Washington D.C., Jan. 15, 2020 —
Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley Jr. discussed DIA’s mission and national security concerns on the Intelligence Matters podcast with host and former acting director of CIA, Michael Morell, Jan. 8.
Intelligence Matters is a weekly podcast from CBS News Radio that features leaders of the U.S. Intelligence Community as they reflect on their life, career and the critical roles they play in shaping national security policies.
Following his typical format, Morell began the interview by asking Ashley to talk about his career and standout moments.
“My tour in Iraq when I was a brigade commander,” said Ashley. “What really weighs on you is the decisions that you make because their lives (the soldiers under his command) hang in the balance. Have you trained them properly? Have you equipped them properly? Have you made good, sound decisions?”
Ashley went on to say that one of his most satisfying moments was that every soldier came home safely from that deployment.
Morell, whose listeners are more familiar with the roles and missions of CIA, asked Ashley if he could talk about the differences between the agencies.
“We (DIA) provide foundational intelligence and intel on the operational environment,” he said. “The difference between, if you think about CIA over DIA, is kind of the customer base.”
Ashley continued, “We have technical collection on the MASINT (measurement and signature intelligence) of the house, so there are some very discreet capabilities that are very unique in terms of how we help provide insights on what’s happening on the battlefield. The core piece is the analytic piece. So when people think about the DIA, they think about analysts.”
Noting that DIA has released several unclassified reports on adversarial capabilities, Morell asked about the strategy and what happens when reports are released.
“We take (the report) up to the hill, we provide it to members in OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense) and others, and it’s an opportunity for them to have a means by which they can say, ‘Here’s the nature of what our adversaries have in their inventory and things you should be concerned about,’” said Ashley.
Morrell followed up, asking if this and other information make it into the hands of leaders?
“The information we see, our understanding of what is taking place, the members of the (Intelligence Community) are feeding that directly to the chairman, to the combatant command, to the secretary of defense,” said Ashley. “From my vantage point as a senior member of the IC we have unencumbered access to the senior leaders in the Defense Department and the ability to ensure that we are providing them everything we know and understand.”
Noting an intensified situation in the Middle East, Morell asked about the strategic importance of American forces in Iraq.
“The ability to continue to have pressure on ISIS in Iraq, to have pressure on ISIS in Syria, is a very important to the mission,” Ashley stated. “It’s critical if you’re on the ground you have better access and better understanding to what they may be up to.”
Ashley continued the national security conversation by discussing the unique threats from China and Russia, specifically concerning quantum computing and hypersonic weapons.
“Over the course of the next decade, I think you’ll see a number of nations that will have those capabilities,” he said. “The key thing for us is how do you understand it, how does it operate and then how do you defeat it. So for us, it’s understanding how the system works, making sure there’s not a game-changing technology that shows up on the battlefield that we didn’t see.”
Morell wrapped up the conversation by asking if there was anything the public should know about the DIA workforce.
“I think the best way to say it is, we’ve got your back,” he said, adding that the DIA workforce is “very agnostic about what they do. They have a passion for it… and they come in and they put their heads down and they row hard so that hose 330 million Americans can pursue their hopes and dreams.”
To listen to the full interview visit, Intelligence Matters on CBSnews.com.