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“SALSA for Cyber Sonics”
Education and Research at the Joint Military Intelligence College
A. Denis Clift
Joint Military Intelligence College
National Reconnaissance Office
February 2, 2005
“We pursue the impossible, because our adversaries believe it will never work.” These words shaping the mission and the esprit of the Measurement and Signature Intelligence staff here at the National Reconnaissance Office should be adopted and embraced by the Intelligence Community and by leaders in the private sector engaged in the work of intelligence.
We meet at a time when the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004 urges a new Director of National Intelligence, not yet in place, to exercise bold leadership and initiative. It is a time when the initiatives called for by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 are still taking form. It is a time when the nation sits in the center of a crossroads it has been able to steer around before – the crossroads bringing together foreign intelligence and enhanced national --or domestic -- intelligence in a manner that strengthens our security at the same time it safeguards the freedoms and rights we cherish in this democracy.
It is a time when intelligence is being called on to understand arms races underway, some of which are only dimly understood – and, a time when there are weapons and components of weapons around the world, which in the hands of either nations or non-nation players can do this nation harm. There are people around the world, who in settings of dictatorship, extremism, and poverty are being led to believe that their one opportunity for glory and martyrdom is to land a blow against this nation and our allies.
At the same time that the probe from the Cassini-Huygens space mission dazzles us with its descent through Titan’s ground fog and its first successful transfer of images from this moon of Saturn, we are still staggering against the virulence of contagious disease and against the extreme blows of nature on this planet.
We turn to the challenge of pursuing the impossible in the work of intelligence against the daunting obstacles of bias and mindset. In the book Wings of Gold, retired Admiral Noel Gayler, a 1935 Naval Academy graduate and a pioneering, young aviator at the dawn of the 1940s, reflects on the factors contributing to the success of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor . Far more than a failure of intelligence or the ins and outs of whether the President wanted war, the failure, to his thinking, was the mindset of the commanders who had been brought up in the big-gun battleship Navy. “I don’t think any of them actually imagined than an air attack could be more than a raid… The image of a raid suggests something that may be a nuisance, but that’s it. I think it was that failure of imagination.” 1
A failure of imagination … Sixty-three years later, this past summer, the 9/11 Commissioners would write in their Report: “We believe the 9/11 attacks revealed four kinds of failures: in imagination, policy, capabilities, and management.” In a section of the Report titled Institutionalizing Imagination: The Case of Aircraft as Weapons, the Commissioners wrote: “Imagination is not a gift usually associated with bureaucracies … It is therefore crucial to find a way of routinizing, even bureaucratizing, the exercise of imagination.” 2
If we need to exercise imagination, to pursue the impossible, against an incredibly complex array of challenges, we need to do so at a time of dramatic change in our people. There is a new generation of men and women coming into the intelligence service. As we move on from the baby boomers, we have opened the doors to the cyber sonics.
There is nothing particularly awesome to the cyber sonics about the capabilities of a Predator being flown over Afghanistan from a command center in Nevada . This is the generation of instant, ever-accessible communications, a generation of geospatial video- and computer-game dexterity, a generation pressing for each new information-technology linkage and computer software advance.
This is a generation that thrives on multi-tasking, on accomplishment and recognition, on job change. Life is the expanding cyber universe with its opportunities and its unknowns. Each individual is the key board and the mouse.
What was speed in the intelligence work force just a few years ago is slow to the cyber sonics. What was taken as gospel is open to doubt. A speed reading instructor told a group of Master’s candidates at my College: “I’m going to teach you how to read each page in four seconds,” and one student said to another “Why not three?” These young men and women understand the importance of career development and growth through expanding opportunities and experience, and do not understand why the departments, agencies, and organizations in the intelligence community make career shifts within the community and sabbaticals in the private sector so monumentally difficult.
This is a generation that is ready to exercise imagination in pursuing the impossible, and it is the responsibility of those leading the implementation of intelligence reform to clear the path. If you think about this community today, if you think about our collective lack of imagination, a lot of clearing lies ahead. You do not have to look far. How about the mind-numbing acronyms we use to label to the major fields of our profession –OSINT, MASINT, IMINT, HUMINT? You would think they had been fed to us by our adversaries to keep us in a perpetual fog.
“OSINT?” the cyber sonic asks. Aren’t we talking about all the literature, all the language out there, A-L-O-T? Why not say A LOT? MASINT! Is this something George Carlin wouldn’t eat as a child, or graveside muttering from an Erskine Caldwell novel? Aren’t we talking about the intelligence we can draw from space, the atmosphere, the land, the sea, data out there for intelligence action? Space, atmosphere, land, sea, action – SALSA. Keep your OSINT/MASINT they say. With what’s on my plate, I need A LOT of SALSA.
The men and women, military and civilian, officer and enlisted, in the Master’s and Bachelor’s programs at the Joint Military Intelligence College are among the very finest of the new cyber sonic era. They come from across the Armed Services, the entire Intelligence Community, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. Those who have been selected as Intelligence Community Scholars come from colleges and universities across the land – diverse, multilingual, incredibly talented individuals – fresh from the award of their baccalaureate degrees into the ranks of defense intelligence, with their first stop their Master’s degree at the College.
In 1962, the Secretary of Defense chartered the College with the dual mission of intelligence education and intelligence research. The College’s graduate and undergraduate degree-granting powers for the Master of Science of Strategic Intelligence degree and the Bachelor of Science in Intelligence degree are vested in it by Congress. The College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, and it is a member of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area.
The College is educating and guiding research in an era where the formerly dominant challenges of understanding force-on-force foreign military capabilities and intentions have been subsumed in a far-broader spectrum of intelligence challenges and requirements. While it is essential to have expert understanding of each of the world’s nuclear and conventional military forces, we are now in an era where it is essential to know something of intelligence value about every subject, every issue of interest to the nation.
The classified and unclassified intelligence- and intelligence-related research conducted by the College’s students, faculty, and research fellows not only helps shape the curriculum to the shifting demands of a changing world but also contributes most importantly to the day-to-day work of intelligence. The College’s international programs are contributing to better intelligence for coalition operations.
In this cyber- and information-era world marked by failed and failing nation states, religious and cultural conflicts, the proliferation of conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction, and virulent international terrorism, the future intelligence leaders the College is educating must have an appreciation of regional cultures, religions, and politics as well as the smoldering tinder intentions and the sparks of conflict. In a strategic environment where U.S. forces with their allied and coalition partners are called upon to provide forward deterrence, produce forward stability, and ward off threats to the U.S. homeland, there is virtually no geography, no political, cultural ideological, or religious presence anywhere that is not of relevance to the intelligence professional. The challenge is to educate the mind, to engage the reasoning and to exercise the imagination to crystallize that relevance.
Today’s student and today’s intelligence researcher recognize that effective strategic warning is the most important component of effective intelligence. Such warning, addressing both threats and opportunities, is what policy-makers and commanders look to intelligence to provide for both the security and the wellbeing of the nation. And here, I am drawing on Cynthia Grabo’s work Anticipating Surprise, Analysis for Strategic Warning published by the College in 2002. Such strategic warning often flows from mists and vapors. Such warning involves gifted, dedicated analysts using indications methodologies and related techniques. It involves the perception of emerging threats of seeming low probability. It involves exhaustive research. It involves dedicated collection against such threats, to include innovative and imaginative collection plans allowing for penetration of those who would deny and those who would deceive. It involves hearing out analysts whose voices are in the minority. It involves responsibility on the part of the commander and the policy-maker to pay attention to those providing such warning however much it may run counter to the mindset, the cultural bias, the accepted view of the most likely course of future events. 3
As a contributor and a force for change in the intelligence dynamic of the early 21st century, the College continues to expand its education and research programs out from the key defense core across each of the larger, interlocking rings comprising the national intelligence requirements essential for both the policy-maker and the combatant commander. In the assessment of the College’s distinguished Board of Visitors, the Joint Military Intelligence College is today the de facto national intelligence university.
Among the nation’s federally chartered colleges and universities, the College has the distinction of annually awarding both graduate and undergraduate degrees. The Master’s degree has been offered since 1980. In 1997, the Congress authorized the College’s new Bachelor of Science in Intelligence degree, the first time such baccalaureate degree granting authority had been given by the Congress to a Federal degree-granting institution since the creation of the Air Force Academy in the mid-1950s. The BSI degree is enabling non-commissioned officers from each of the services to move up into the commissioned ranks. It is enabling civilian clerical personnel, secretaries, and technicians to break glass ceilings and move up into the professional ranks. It is proving a resounding success.
In the year 2000, the Director of Central Intelligence certified the College’s Master’s degree program, with its leadership and management elective, as meeting all course requirements for Intelligence Community Officer Certification. It is a very rigorous program – 14 courses and the research and writing of a Master’s thesis in one year. It is a multi-disciplinary program, with the number of courses expanding as faculty numbers continue to grow. Those courses include the four-course Denial and Deception Program offered in partnership with, and sponsored by, the National Intelligence Council.
As we meet today, the College’s advertisement for a senior MASINT faculty member is on the Web. The Master’s curriculum includes an elective on Measurement and Signature Intelligence, with the College Catalog advising “The course may be used to lay the groundwork for MSSI theses that will make original contributions to the MASINT field.” 4 The theses, both classified and unclassified, that are emerging are receiving awards and being recognized by the Community. Some truly boggle the imagination.
The College offers the Master’s degree not only in the one-year fulltime study program, but also in part-time, evening, weekend, and month Reserve formats. In addition to the main campus at Bolling Air Force Base, the College has two satellite campuses: the first in operation since 1990 at the National Security Agency; the second, opened this past summer, at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. Through the NGA campus, the College is now also linked with the Air Force Institute of Technology allowing our NGA graduate students to take AFIT’s MASINT certificate program and apply the credits earned toward their MSSI degree.
The College’s alumni in positions of prominence today include Admiral Bill Studeman, former Deputy Director of Central Intelligence and today a Commissioner on the President’s WMD Commission. They include NSA Director Lieutenant General Mike Hayden, INSCOM’s Commanding General Major General Jeff Kimmons, CENTCOM’s J-2 Brigadier General John Custer, PACOM’s J-2 Rear Admiral Jack Dorsett, and the incoming Director of Naval Intelligence Rear Admiral Bob Murrett.
The alumni include Marc Viola, Class of 1995, and today Director of MASINT Review on the President’s WMD Commission. Marc was looking to the future with his MSSI thesis on “Verification Implications of Commercial Satellite Imagery.” Five years after graduation, when asked if he would recommend the Master’s program, he praised the College for allowing its Master’s candidates “to think outside the box,” for giving them the opportunity to cultivate an in-depth understanding of focused intelligence issues. 5 He would serve as the College’s first MASINT instructor. He believes deeply, as do those who have studied under him, that we are living in an age when foreign adversaries are progressively improving their countermeasures, and the agility to effectively employ their countermeasures against our traditional sources and methods. In his words, ‘Measurement and Signature Intelligence, as the newest and least understood of the U.S. intelligence disciplines, holds the promise of countering the increasing use and effectiveness of adversarial denial and deception.” 6
In the work of intelligence, imagination, or lack thereof, is not solely an attribute of Government. The Intelligence Community finds itself today – witness this conference – in a rapidly growing, evolving partnership with industry. The ground rules for this partnership differ in many ways from those of the Cold War era, with industry now often in the lead and with industry and contractors sometimes playing roles not played before. To provide our students, the future leaders, with an appreciation of this dynamic, the College – supported by the private, non-profit Joint Military Intelligence College Foundation – will be offering an Intelligence and Industry elective course, already fully subscribed, this spring quarter.
We will be pushing well beyond this in exercising the ‘I’ word, with the establishment this year of a Center for Advanced Intelligence Concepts. Our goal with this center will be to advance the state of the intelligence profession and its major disciplines. Our goal will be to promote the development of a network of organizations and individuals in government – at the federal, state, and local levels, in the academic world, and in industry, a network to identify key challenges and opportunities before the intelligence profession, and the pursuit of conceptual and methodological breakthroughs contributing to their realization and their solution.
The Center will serve as a catalyst providing an over-the-horizon capability for the intelligence community, bringing together those best suited to spotting fresh opportunities, best suited to identifying and taking on the challenges – topical, technical, and methodological – of the national security future. It will serve as a forum in which experts from inside and outside government can come together to address current and emerging issues.
This is exciting work, with the prospects for the future more exciting still. As we move from MASINT for the baby boomers to SALSA for the cyber sonics, as the work of intelligence reform moves forward in 2005 and beyond, the College looks forward to expanding its service to the nation as the intelligence community’s center of excellence, its premier element, for education and research.
- Gerald Astor, Wings of Gold, Ballantine Books, New York , 2004, p. 19.
- The 9/11 Commission Report, Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States , W.W. Norton & Company, New York , 2004, pp. 339 and 344.
- Cynthia Grabo, Anticipating Surprise, Analysis for Strategic Warning, Joint Military Intelligence College , Washington , D.C., 2002.
- Joint Military Intelligence College , Catalog Academic Year 2004-2005 , Washington, D.C., 2004, p. 46.
- Preparing America’s Leaders , Joint Military Intelligence College 40th Anniversary Publication, Joint Military Intelligence College Foundation, McLean, Virginia , 2002, pp. 50-51.
- Marc Viola, conversation with author, January 18, 2005.
This page was last updated January 25, 2013.