Intelligence mission at risk from deep budget cuts, says USDI

Investments in intelligence capabilities needed for the nation's military to stay on top of a number of global security threats are at risk from continuing budget instability and further deep cuts mandated by the sequestration, a top Defense Department official told a House Armed Services Committee subcommittee Feb. 27.

Intelligence is a major source of U.S. advantage around the globe that “informs wise policy and enables precision operations," Michael Vickers, the Defense Department's undersecretary of defense for intelligence, said during the unclassified part of a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee’s intelligence, emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee. "It is our front line of defense,” he said. Vickers' testimony was summarized in a story by the American Forces Press Service.

To maintain and bolster that front line, Vickers added, requires critical investment in a range of capabilities. To counter al-Qaida and address instability in the Middle East and North Africa make it necessary for DOD to continue enhancing its counterterrorism capabilities, he said.

Moreover, the challenge of ensuring continued U.S. access to the global commons and critical regions such as East Asia will require investments tailored to that region, he said.

“Our national security strategy in Asia will require significantly different investments over the next 15 years … to obtain the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities most appropriate to the unique challenges of ensuring access in the Pacific,” the undersecretary said.

Elements of the intelligence community that are part of DOD include DIA, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office, Vickers said. Nearly 60,000 civilians and 123,000 service members support DOD’s national and military intelligence missions at home and alongside combat forces worldwide.

Countering cyber threats and nuclear proliferation calls for new resources and new ways of operating, he added.

The department is improving its human intelligence capabilities by establishing the Defense Clandestine Service, he said, and critical intelligence capabilities like overhead and cryptologic architectures continue to need modernization and recapitalization.

“Budgetary instability and the prospect of further deep cuts,” Vickers said, “put these investments at risk.”

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