WASHINGTON — Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier shared his views and mission priorities concerning strategic competition and cybersecurity at the 13th Annual Billington Cybersecurity Summit on Sept. 9.
During a fireside chat moderated by U.S. Cyber Command Executive Director David Frederick, Berrier explained how DIA’s long-term strategy is poised to address Russia and China in an era of strategic competition.
Speaking on the Russia-Ukraine crisis, Berrier said, “From the DIA perspective though, I think what we brought to the table was the foundational military intelligence perspective of the Russian Army at the time. What we knew, when we knew it, and then sharing that early with partners.”
“The success that the intelligence community had about the prediction of the Russian invasion was really, really interesting,” said Berrier.
Berrier further explained that the biggest successes came from what he described as a “dynamic policy environment” that allowed DIA to modify existing policies to share intelligence with more and more partners. In doing so, the intelligence community was able to convince partners and allies of Russia’s impending invasion and when it would happen.
“Post-invasion, our ability to continue the connectivity with our partners, not only Five Eyes, but others as well, to be able to discuss the ongoing conflict and then to share with partners in the region [is] really, really critical,” said Berrier.
While squarely focused on Russia, China and global defense in general, DIA is also investing in the cyberspace domain. It is leveraging the immense data available through open-source intelligence (also known as OSINT), private sector partnerships and the expertise at U.S. Cyber Command, Cyber National Mission Forces and Joint Forces Headquarters for the Department of Defense Information Network.
On the difference between foundational intelligence and cyber intelligence, Berrier said, “If you think about foundational military intelligence, it’s based on understanding what the foreign militaries have, what their capabilities are, based on the physical presence of these things. It’s harder in cyber because you may know where a cyber facility physically is located, but you really don't know what activity is going on inside that facility.”
He added that publicly available information and social media add a layer of complexity that further challenges cyber intelligence and remains a challenge for the intelligence community.
In 2021, DIA was named the Defense Intelligence Enterprise manager for open-source intelligence for the Department of Defense.
“What that really means for DIA is we now have the responsibility to manage and organize ourselves, so that we've got the right training and tradecraft, that we've got the right policies in place, and that we all have standards to operate in within the open-source enterprise,” said Berrier.
Berrier noted that substantial investment in cyber network defense is crucial to national security. DIA is investing in manpower and expertise and leveraging OSINT growth to expand the foundational understanding of foreign defense-related cyber issues and sharing OSINT with non-traditional partners.
“We think that there's room for discussion about what the future of cyber intelligence really is in partnership with Cyber Command, NSA and others across the community to really define where it is we need to go,” he said.
Berrier also discussed the history of JWICS, the top-secret warfighting intelligence network, and DIA’s modernization efforts.
“We are going to invest significant dollars over the next five years to continue to modernize JWICS to ensure that it's as hard as it can be; that it's taking advantage of access to cloud data; and that we, along with our IC partners, are in the right place at the right time to deliver the information that we do as quickly as we can.”
MARS, DIA’s Machine-assisted Rapid-repository System, will fully replace the Military Intelligence Integrated Database, or MIDB, by 2024. Berrier noted that MIDB is an effective but dated database and that MARS will provide a richer program for analysts by infusing data with artificial intelligence and machine learning.
In closing, Berrier outlined the four lines of effort in DIA’s 10-year Strategy
– intelligence advantage, the culture of innovation, allies and partnerships, and adaptive workforce.
“The third one, maybe the most important, is Allies and Partnerships,” said Berrier. “Over the course of this latest conflict with Russia and Ukraine, our allies and partners have been key. And we need to foster that and we need to nurture those relationships to the best of our ability. So that when we need help, that help is there and we can call.”
for the full transcript from the fireside chat.
Editor’s note: Director Berrier’s fireside chat concluded the three-day Billington Cybersecurity Summit in Washington, DC. The summit brings together cybersecurity leaders and experts from across the U.S. government, allied partners, industry and academia.