit collaboration, intelligence sharing, and problem-solving and keep us all from achieving decision advantage. Sans Frontiers – that’s got to be our rallying cry.

Lieutenant General Ronald L. Burgess is Director of the Intelligence Staff for the U.S. Director of National Intelligence. This article is adapted from a presentation to the Canadian Association for Intelligence and Security Studies in November.