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News | Jan. 27, 2020

Building relationships: DIA, the Council on Foreign Relations

As part of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s effort to increase partnerships with subject matter experts in the private sector, DIA Director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley Jr. visited the Council on Foreign Relations’ regional office in Washington, D.C., for a roundtable discussion, Jan. 17.

This was the second conversation the two entities had in a matter of days. Prior to Ashley’s visit, CFR term members visited DIA Headquarters to increase their understanding of the Agency’s mission and intelligence contributions to foreign policy and national security.

These interactions are part of a larger exchange of knowledge between the Intelligence Community and CFR, capped by the CFR National Intelligence Fellowship.

Annually, the NIF provides an individual a one-year opportunity to work at CFR headquarters in New York City, acquiring a broader understanding of international affairs while organizing opportunities for council members to learn from the IC.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence nominates the candidates for the NIF, followed by an interview with the CFR. DIA’s Amir Asmar from the Executive Production and Dissemination Office was selected as the 2019-2020 fellow.   

To build the relationship between DIA and CFR, Asmar helped facilitate Ashley’s visit and was on-hand to make sure the event ran smoothly.

The visit began with a private lunch with CFR senior fellows, during which expectations of the upcoming roundtable were discussed and ground rules were determined. When Ashley proceeded to the conference room he was met by a larger group of experts than expected.

Juan Zarate, chairman of Financial Integrity Network, LLC, and moderator for the event, explained that the number of attendees significantly rose the night before when it circulated that a sitting director of an IC agency would be the guest speaker.

Ashley opened the forum by speaking about DIA’s mission and capabilities before Zarate asked the first question. As Ashley fielded questions, with topics ranging from geopolitics and disinformation campaigns to space based platforms, he jokingly compared the discussion to the Congressional Annual Threat Assessment for the depth and breadth of the conversation.

As the questions shifted from regional challenges to DIA capabilities, Ashley stressed the importance of strategic investment to make sure DIA officers have what they need to succeed. Where investments can’t be made due to resource limitations, he emphasized the roles of partnerships and allies, internationally and with the experts sitting in the room.

“As a start, when you look at the entire world, we can’t go man-to-man,” said Ashley. “The other part of that is understanding sometimes placement and access and understanding of a partner nation gives them greater insight.” 

To demonstrate the sincerity of his remarks on the importance of working with partners in industry, he ended the event by inviting the senior fellows to visit the Agency in hopes of connecting subject matter experts with their respective counterparts.

For more information about Amir Asmar and his role at the Council on Foreign Relations, please see his profile at CFR here.