How the IC will be Shaped (Changed?) by the Trump Administration

With all the news during the first week of March about Trump Administration contacts with Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak and what the Intelligence Community did or did not know, it is easy to understand why the confirmation hearing for former Senator Dan Coats to be Director of National Intelligence (DNI) on February 28 drew such little notice.  Given President Trump’s Tweeter claims on March 4th that the Obama Administrations tapped his communications during the campaign and FBI Director Jim Comey along with former DNI Jim Clapper’s denials on 5 March that the Trump campaign was not targeted for surveillance, I think the immediate question is “why would Dan Coats still want to be DNI?”

If you watched or read the transcript of Dan Coats’ SSCI Confirmation Hearing it is hard to see it as anything but a friendly, non-controversial “home coming.”  For the most part the Senators thanked their former colleague for being willing to serve as DNI while lobbing softball questions with little push back or follow up to his talking point responses.  Two things former Senator Coats kept coming back to in responses to various questions was his commitment to follow the law in all situations and to be as transparent as possible.   https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/hearings/open-hearing-nomination-daniel-coats-be-director-national-intelligence

Nonetheless a few things stood out to me about this confirmation hearing:

  1. Coats’ flawed description of the DNI as an NFL Coach working with his coordinators and assistant coaches (IC agency heads) to produce a winning result.  Senator Coats did not mention that unlike an NFL Coach the DNI does not have hire/fire authority over his “coordinators” and “assistant coaches”  At least Senator Manchin made a polite and passing reference to this critical difference in authorities between the DNI and every NFL Coach.
  2. Coats defended the size of the ODNI noting it has less staff then there are musicians in DoD to do its important work of overseeing the intelligence community.  Former Senator Coats did agree that after 12 years a review of IRTPA is probably something worth considering and said he would start with the Robb-Silverman Commission Recommendations for where the law might be improved
  3. Coats did not share the concerns of several senators that the National Security Council Executive Order has not been modified to clarify that the DNI is a member of the Principals Committee.  He said the White House has assured him he will be invited to all Principal Committee meetings and he takes them at their word.
  4. Coats said nothing about the line reporting relationship between the DNI and the Director of CIA and all of the SSCI members were polite enough not to ask about it.
  5. Coats did not say nor was he asked about his position on government backdoor encryption access.
  6. Based on Coats’ opening statement and the Q&A, the open animosity between President Elect Trump and the Intel Community of just a month ago must have been “fake news” as it did not come up.
  7. In response to questions, Coats assured the SSCI he would support investigations into Russian involvement in trying to influence our past election as well as personal links between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.  He also pledged to investigate/support other appropriate investigations into leaks associated with Russia.  He assured the committee he would insure the Congress is kept fully informed regarding these investigations.

 

Despite all the concerns in the media about whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians for political advantage or whether the Obama Administration used Intelligence Community (IC) resources to monitor the Trump campaign for political advantage, the Coats hearing got me thinking about how the IC will be shaped (changed?) by the Trump Administration.  Looking back at both recent history and what was said about the IC institutionally during the campaign I can foresee impacts for the IC across the following three broad areas:

Contracting and the Business Environment

Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) that have been occurring in the IC’s industrial base since 2015 will continue during the Trump administration, but at a slower rate.  This slowdown in M&A activity will be the result of three forces: (1) the diminished number of attractive companies left that are available for M&A consideration; (2) the debt loading taken on by companies that have merged or acquired other companies; and (3) lack of clarity about what changes to expect in the corporate tax code.

Because the Trump administration is populated with business people who are concerned about business metrics, (e.g., how the money is spent, with an emphasis on cost, performance and schedule), any IC programs that are behind schedule and underperforming will be in jeopardy. With an emphasis on performance, schedule and cost metrics, the IC will be looking for solutions vice full time equivalents (FTE, aka people) and using more automation to reduce cost. This is already manifesting itself with a hiring freeze and will impact what the distribution should be between blue and green badgers in the IC. Budgetary pressures will also cause the IC to look hard at what should be in-sourced or out-sourced, with an eye towards more “XXX as a service” procurements. FY 17 is expected to be flat, but industry is looking forward to business growth with anticipated FY18 national security plus ups.  Acquisition Reform seems unlikely, but “Other than Traditional Authorities (OTAs)” will be used more extensively to streamline and accelerate the acquisition process.

Organizational Change to the IC

Real change to the organization and processes of the IC requires Congressional legislation, which seems remote given the political capital this would take as well as the competition for scarce Congressional calendar days.  Immigration, healthcare, and tax reform will not leave much energy or time for IC structural reform over the term of the 115th Congress.  Because the Trump Transition team saw the ODNI staff providing an extra layer of bureaucratic management with little added value, this is an area I see the Trump Administration downsizing despite Dan Coats’ defense of the size of the ODNI staff in his opening statement at his confirmation hearing. An open question is which National Intelligence Centers does the Trump National Security Team see as worth preserving because of their independent ability as ODNI entities to integrate intelligence? Should they remain under the DNI?  While I am sure Senator Coats’ trust is well placed, the reality is that the White House’s lack of interest in modifying the NSC EO to include the DNI as a member of the Principals Committee suggests to me that the authorities of the DNI are not all that important to this administration.

Restoring Trust and Confidence in the IC

Perhaps through no fault of its own the IC has been caught up in a highly charged partisan debate between President Trump himself and whether the IC is being used to undermine his creditability as Commander in Chief.  Depending who you are listening to, allegations that the IC is withholding sensitive intelligence from the President, left a transparent trail of intelligence reports suggesting the Trump Campaign had ties to Russia, and  tapped the phones in Trump Tower, these claims are either baseless or disturbing.  I know I don’t know who or what to believe at this point.  The question now is not if an investigation of these allegations will be conducted, but who will conduct the investigation(s) and with what authorities?  What seems to be inevitable about any impending investigation is that the IC will looked at critically and depending on what is found (or not found) the IC could find itself on the threshold change as resulted from the Church Committee, the 9-11 Commission, and the Iraq WMD Commission.

There are too many known unkowns at least for me to even speculate what such an investigation will find, but my beltway common sense sensor tells me the IC has been too close to the partisan tumult for too long not to come out of this unbruised in some way.  Until whatever investigation(s) are completed the best things the IC can to do bolster its confidence and trust with the President, the Congress, and the American people is adhere to the tried and true advice of many others, which is: stay off the front page, focus on competence, and eschew involvement with policy decisions.  It is probably also worth remembering that a public battle with the President of the United States is more than likely a losing strategy for the IC because he is the only nationally elected figure in the government – – – – and he needs to be Customer # 1.

 

That’s what I think; what do you think?

PUTIN’S TWOFER

Election Day this past November 8th delivered at least two surprises so far.  First there was Donald Trump capturing enough electoral votes to win the Presidency over Hillary Clinton, when polling showed she was going to prevail.  Then in the weeks following the election we have all learned through leaks to the Washington Post, New York Times and NBC News that the CIA “assesses with high confidence” that Russia, with the direct involvement of President Vladimir Putin, was cyber hacking with the purpose of defeating Hillary Clinton.   And I thought we dodged a cyber bullet on Election Day because there was no massive infra-structure attack aimed at either making it difficult for people to get to the polls or to cause the wall to wall news coverage to question whether or not votes were being accurately recorded.

In retrospect Russia’s hacking and apparent intentions should not have been a surprise since the FBI warned the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in September 2015 that it was being hacked.  Then a month before Election Day on October 7th DHS and ODNI issued the following joint statement about Russian interference with our elections.

The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations. The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process. Such activity is not new to Moscow—the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there. We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.

Clearly the Intelligence Community both detected and warned in sufficient time that Russia was using cyber techniques to interfere with our Presidential Election.  However, other than President Obama privately telling President Putin at a G-20 Conference in September 2016 to “cut it out” we have learned at a Presidential Press Conference on 15 December no actions were taken to either stop the Russian hacking or to better  inform the US electorate what was known about the purpose of the hacking.  Given the amount of information leaked to the  media post-election about the purpose, intensity, and Russian leadership involvement it seems fair to ask why was not more done before votes were cast to at least “name and shame” Russia for its interference with our Presidential election? Two juxtaposed answers come immediately to mind:  the intelligence was more circumstantial than direct or the intelligence was so solid there were concerns about compromising useful sources and methods.

For reasons opaque to me someone at the CIA has decided now that the votes have been counted and certified that they should unofficially and anonymously share with the American people that there is direct intelligence confirming Russia’s hacking of the DNC with Putin’s knowledge to undermine the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.  Russia has responded that without proof these accusations are “unseemly” while Donald Trump has tweeted he does not believe what the CIA is providing informally to friendly journalists.  Many are characterizing this as the President Elect throwing the IC under the bus to protect Putin.

I am not sure which infuriates me more:  Vladimir Putin trying to affect the outcome of our Presidential election or learning about it from leaks to the media by the CIA.  I understand Putin’s motives in terms of pursuing Russian national interests, but what are the CIA’s motivations?  Perhaps concerns that it not be seen as at fault for the failure of policy makers to respond earlier to Russia’s election hacking?  Or could it be the IC wanting to distance itself from Secretary Clinton’s failure to achieve the Presidency?  What about frustration with the reality that former DIA Director LTG Michael Flynn as National Security Advisor will be filtering intelligence and blocking IC leadership’s daily access to the President?

No matter what the reasons are, the results of these CIA press leaks about Russian election hacking are proving to be toxic for the IC, if not the nation at large, for the following reasons:

  • The IC actions look partisan and to Trump voters as trying to delegitimize their candidate’s election
  • There is an inference without evidence that the Russian hacking materially contributed to Hillary Clinton losing the election, i.e. the hacking worked
  • Not wanting to brief the Intelligence Committees in the House and Senate or the Electoral College on the specifics of the Russian hacking raises doubts about how definitive the intelligence is regarding Putin’s involvement and intentions to defeat Hillary Clinton
  • Because of the leaking of intelligence strongly indicating Russian interference with the 2016 election, there will be both Executive Branch and Congressional investigations into the validity of the intelligence developed as well as investigations into who was responsible for leaking this information and for what reasons
  • Using the media so it can control the narrative on Russian election hacking deepens and steepens Donald Trump’s already well developed distrust of the IC

With President Obama looking ineffective, President Elect Trump being openly contemptuous of intelligence, and the IC appearing to be deviously partisan, Vladimir Putin comes out of all this with a “twofer.” Besides achieving his strategic aim of undermining confidence that votes cast for President reflected the will of the American people, the subsequent fallout from the political debate about Russia’s election hacking has widened the trust divide between Donald Trump and the IC.

Of course the bigger story here is the continuing systemic cyber vulnerabilities of the United States, which is amplified by the lack of both a coherent strategy and effective capabilities to protect our government institutions, our national security, our financial stability, and our sensitive personal information.

That’s what I think; what do you think?

 

The Weather at DoDIIS 2016: Partly Cloudy with a Chance for Digitization

This edition of Mazz-Int is an abbreviated version of my seven page summary of the DoDIIS 2016 Conference.  If you would like the full summary send me an email at mazzafro@gmail.com with “Request DoDIIS 2016 Summary” in the subject line.

DoDIIS Worldwide Conference 2016 convened in Atlanta, Georgia from 31July to 03 August at the Georgia World Congress Center.  The theme for DoDIIS 2016 was “Mission Integration at the Speed of Operations.” The conference drew 200 exhibitors (230 in 2015) and 2300 attendees (1600 in 2015).  Less than 400 participants were government “blue badgers” of which only 90 where from DIA.  The entire agenda for DoDIIS 2016 was UNCLASSIFIED.

DNI James Clapper, DIA Director Lt Gen Stewart and USDI Marcel Lettre were all restrained in their comments and collectively seemed to be intent on making “no news” at DoDIIS. In a phrase they were “aggressively politically correct.” They made no projections regarding even near term events involving the Intelligence Community.

The three Combatant Commander, Gen McDew (TransCom), Admiral Harris (PACOM), and Admiral Haney (StratCom) all spoke about the importance of information to executing their mission responsibilities, but only Admiral Harris spoke directly to the utility of DoDIIS.  Admiral Harris was speaking for all his fellow Combatant Command Commanders (CoComs) when he said intelligence needs to be pared down to what I need to know about a subject/issue, in a time frame that allows for action to be taken, in a format that is easy to consume, and is shareable.

The IC CIO Panel, which I moderated, was upbeat both about where IT is in the IC and where it is heading.  Particularly in the breakout sessions, however, I detected a subtle sense of moderating expectations for ICITE, where no metrics, schedule, or cost issues were discussed.

FIVE IMPORTANT QUOTES FROM DODIIS 2016

  1. “We are in age of expeditionary intelligence! Places not bases.” Sean Roche CIA Associate Deputy Director for Digital Innovation
  2. “Stop forging a new path with an old map.” Janice Glover-Jones DIA CIO
  3. “The IT Enterprise is under near continual attack.” Colonel Bruce Lyman CIO Air Force ISR
  4. “The world still calls 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” US Transportation Command Commander Air Force General Darren McDew
  5. “DoDIIS is the backbone for Combatant Command decision making.” US Pacific Command Commander Admiral Harry Harris

 

INSIGHTS ON ICITE

  1. NSA will be primarily a user of its own GOV Cloud for mission, which it is funding predominantly without Intelligence Community (IC) augmentation. This is because most NSA’s mission workloads are not supported by Commercial Cloud Services C2S and run 24 x 7 so there is no cost advantage associated with elasticity.
  2. DTE II is several months behind schedule due to testing; rollout schedule for FY 17 not firm yet but DIA and NGA will be refreshed with DTE II in FY 17
  3. Migration plans to ICITE (like technical roadmaps) are the responsibilities of the individual service providers and their contractors. There is no consolidated ICITE migration plan
  4. IC CIO’s all agree that there is no realistic alternative to ICITE

IC CIO Panel

  1. Commercial Cloud Services (C2S) will reach 100% capacity in 2017; 1600 developers are now using C2S
  2. ICITE has moved out of being in the acquisition phase and is now focused on driving adoption by showing mission value.  The IC is too far into the ICITE journey to turn back
  3. IT as a Service/Performance based contracting is not something the IC is comfortable with because the Statement of Work (SOW) must convey in detail what the government is expecting in terms of performance/outcomes and how to value that performance.
  4. Cultural challenges to ICITE adoption and digital transformation
    1. Developing trust in other agencies through reciprocity to compensate for the loss of control
    2. Comfort with the status quo
    3. Decoupling control and complexity from effectiveness
    4. Understanding risk and opportunity costs

Digital Transformation appears to be the new IT focus area of the DoDIIS Community if not the entire IC’s, but if I heard a definition or description I don’t remember it.  I know there wasn’t any discussion at DoDIIS 2016 about a strategy or a plan for how to accomplish a digital transformation within the IC.  At this point it is a vision statement to guide planning and decisions

Based on it being declared IOC in advance of a new administration and a new DNI, ICITE is at an inflection point where it has to show value or it will suffer the fate of IC-MAP, Trailblazer, and GeoScout.  Showing how C2S, GovCloud, DTE, and the Apps Mall can work together to answer IC mission questions quickly and effectively is what will bring users to ICITE as was the case with JDISS, JWICS, and Intelink.  The DIA leadership and the IC CIO’s at DoDIIS 2016 all understand this.

Based on the comments of all three Combatant Commanders who spoke at DoDIIS, shareable intelligence for allied and coalition warfighting partners is an underserved area.  Write for release, automated foreign disclosure processes and cross domain security solutions to address the CoCom’s demand for shareable intelligence needs to be an agenda item for DoDIIS 2017.

That’s what I think; what do you think?