Technology Is Central To CIA's Strategic Plan(Panetta Plan)http://online.wsj.com/article/
The CIA announced a five-year strategic plan that would invest heavily in new technologies to combat non-traditional threats like cyber attacks from overseas and gain better intelligence on rogue states like Iran.
The plan announced Monday also provides for quickly "surging" large numbers of CIA officers to hot spots around the globe such as the tribal areas of Pakistan or East Africa. Past agency plans haven't provided for such war-time demands.
The moves reflect an effort to bolster agency operations and analysis without causing too much disruption, CIA veterans said. Although historically there has been tension between the CIA and the Pentagon, this plan aligns the two agencies' priorities, the veterans said.
However, at an agency that has had five directors in the last six years, it might be difficult for CIA Director Leon Panetta to ensure follow-through on a long-term plan. "How much of it can you get done in the time you really have?" said Mark Lowenthal a former senior CIA official. "We've had so much instability at the top."
Mr. Panetta has also drawn up plans to capture or kill al Qaeda members and other militants who flee the tribal areas of Pakistan to escape the agency's covert drone program. The drone program has killed hundreds of militants since Mr. Panetta took over the agency, counterterrorism officials say.
And he has ordered the agency to step up operations in East Africa as concerns have escalated over terrorist activity in Yemen and Somalia, particularly in the wake of the failed Christmas Day attack ascribed to al Qaeda's Yemeni affiliate.
Mr. Panetta released his five-year plan in remarks to agency employees. "We govern either by leadership or by crisis," he said. "That's why we're taking a hard look at future challenges, and what we want our agency to look like five years from now."
Technology is a central component of the director's plan. Mr. Panetta wants to better use technology to help spies work under cover in roles where they have no public association with the U.S. government. Technology can, for example, make it easier for an operative to create more credible covers. Officials said the agency would boost the technology budget by tens of millions of dollars.
He also wants to use technology to help analysts manage the growing volumes of data the agency is collecting. One example: creating Google-like news alerts to ensure that CIA analysts get immediate updates when the agency learns of new data relevant to their work.
The plan also seeks to better merge the work of agency analysts and spies in the field. That's important because the CIA has more officers in Afghanistan than it ever had in Iraq and the number of officers deployed to a war zone is the agency's largest since Vietnam, officials say. Hundreds of officers served at the height of the Iraq war.
In an important cultural shift, the CIA plans to establish hubs around the world to support field operations—an activity that has largely been managed out of the agency's Langley headquarters in the past.
Should a major event like a terrorist bombing or political meltdown occur, the agency plans to reduce bureaucratic hurdles so officers can mobilize immediately. The agency might also need to shift a significant number of officers to quickly address a cyber attack. Mr. Panetta plans to build up a cadre of officers that could quickly respond to such attacks.
Mr. Panetta's plan also builds on earlier efforts to expand the agency's language capacity—tripling the number of analysts who are proficient in foreign languages and doubling the number of clandestine officers with proficiency. The CIA in recent years has placed a premium on mission-critical languages such as Arabic.
While lack of language ability is a problem best addressed by the American education system, Mr. Lowenthal gave the plan good marks overall. "It shows Panetta is trying to push the agency forward, while not being disruptive and being respectful of its traditions," he said.CIA veteran Ronald Marks said the plan would promote more discipline at the agency by laying out specific actions to be taken, and the emphasis on building up the skills and capabilities of the agency's officers may also help wean CIA off its post-9-11 dependency on contractors.