Remarks as prepared for delivery by
The Honorable Dan Coats
Director of National Intelligence
ODNI Presentation of the 2019 National Intelligence Strategy
Tuesday, January 22, 2018
24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the men and women of the Intelligence Community work in every part of the world, dedicated to one mission – to keep America and her interests safe. Their mission is guided by faith in the IC’s core principles: To seek the truth. And when we find that truth, to speak the truth.
Two years ago when I took leadership of the 17 agencies of the Intelligence Community, I asked the question: How do we best continue protecting the nation while holding to these principles?
Today, I am pleased to introduce the 2019 National Intelligence Strategy. This strategy will serve as a guidepost for:
- You, the Workforce – Because you’re the engine that gives this strategy life
- Our Customers in the policy community – So they know what to expect
- Our Partners – So they can make smart choices
- The Congress – So they understand why our work is essential
- And the American people – So they can have trust in us, trust in our products, and have faith that we will do the right thing to protect this nation.
This is the fourth National Intelligence Strategy developed by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, since this organization was created 14 years ago.
I recognize and appreciate the contributions earlier strategies have made to U.S. national security.
The 2019 Strategy is more than just an update to previous strategies: In some areas, it offers incremental improvements to things we do today. In other areas, it offers fundamental changes to how we operate.
We developed this strategy to better position the Intelligence Community to detect change and provide critical warning in the future.
Let me discuss those adversaries so you understand what we’re up against. We face the most diverse and complex set of threats we have ever seen. They span:
- Geopolitical competition;
- WMD proliferation;
- Violent extremism;
- Intra and Interstate conflict;
- and regional instability.
These threats come from long-standing adversaries — Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran, among others – new adversaries, including terrorist groups and other non-state actors.
We also see threats from cyber space, and adversaries using emerging, disruptive technologies against us.
These threats are aimed at:
- our presence abroad;
- our national security infrastructure;
- our critical public infrastructure; and
- our private sector;
- and our American public.
Our greatest concern comes from these threats merging together – with our adversaries joining forces, and leveraging new technology.
Given the depth and breadth of these challenges to our national security, the question is… So, what do we need to do now to respond to these threats?
Our intelligence professionals currently provide policymakers with a significant advantage against our adversaries. And we must maintain that competitive advantage.
This is why we developed the 2019 National Intelligence Strategy. We must become more agile and apply the most advanced technologies in our pursuit of the truth, and this Strategy provides us a roadmap to get there.
The NIS strategy communicates four priorities to better enable the IC in a number of key areas, but there are three in particular that I want to discuss today:
- Value-based Integration;
- And Transparency.
First and foremost, the Strategy directs that we must be integrated, to harness the full talent and tools from across the Intelligence Community. We stress the ongoing need to unify and focus our resources with precision, to gather information against the hardest targets and most pressing threats.
We’ve made progress in our effort to operate as one team, but we still have room to improve among:
- our agencies and organizations;
- our expert and dedicated workforce;
- our business practices, and, at the heart of all we do;
- our information and the tools that safeguard it.
Integration is critical to make the best use of all our capabilities. It brings to bear the full power of the Intelligence Community, working in harmony to get the right information, to the right people, at the right time.
Integration is the engine that will move us forward, and it will be powered by Innovation.
We look for innovation to make us more agile, so we can swiftly take the right people, and the right technology, and use them efficiently to advance our highest priorities. This is a major focus of the Strategy. We have needed to improve in this area for some time.
We need to become more agile in how we employ our own staff internally, and bring new talent onboard.
We will expand and strengthen our partnerships outside the IC, to leverage the talent, and unique skillsets that exist beyond the federal government.
We are developing innovative policies to harness talent in ways we never have before. Given the threats we face, we simply cannot ignore the advantage that partnerships outside of the federal government bring to the IC.
But we also have to improve our tools. Technology is the heart of much of what we do. Now you may ask, what could a public servant in his 70’s tell you about technological innovation? Well, try this.
Back in 1967— I was in the Army at the time—the legendary Director of Central Intelligence, Richard Helms spoke of a new technology that would revolutionize the intelligence business – a “facsimile transmitter,” or what some call a “fax machine.”
He told us CIA had learned to encrypt its signal, and could transmit a document at a rate of “6-plus pages a minute.” Imagine that! He pointed out that the entire Encyclopedia Britannica could be sent from our headquarters to the State Department in a little over 60 hours.
For those of you who are a lot younger than me, and that’s a lot of people in this auditorium, the Encyclopedia Britannica was kind of like Wikipedia, but in hard copy.
Helms remarks were a huge deal back then and it taught me a lesson that still holds true today. From fax machines, to floppy discs, to CDs, to DVDs, to 3G, 4G, and now 5G technology, the increasing volume of data, and speed of information transmission, will consistently change how the world operates. And these ever increasing changes affect how we in the IC do business.
It’s a constant struggle to process data, analyze it, and convert it into knowledge and understanding for our customers. It’s one of our greatest challenges.
We are now embracing artificial intelligence and machine learning. This powerful technology enables us to be in charge of our data. We will be able to process all of it, instead of being buried under it.
So to recap – the 2019 National Intelligence Strategy is our guide to build an even more integrated Intelligence Community that finds innovative ways to use people and technology.
We now come to my third point. We need to be as open with the American people as we can without compromising our needed classified capabilities and collection.
Every day, while we collect and analyze vital information from around the globe, our aim will be to earn and uphold the trust and faith of our customers, and also of the American people.
We will build public understanding about our mission. We will be open about how we help protect the nation, and whenever possible, we will share with the public the insight we offer to policymakers.
Through transparency we will strengthen America’s faith that the Intelligence Community seeks the truth, and speaks the truth.
This will be our hallmark, and I cannot stress this enough – this is not a limitation on us. This will make us stronger. It earns trust. It builds faith, and boosts our credibility around the world for our mission. It is the right thing to do.
To prove we’re putting our words into action, we’re publishing the 2019 National Intelligence Strategy in one version only – an unclassified version. There is no separate classified version with … you know … “the secret stuff.” You can find this newly released product at www.intelligence.gov.
Through Integration, Innovation, and Transparency, the IC will ensure our policymakers have the advantage to keep our nation safe in the challenging environment that lies ahead.
It’s an incredible challenge, but vitally important we do this right.
But, in doing so, we need to assure our policymaking community, and the American people, that we can be trusted with this responsibility to use our information appropriately to protect the nation. By being as transparent as possible, we will build the faith that we will always do what is right. When we speak the truth, you can have faith in us, and trust in what we say.
Now, every good Presbyterian Pastor knows that a sermon must incorporate three points… It is almost a sin to do four – But, I must make one more point in closing. There is one more key component, as important as all the others combined.
None of this could be accomplished without you, the exceptional professionals of the U.S. Intelligence Community. You are our life blood, and you will be the ones to bring this Strategy to life.
Every day, I witness your talent and commitment, despite the challenges that are present in the current environment. I cannot help but take great pride in leading this extraordinary, innovative, integrated Community that exemplifies America’s values.
I have spoken in this speech about faith in our core principles. But there is more than that. Always know that every day, I have faith in you, the men and women of the Intelligence Community, and I work to earn your faith in me as well.
Together we will continue to build that trust and faith in each other, to provide the best intelligence to give our policymakers the greatest advantage.
This will strengthen us to achieve the vision of the 2019 National Intelligence Strategy. It will guide us where we need to go, hand-in-hand with our partners across the IC, our customers in the policy community, and with the trust of the American people that we serve. Thank you.
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