Intelligence Community Leadership Changes Signal Continued Tech Push

Published on July 7, 2014

Letitia Long’s retirement as director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) after 35 years of federal service is part of a continuum of change in the national intelligence hierarchy that began when Gen. Keith Alexander left directorships of the National Security Agency and Cyber Command in April and includes Lt. Gen. William Flynn’s plans to leave as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Accompanying that wave of personnel changes is the Intelligence Community’s increased emphasis on geospatial components, its growing concern with Big Data and data analytics and its understanding that the future is going to include greater amounts of open-source data, including social media. All of that has to be melded into an integrated format that reduces the seams and silos that have brought criticism to the IC.

That means technology will play an even more critical role, which is why Robert Cardillo will replace Long atop the NGA. He has been Deputy Director for Intelligence Integration with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, sitting at the right hand of DNI James Clapper since 2010.

Clapper is the thread that stitches together the IC. His mantra has long been “integration,” and to accomplish it, he ordained Cardillo in 2010 and mandated that Long, Flynn and Alexander take their agencies in that direction.

With Flynn, Long has been overseeing the creation of the Intelligence Community’s Intelligence Technology Enterprise desktop, a mission that Cardillo will pick up in his new job.

As a “techie,” he is her natural replacement, though Cardillo seldom speaks of data in and of itself. The job of intelligence, he says instead, is telling a “story.”

That approach should work well in continuing Long’s oft-professed quest for an almost sensory-like “immersion with data” that takes visualization to its next logical step. By fusing data sources and adding new elements of geospatial and open-source data, that immersion creates a deeper understanding that feeds the IC’s evolving mission that will make it more relevant.

It has to become more relevant.

“What we need to do is we need to evolve from those shiny metal objects that we chase around the planet to the synapses of leaders and to think about our strategy to get inside that decision space,” Cardillo said in April at the GEOINT 2013* symposium in Tampa. “(We need) to add value: not only what is happening but why it’s happening and what does it mean to you?”

Doing that, he added, means embracing new sources of data to blend with the tried-and-not-always-true – or at least complete.

“If we stick with our traditional means of collection of sources, we’ll miss the broader point,” he said. “In this case, I’m talking about media, social media, non-traditional data that now exists in ways it never did before. If we don’t do that, we’ll become less and less relevant over time.”

To do that, he added, the IC has to deal with “inhibitors.”

“Yes, there are technical inhibitors,” Cardillo said. “But I would offer that there at least as many cultural and mental inhibitors, and lanes that we put up that inhibit us from either outreach with a hand to partner or to share or to compete, again as a market idea.”

Dealing with all of that means integration¸ an ongoing process that¸ he said, never ends. “If anybody tells you that we’ve achieved it, we all should be quite worried,” Cardillo said. “If we don’t keep embracing these new technologies, these new capabilities, these new data sets, etc., we’ll not just get static. We’ll fall back.”

Clapper’s staying on the job keeps the process on its path amid all of the agency upheaval.

“For me, what that says is oftentimes we get involved in some of these ideas and initiatives and programs and change leadership at midstream and lose the momentum or you get a little bit off vector and you aren’t fully able to deliver,” Cardillo said, now including himself in that change as incoming NGA director. “Well, we don’t have that excuse this time. We’re going to have five, we’re going to have six, we’re going to have seven years of (Clapper’s) singular, motivated, enthusiastic – I’ll say support, but also encouragement and admonition and expectation to continue to integrate.”

His career spans 31 years in various jobs, and his most recent – with DNI – provides a natural bookend to those years of service.

“I was a GS-7 photographic interpreter, going to work in buildings with no windows and very low lights, and I often had this thought in my head as I toiled away over this light table or on a green screen, ‘Is anybody doing anything with this? Who is using this exquisite intelligence that I’m producing?’” Cardillo said of working in 1984.

As Clapper’s deputy, he took that intelligence to a logical conclusion when he briefed President Obama daily, transitioning the paper report to iPad technology.

Now, Cardillo will bring this deliberate focus on integration and evolving the intelligence data and system enterprise as he runs the NGA.


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