GEOINT: The Relationship Between the Intelligence Community and Private Industry
the military intel-speak at GEOINT
2007, which ran this week in San Antonio, Texas, was challenging.
On one side was the military brass, who seemed impatient with the way
business is done. The other side included commercial vendors who have
the tools, data and supposedly the knowledge base. General James
Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, kept
emphasizing that "we need to change the incentive structure." It took
me a while to decipher what he meant.
As I walked the halls of the San Antonio Convention Center, small rooms
had been reserved by all of the large intelligence community (IC)
systems integrators: Lockheed, Raytheon, BAE, Booz Allen, etc. Who were
in those rooms? It was military brass, meeting with ex-military brass
who now work for the vendors. Everything seemed fine. A nudge here, a
wink there, business gets done. Or does it? Why is Cartwright an
impatient man if his hot button issues are being addressed? Apparently
they are not. In his very first sentence before the GEOINT audience
Cartwright said, "I'm here to piss you off." I think he was really
trying to do that in his presentation, but unfortunately during the
Q&A session he fell victim to lines of questioning from "old
friends" whom he really didn't want to offend with pointed answers.
The problem? Business doesn't get done in a timely way. Generals grow
more impatient. Warfighters fail to get the necessary intelligence at
the right time that is "relevant" to situations on the ground.
Relevancy, too, was a recurring theme at GEOINT. Is the intelligence
relevant, current and useful to those who need it most? Perhaps Rich
Haver, a career intelligence officer and now vice president for
Northrop Grumman's intelligence programs, put it best. "While
government can come up with the ideas and concoct the ideas, it is
industry that builds those systems â¦ and builds the tools. Unless there
is a genuine partnership between industry and government, we are not
going to propel these ideas forward â¦ From the mid-1990's to the
present, I've noticed an erosion of trust between government and
industry. We need to restore thatâ¦"
Haver addressed failures between industry and government saying, "We
are in a business in which risk has to be accepted. Somewhere in the
peace dividend â¦ people decided that we should do away with the
reserves which encourage industry to be inefficient. Then we wind up
with too little money and encourage industry to get into cost
competitions and we end up with failed programs and systems â¦ We need
to get back to a sufficient level of trust â¦ We are engaged in a risky
enterprise and if we don't reach for greatness, we will never get
there." This seemed odd from someone now on the vendor side, but he
obviously recognized past mistakes.
I also got the impression that there is a significant disconnect
between the upper echelons of the military and the warfighter. The
challenge is to bring together the various branches of the IC in a way
that is truly integrated. But unlike dealing with pure geospatial data,
there is no common reference framework for either human or signal
intelligence - like a map - around which they can organize. It's not
that the military leadership doesn't understand what needs to be done;
it's that dealing with the organizational differences between each
branch creates inefficiencies.
And so, problems will continue unless the winks are ignored, impatience
grows into anger, and the cycle in which the IC community now finds
itself is broken. Only then will trust be restored, common frameworks
established and solutions found. Cartwright understands the incentive
problem and Haver acknowledges the mistrust. It's time for the change
to get underway.