I have followed with attention for years the great US tradition of having the man in charge of US intelligence -the Director of National Intelligence after the important administrative changes introduced in the intelligence bureaucracy in the post 9/11 revision- explaining to the Senate Intelligence Committee the main threats and risks confronting the nation and, in most cases, the rest of the world.
The practice of dividing the presentation in two parts -the public one, with a report of between 35 and 50 pages, depending on the years, and the secret one, just for the members of the Committee- offers all of those (journalists, academics, officials, diplomats…) interested in the security of the US and of its allies a privileged window to understand a little better, if not the real/detailed/more urgent threats, at least the uncertainties and context in which those with authority to act are supposedly defending our most critical or vital interests.
On March 12, 2013, James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence since August 2010, presented his third statement. The Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community on the record -34 pages- opens with the need to continue adapting the system to the rapidly changing environment, the importance of coordinating and integrating much better all agencies in order to avoid a repetition of the 9/11 tragedy, and the indispensable requirement of multidisciplinary and flexible structures of collection, analysis and action in today’s world for an effective, preferably preventive, response to the main threats.
This year, in both content and organization, this statement illustrates how quickly and radically the world—and our threat environment—are changing. This environment is demanding reevaluations of the way we do business, expanding our analytic envelope, and altering the vocabulary of intelligence. Threats are more diverse, interconnected, and viral than at any time in history. Attacks, which might involve cyber and financial weapons, can be deniable and unattributable. Destruction can be invisible, latent, and progressive. We now monitor shifts in human geography, climate, disease, and competition for natural resources because they fuel tensions and conflicts. Local events that might seem irrelevant are more likely to affect US national security in accelerated time frames.
In this threat environment, the importance and urgency of intelligence integration cannot be overstated. Our progress cannot stop. The Intelligence Community must continue to promote collaboration among experts in every field, from the political and social sciences to natural sciences, medicine, military issues, and space. Collectors and analysts need vision across disciplines to understand how and why developments—and both state and unaffiliated actors—can spark sudden changes with international implications.
The Intelligence Community is committed every day to providing the nuanced, multidisciplinary intelligence that policymakers, diplomats, warfighters, and international and domestic law enforcement need to protect American lives and America’s interests anywhere in the world.
The date chosen for the presentation has to do with the beginning of Obama’s second mandate and the changes approved after the November elections in the direction of the main security departments -Defense and State- and agencies -the CIA.
The best way to detect and value change and continuity in those yearly assessments is to compare its content along the years, as I have done for my introductions to the Strategic Panorama of Spain (2011-2012 edition), edited by the Instituto Español de Estudios Estratégicos (IEEE) for the last three years. For 2011-2012 edition, click here.