Homeland Security and Intelligence: Grand Strategy, Outcomes, and Priorities

By K. David Du

I. Introduction: The Great Game

            In her essay “Spying Blind”, Amy Zegart asserts that due to the ineptitude of policymakers and intelligence professionals, intelligence reform and opportunities have been squandered and priorities ignored. In her essay, she attributes these missed opportunities to craven political leaders, organizational squabbles, and bureaucratic resistance among a minutia of other problems.

Additionally, she states that traditionally when the American Government is dealt a major shock to its system, whether it was the Civil War, the Great Depression, or the Cold War, it had reacted with those shocks with great, transformative realignments of government in order to adapt to those changing realities. However, due to the ineptitude of the US government in the post-9/11 era, she pessimistically states that “two things are already clear: 9/11 was not enough to jolt Intelligence agencies out of their Cold War past, and future adaptation – to terrorism or any other threat – is unlikely,” (Zegart 466). In the long run, taking her views into full-consideration, if we don’t do anything about this glaring problem, perhaps our ability to protect the homeland will atrophy to the point that we’ll possibly fail to portent and protect against the next threat.

We’ll be “blind-sided” as the saying goes.

Thus, we must make sure we are aware of the dangers that lie outside our protective towers and parapets (and ultimately our comfort zones) and learn how to better focus, adapt, produce, and maintain new intelligence capabilities to be the spearhead against new security challenges to the homeland. Therefore, the mission of this essay is three-fold:  I will assess our modern homeland security intelligence interests and strategy, evaluate the degree of how the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other Intelligence Community members fulfill their roles within this problem set, and lastly, I will develop a ranked set of intelligence priorities that the American government must commit to in order for it to fight this century’s emerging threats to the homeland.

II. The Grand Strategy: The Ties that Bind

            Of vital importance to the way we define our intelligence goals and capability management is the Department of Homeland Security Strategic Plan. Much like the Department of Defense’s own quadrennial review, this plan provides for the framework of how DHS will define its mission set, priorities, and goals for the fiscal years of 2012-2016.

Furthermore, for the purpose of this essay, I will define as the primary goals and mission sets for the Intelligence Community, specifically homeland security intelligence goals, through the lens of this Strategic Plan. Therefore, rather than taking a broader view of US national security concerns, the scope for this paper will be underwritten by domestic, homeland security concerns.

According to the Strategic Plan, there are a five mission critical responsibilities of the Department of Homeland Security and they include: Preventing Terrorism and Enhancing Security, Securing and Managing Our Borders, Enforcing and Administering our Immigration Laws, Safeguarding and Securing Cyberspace, and lastly, Ensuring Resilience to Disasters. Again for the scope of this essay, I would like to focus specifically on three of these mission sets due to their direct relationship with the intelligence function of homeland security: Preventing Terrorism and Enhancing Security, Securing and Managing our Borders, and Safeguarding and Securing Cyberspace. Obviously, there are very important capabilities the Intelligence Community can bring to the table for immigration law and emergency management (such as utilizing NGIA/NRO for humanitarian assistance efforts), but they are simply out of the scope of this essay which as has to do more with the threat assessment and protection against external, violent state actors.

This will be an exhaustive list.

The first mission is preventing terrorism and enhancing security. According to the strategic plan, “protecting the United States from terrorism is the cornerstone of homeland security. DHS’s counterterrorism responsibilities focus on three goals preventing terrorist attacks, preventing the unauthorized acquisition, importation, movement, or use of CBRN materials and capabilities within the United States and reducing threats to and vulnerability of critical infrastructure, key resources, essential leadership, and major events from terrorist attacks and other hazards,” (DHS 3).

The first sub-mission of this mission is preventing terrorist attacks, thereby preventing malicious actors from conducting terrorist attacks on the United States (DHS 3). This function includes threat assessment (the collection, gathering, analysis, and sharing of intelligence and other information on current and emergent threats), the determent and disruption of operations (deter, detecting, and disruption, rehearsals, and execution of operations by terrorists), the protection against terrorist capabilities (basic protection for American persons), stopping the spread of violent extremism, and engaging communities.

The second sub-mission is the prevention of unauthorized acquisition or use of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) materials and capabilities, thereby preventing malicious actors from acquiring or moving dangerous CBRN materials or capabilities to or within the United States or deterring from doing so (DHS 4). In performing this function, intelligence agents must anticipate emerging threats (identifying and understanding potentially dangerous actors, technologies and materials), control access to CBRN (prevention of access), control movement of CBRN (preventing the illicit movement of dangerous CBRN materials), and lastly, protecting against hostile use of CBRN (identifying the presence, location, interdiction, disabling, and prevention of hostile CBRN use).

The third sub-mission involves managing risks to critical infrastructure, key leaders, and events, thereby allowing key sectors to actively work to reduce vulnerability to attack or distribution. In order to perform these function intelligence agents must identify and prioritize risk to critical infrastructure, protect critical infrastructure such as nuclear or internet networks, fortifying the critical infrastructure, and the protection of governmental leaders, facilities, and special events.

The second critical mission goal for homeland security is securing and managing our borders, “the protection of the nation’s borders – land, air, and sea, from the illegal entry of people, weapons, drugs, and other contraband while facilitating lawful travel and trade is vital to homeland security, (DHS 7).

The first sub-mission is securing of U.S. Air, Land, and Sea Borders. Functionally, the government must prevent illegal entry of people, weapons, drugs, contraband, and other dangerous goods across the borders. Through thorough collection, analysis, proper sharing of information can support federal and subnational law enforcement agencies against the illegal entry and sale of contraband.

Additionally, under this heading, another homeland security function is safeguarding lawful trade and travel by securing key nodes, conveyances, and the management of people and goods in travel.

Thirdly, a function of homeland security is the disruption and dismantling of transnational criminal organizations. In doing this function, the United States engages against the smuggling and trafficking of illegal goods and persons into this country, notably criminals and potentially, terrorists. In this role, intelligence agents can identify, disrupt, and dismantle criminal smuggling rings that utilize illegal cross border pathways and infrastructure that will have a dual use for transporting terrorists.

Lastly, the third mission critical activity is safeguarding and securing cyberspace, a key environment in which homeland security is conducted. DHS describes this cyberspace as, “highly dynamic and the risks posed by malicious cyber activity often transcend sector and international boundaries. Today’s threats to cyber security require the engagement of the entire society – from government and law enforcement to the private sector and members of the public – to mitigate malicious activities while bolstering defensive capabilities,” (DHS 12).

A sub-mission under the auspice of cyber-security is the creation of a safe, secure, and resilient cyber environment by identifying and prioritizing cyber threats (threat assessment), risk management (active protection of national information systems, networks, and sensitive data), prevention of cybercrime and fraud, and lastly, developing a public-private sector incident response capability.

The second and final sub-mission is to promote cyber security knowledge and innovation, which ensures that the nation is prepared for the cyber threats and challenges of tomorrow. The government’s strategies under this initiative are two-fold: it would like to promote enhanced public awareness of cyber security challenges and invest in innovative technologies, procedures, and techniques.

Ultimately, these are the homeland security goals of the Department of Homeland Security; it is the grand strategy in which all eighteen agencies of the United States Intelligence Community are bound to support inside the context of homeland security strategy.

III. Outcomes: Skullduggery, I Say!

            After the DHS Strategy Plan for our nation’s homeland security policies, aims, and goals has been finalized, it must then be implemented by the Department of Homeland Security and other intelligence community members.

Thus in this section of this essay, my hope is to find out which agency is responsible for whatever goal was set upon by the strategic plan. However, in this section I will consolidate the three missions and their sub missions into three categories consistent with their mother mission and the degree of success DHS or a partner intelligence agency has with the mission.

Additionally, I want to remind readers that there are currently eighteen members of the Intelligence Community and from its founding the Department of Homeland Security was an entity which had absorbed twenty two separate pre-existing agencies. However, in this essay I will assume you know the eighteen members of the U.S. Intelligence Community and the member agencies of the Department of Homeland Security in order to save precious time and space in this paper.

My methodology for evaluating success is based on the DHS Strategic Plan’s projected 2012-2013 fiscal targets and by identifying the lead agencies for that particular mission or sub-mission. In addition, if there is a suitable non-DHS Intelligence Community agency that performs the same function, I will identify the party as mission capable.

Remember in this essay I had identified three DHS goals that I believe is relevant to being conducted by elements of the Intelligence Community. Those mission sets are Preventing Terrorism and Enhancing Security, Securing and Managing our Borders, and lastly, Safeguarding and Securing Cyberspace. The source for these statistics is from the DHS Strategic Plan.

Under the mission line Preventing Terrorism and Enhancing Security there are six findings. The first finding lists the “percent of intelligence reports rated “satisfactory” or higher in customer feedback that enable customers to understand the threat,” (DHS 5), for Fiscal year 2012 and 2013, DHS projects that fifty percent of its intelligence reports from AO. The percent of international air enplanements vetted against terrorist watch list through secure flight lists that for 2012-2013 the Transport Security Administration projects are at a hundred percent. The third listing lists the percentage inbound air cargo screened on international passage flights originating from outside the United States by the TSA will at eighty-five percent in 2012 and will be projected at hundred percent in 2013, an improvement. The fourth listing under this mission is the percent if law enforcement officials trained in methods to counter terrorism and other violent acts that rate the training as effective according to DHS Headquarters will be eighty-two percent by the end of 2012 and eighty-four percent by the end of 2013 fiscal year. In its fifth listing, the DHS Strategic Plans lists the percent of inspected high risk chemical facilitates in compliance with the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards as twenty percent by 2012 and thirty five percent by FY 2013. Lastly, the percent of total U.S. Secret Service protection activities that are incident free for protection of national leaders, foreign dignitaries, and designated protectees and others during travel or at protected facilities was projected to all have a hundred percent success rate. (DHS 6)

The second mission is Securing and Managing Our Borders, which has seven statistics it projects to be institutionalized goals for the fiscal years of 2012 and 2013 in terms of performance measures. Firstly, the number of apprehensions the Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) agency expects to apprehend in the Southwest Border between ports of entry in 2012 will equal or be less than 371,000 and in 2013 they project the number to drop to 352,000 apprehensions. It also expects that a hundred percent of the aircraft incursions from the along all borders will make it to their destination in 2012/2013.  CPB projects in 2012/2013 that it will seize on currency exiting from the United States to be $35M/$30M. Fourthly, the percent of foreign airports serving as the last point of departure in compliance with leading security indicators from the TSA is projected to be a hundred percent for 2012/2013. The percent of maritime facilities in compliance with security regulations are projected to drop from a hundred percent 2012 to ninety nine percent in 2013 according to the United States Coast Guard. Lastly, according to ICE the percent of significant high risk transnational criminal investigations that result in disruption or dismantlement rough registers at sixteen percent for FY 2012 and 2013.

The last mission set I am noting from the DHS Strategic Plan are the 2012/2013 fiscal year projections for the Safeguarding and Securing Cyberspace mission (DHS 14). According to the first statistic, the percent of intelligence reports rated satisfactory or higher in customer feedback that enable customers to manage risk to cyber space is eighty percent across the board for FY 2012/2013. The percentage of external traffic monitored for cyber intrusions at civilian Federal Executive Branch agencies will be fifty-five percent by the end of 2012 and by 2013 the same number shall be seventy percent. Financial crimes loss prevented by the Secret Service Electronic Crimes task force in 2012 will be about $280M and in 2013 that number will balloon to $300M. The fourth number is the percentage of unique vulnerabilities detected during cyber incidents where mitigation strategies were provided by DHS will go from ninety-five percent 2012 to a hundred percent in 2013. Lastly, the average amount of time required for initial response to a request for assistance for public and private sector partners to prevent or respond to major cyber incidents  (in minutes) will be less 90 minutes in 2012, less than sixty minutes in 2013, and by 2016 15 minutes or less.

Now before concluding this section on Department of Homeland Security degree of progress of its strategic goals, I would like to write a small section in what Intelligence Community members would most likely involve itself with homeland security activity.

For mission one type missions, it would involve both strategic and tactical human intelligence assets to deter, smoke out, and eliminate terrorist (CIA, DIA, and tactical military intelligence agencies). For protecting sensitive infrastructure such as nuclear power plants and docks, I would assume the Department of Energy’s Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, DHS Office of Information and Analysis, Coast Guard and NGIA. For Cyber security, elements of the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, the FBI, and the National Security Agency would have a stake. Lastly for the management of border security, intelligence agencies who would be involved would be the FBI, DEA, and possibly INR.

Thus in this section, I have listed the quantitative projections from the Department of Homeland Security in how it plans to realize the its quadrennial DHS Strategic Plan for the two next fiscal years. In addition, I have listed the Department’s scope and mission parameters in the section above.

In the next section, I will talk about the ten things I believe should be a priority for the American homeland security apparatus and its intelligence agencies.

IV. Priorities: The Homeland

            Thus having described the grand strategy and goals of homeland security, their practical applications by either DHS or other Intelligence Community members, this next section will be my listing of priorities I believe are important issues to the Department of Homeland Security and other Intelligence Community members. In this section, I will rank each subject from 1-10, one being the highest priority and ten being the lowest, afterwards, I will give an explanation about my reasoning that justify its ranking.

10. DHS Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection division (IAIP): The Department of Homeland Security’s sole intelligence analysis capability, the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection is lowest-order priority in my line-up because while it had potential it’s been constantly undermined. Firstly, the directorate lacks a collection capability; therefore it relies on the FBI, NSA, DIA or the CIA for collection. Secondly, it lacks the ability to task other agencies for information it urgently needs. Lastly, events such as the creation of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center has largely undermined IAIP original mandate to be the government’s sole foreign and domestic threat assessment (Zegart 468). In my opinion, the government should grant the directorate management over industrial intelligence collection of other countries’ infrastructural capabilities and perhaps non-nuclear WMD capabilities as a starting point in order for it to mirror its own domain of infrastructure protection.

9. Robotics, Drones, and Unmanned Aerial vehicles: A “major imagery development has centered on unmanned aerial vehicles. The use of pilotless drones for imagery is not new, but their role and capability have expanded greatly. UAVs offer two clear advantages over satellites and manned aircraft. They can fly closer to areas of interest and loiter over them instead of making a high-altitude orbital pass. Second, unlike manned aircraft, UAVs do not put lives at risk,” (Lowenthal 86). For homeland security, UAVs have made an incredible change in the way we are able to conduct imagery intelligence in a very meaningful way. We can now have drones fly around the borders and use multispectral scanning technology over areas we believe criminals and terrorists are conducting smuggling and trafficking operations. Thus, it’s my estimate that UAV surveillance capabilities is something that the Intelligence Community should invest upon as a key priority.

8. Rendition, Detention, and Torture “The War on Terrorism has seen an increase in renditions, the seizure of foreign nationals overseas, and in many cases, transportation to their country of origin for incarceration and interrogation. Although the United States has obtained pledges from these countries about the manner in which rendered suspects are treated, allegations have been made that some of them have been tortured and that the United States is complicit in this torture,” (Lowenthal 265). This topic has been off the radar for some time but it is still an important and controversial tool of covert activity. Though the United States should refrain from physical torture, due to its ineffectiveness, the practice of extraordinary rendition should continue as we detain known terrorists, extract information from them, and prevent further release of these dangerous criminals into the outside world. In fact, as a priority, the Intelligence Community (especially the CIA) should use this capability to see if it can turn those rendered to our side.

7. Fusion Intelligence: “One of the major advantages of having multiple means of collections is that one system or discipline can provide tips or clues that can be further collected against by other systems. For major requirements, more than one type of collection is used: the collectors are designed to be cooperative when the system is working correctly. The goal of the United States Intelligence Community is to produce ALL SOURCE INTELLIGENCE, which is intelligence based on as many collection sources as possible to compensate for the shortcomings of each and to profit from combined strength,” (Lowenthal 70). Part of the “jointess” doctrine espoused by the 9/11 Commission, fusion intelligence and fusion centers are an important part of the US Intelligence Community strategy to avoid major intelligence failures such as the Iraqi WMD scandals and the inability for the intelligence community’s inability to foresee and prevent the attacks on 9/11. Along with the need for this ability, another priority should be to change institutional biases and thoughts that when someone is tasked to join a fusion center that they’re being seconded by their organization because they are unneeded by their parent organization.

6. FBI National Security Branch and FBI’s Law Enforcement Culture:  “The FBI attempted the most ambitious changes with perhaps the most disappointing results,” (Zegart 476). The FBI, in my opinion, has an identity crisis. Since 2001, it has made an effort to expand its domestic counterterrorism, collection and analytical capabilities especially with human intelligence. However, the main problem with the FBI is its bureaucratic culture. Instead of a traditional Intelligence Community organization, this organization values its “cop culture” and law enforcement function over its intelligence gathering and analysis function. It devalues its analytical staff by seconding them to duties of less value such as “answering phones, escorting visitors, and collecting the trash,” (Zegart 476). The FBI theoretically is the domestic HUMINT and counter-intelligence agency and this treatment of non-policing members should change, because if we don’t change it, we hamstring our ability to deter and dismantle domestic terrorist networks. Furthermore, the FBI must evolve into a true domestic security agency or at least break off its intelligence directorate into a separate independent agency.

5. CIA HUMINT Capability: one criticism Amy Zegart claims about recent Human intelligence capabilities in the CIA is, “to date, the agency approach to improving human intelligence has focused primarily on increasing the number of spies rather than improving quality or dramatically increasing non-traditional recruitment models to penetrate terrorist groups,” (Zegart 475). This is a serious problem in my opinion and it has much to do with the differences of rule sets between the Cold War Era and the Post-9/11 era. During the Cold War era, recruiting adversarial bureaucrats through diplomatic cover was preferred and the more you knew, the better. In the Post-9/11 era, the adversary exists through informal channels and they are less trusting, less willing to turn, and ultimately harder to infiltrate foreign terrorist groups. Therefore, a priority within the Intelligence Community (and especially the CIA and DIA) should be for longer term deployments in mission critical areas such as the Middle East, Central Asia, Northern Africa, and Eastern Asia (a la British the diplomatic style). Additionally, language and acculturation training for mission critical regions should be incentivized since HUMINT capabilities are the backbone of intelligence activity.

4. WMD Proliferation: According to Lowenthal, “Preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction has been a long-standing goal of U.S. policy, but it is now a more important issue with added dimensions,” (Lowenthal 239). An important aspect of the DHS Strategic Plan, in addition to monitoring terrorist groups, a vital function of homeland security is to make sure that all biological, chemical, radiological, and nuclear weapons from the former Soviet Union and rogue countries are accounted for. The greatest fear is for a dirty bomb blowing up in US soil and murdering thousands of civilians.

3. The Role and Authority of the DNI:  One of the most stunning issues surrounding the debate about the Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act and a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission was the creation of Director of National Intelligence to succeed the DCI as the leader of the Intelligence Community. Instead of becoming the leader of the Intelligence Community, the DNI met in political fist-fight with the Department of Defense on turf wars over budget, authority, and the DNI was also subjected to bureaucratic resistance, which had undermined its authority further. Therefore, as the president’s chief spymaster, the DNI and his staff must be given more tools and authority in order for it to succeed as a cabinet level official or else be looked upon as an additional layer of bureaucracy, thus reforming the DNI is a vital concern for the Intelligence Community (Zegart 474).

2. Terrorism: According to Lowenthal, “The September 11th attacks led to a greatly increased U.S. campaign against terrorism, which became the primary national security issue. Terrorism had long been seen as a demanding issue for intelligence because of the belief that the political system would not tolerate even one terrorist attack on U.S. interests, either within the United States or overseas. The reaction to the 9/11 attacks proved the view to be false… many would argue that only the combination of the September 11th attacks and the Iraq WMD analysis created the impetus necessary for intelligence reform legislation,” (Lowenthal 236). Because of the overall threat of terrorism and other violent non-state actors, emphasis on conventional state actors as intelligence targets has been lessened in favor of wider focus on terrors groups and networks. Because of the subversive nature of the threat and because unlike North Korea, Iran, or Syria terrorism as a threat exists as both a foreign and domestic threat to the United States, making it a much more volatile foe it is ranked as second most important aspect of homeland security.

1. President of the United States: The President of the United States ranks first as the main intelligence priority because not only is he the commander in chief, he’s the main intelligence consumer in the United States Government. Not only must finished intelligence be entirely accurate for his consumption in daily briefing but it must remain non-politicalized and unbiased so he can make the right decisions and be decisive about making them. It’s also shown, according to Zegart, that in order for the Intelligence Community to be successful at its job, the President must be engaged, strong, and willful unlike President George W. Bush’s term in office which led to political squabbles and infighting amongst his lieutenants (Zegart 472). According to Zegart, the President was powerless to stop negative lobbying against the Intelligence Reform Act, was reluctant to battle for intelligence reform, because of his rational, self-interest as President (471-475 Zegart). Ultimately it’s the President that sets up the rule sets, expectations, and determines what’s important, making him the top priority of any intelligence activity.

V. Conclusion

            In conclusion, I have done the following in this intelligence paper: I have listed the grand strategy and overarching plan that Department of Homeland Security, listed their projection and calculus regarding the success of that policy, and finally I have listed ten priorities I believe is important for the success of the Intelligence Community in its duty to protect the homeland.