Undercover Grrl Band Techno Rave

Friday I had an interesting meeting with Dawn Meyerriecks, who has just begun her new role as the Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Acquisition and Technology. (Read the DNI’s statement on her appointment here in pdf, her bio here, and some reaction – all positive – here and here.)

Never mind what we actually were talking about, she asked me in so it isn’t appropriate to write about that. But to be honest I spent my drive home thinking about the atmospherics and significance of her holding that post in any case.  In a companion post later (“The Purple History of Intelink“) I’ll comment on the significance of her prior background in the Defense Department.

But more striking, right off the bat, is the fact that DNI Dennis Blair has an impressive number of women in high-ranking senior leadership positions. And it’s not just the number, but the particular positions they hold that I like: Dawn Meyerriecks is DDNI/A&T, Priscilla Guthrie is Assistant DNI and Chief Information Officer, Marilyn Vacca is Assistant DNI and Chief Financial Officer. Lisa Porter leads the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency IARPA (I’ve written about her before). Continue reading

Obama Team Infighting on Intelligence

The easiest prediction in Washington is this one: “bureaucratic turf war.” The Obama Administration isn’t immune. Several months ago when the president-elect announced his names for DNI and CIA director, I put forth this idea:  “Swap Blair and Panetta: A Modest Proposal.”  In it I wondered, between the two of them, “Who gets the top bunk?”

Well, they still haven’t figured that out yet. 

Continue reading

The Spy Chief and Bohemian Rhapsody

Very often, complaints about the stasis of the reform-resistant Intelligence Community recount the same old complaints, about how little the bureaucratic and stovepiped mentality has changed inside its oh-so-thick walls.

Yet I find some encouraging signs, and this week featured another one: the ceremony for this year’s winning entries in the IC’s “Galileo Awards” program, designed to reward innovative ideas and proposals for new thinking and positive change. More than 50 entries came from 14 separate agencies across the community, and this week marked the public crowning (at least, publicly to an intell audience) of the three winning papers.

Just in case you weren't sure - that's DNI Blair on the left, I believe, Freddie Mercury on right

Just in case you weren't sure - that's DNI Blair on the left, I believe, Freddie Mercury on right

And oh, how far we’ve come from the days of DNI Mike McConnell, not to say gray-faced shadowy DCI’s like Dulles and Colby, when we see a DNI rock the stage as Dennis Blair did in Wednesday’s ceremony.

Rock the stage? Well, I take it as a real sign of progressive change in the IC that we now have a Director of National Intelligence who can easily and with familiarity quote from an iconic rock song of the 1970s to make his point:

Everyone knows something about Galileo – if nothing else, as a lyric in the Queen song, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” You head-bangers in the audience, if you know what I’m talking about, bob your heads up and down.

For the rest of you who are a little less contemporary, Galileo was the Renaissance scientist who proved empirically that the Sun – not the Earth – was the center of the known universe.  It’s too bad he’s still not around in some modern version to prove Washington is not the center of the universe.

Blair did have a more serious point to make: “We have to work to create an integrated global enterprise that can anticipate and respond to rapidly changing threats. Innovation has never been more important. And keeping the Intelligence Community on the cutting edge of innovation is a critical priority for all of us.”

Unfortunately for those of you without security clearances, the submissions – the “innovative ideas” on how to improve intelligence collection, analysis, and operations – are often classified. So you won’t be able to read them in the open.  Nor should you :-)

But it is at least worth mentioning, as Blair did, that for the first time in the often CIA-dominated awards, a paper submitted by two FBI officers (often considered the red-haired stepchildren of the IC) received honorable mentions. As Freddie Mercury – oh, sorry, as Denny Blair said: ” That’s an important trend toward participation and collaborative thinking, from all corners of our Intelligence Community.”

My congratulations to the winners – and a tip of the hat to all those who submitted.

Email this post to a friend

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

DNI Flags at Half-Mast

Only the second-ever Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, resigned today effective immediately. As the Associated Press reported this afternoon in the wake of the announcement, “Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess, Jr. is temporarily serving as acting national intelligence director… McConnell’s letter did not explain why he resigned before the Senate’s confirmation of his replacement. President Barack Obama has nominated retired Adm. Dennis Blair to be the next national intelligence director.” 
Analysis:  Given the impending Senate hearings on Denny Blair’s confirmation and the expected smooth sailing, most people I know were mildly surprised that McConnell jumped ship today, rather than waiting for a formal turnover to a confirmed Blair. McConnell has had a solid, successful track record of leading the IC in an era of long-needed reform, while contributing to a track record in his tenure of zero terrorist attacks on American soil.

odni-red-flagsBut then my inbox pinged with another notice from the Office of the DNI: release of “The 500-Day-Plan Update at Day 400” (download the PDF version here).  It contained a graphic depiction of the troubling challenges remaining – actually using graphic “red flags” to mark areas at risk.  More on the flags below.

Those who work in and with the intelligence community have been intimately familiar with the DNI’s 500-Day Plan.  When it was first drafted I was still in government and had my tiny slice of input into its composition through the interagency review process. Its release was hailed by some (“ODNI Earns Kudos for 500-Day Plan,” in Federal Computer Week) and greeted with a yawn in some sectors of the community itself. “Another reform plan? I’ll make room on the shelf.” Continue reading

Swap Panetta and Blair: A Modest Proposal

First, a quick story from when I was working in government.

Not long after the initial establishment of a “Director of National Intelligence,” the DNI CIO held an inaugural “DNI Information Sharing Conference” in Denver in the summer of 2006. I was asked to sit on a panel about “Innovation across the Intelligence Community,” representing the Defense Intelligence Agency and sharing the stage with two counterparts, from the CIA and NSA.  Our panel chair was Mr. CJ Chapla, then the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of the old Intelink Management Office, redubbed “Intelligence Community Enterprise Services,” an office now under the Office of the DNI (ODNI). CJ asked the three of us to describe briefly the goals and projects we were each working on, and in seriatim that’s what we did for 90 minutes or so.

When it was time for questions, the very first audience-member asked: “It seems that each of you are independently working on, and paying for, very similar kinds of technology projects. It would make sense to combine or rationalize the work, so why are you continuing to do it independently?” Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,439 other followers

%d bloggers like this: