Cyber Defense

Panel warns that US spy R&D isn’t keeping pace

U.S. technological superiority in areas like cyber security and cryptography are eroding along with other segments of that nation’s R&D base, a new report warns.

In its study released on Nov. 5, the National Commission for the Review of the Research and Development of program of the U.S. Intelligence Community found that unnamed adversaries are leveraging their science and technology R&D in areas critical to intelligence gathering and cyber security. Among the areas identified in an unclassified report were cryptography, cyber attack and defense along with “all-source data analytics,” or data mining.

“Exacerbating these challenges are U.S. policies that weaken the U.S. R&D talent base,” the report warned.  “As scientific and technical knowledge and the resulting economic growth spread around the world, the competition for R&D talent is increasingly global.”

Among the panel’s recommendations were shoring up the U.S. R&D base through focused investment while improving coordination of R&D activities within the U.S. intelligence community.

The panel also found that U.S. spy agencies are failing to exploit non-military R&D that could be used to discern enemy capabilities and intentions as well as to counter the theft of American intellectual property.

The 37-page unclassified report also identified the intelligence community’s “lack of a unified R&D emphasis” and called on the spy agencies to move R&D away from “incremental improvements for specific ends” to a coordinated approach that can adapt to rapid global technology advances.

The report to Congress also called for establishing an intelligence “R&D Corps” made up of part-time researchers, scientists and engineers to address the growing R&D shortfall. It also called for granting authority to the U.S. Director of National Intelligence to reprogram R&D funding without seeking congressional approval. The budget flexibility would allow spy agencies to develop a comprehensive intelligence R&D strategy that would allow them to keep pace in areas like cyber security and data analysis, the report stressed.

The 12-member commission was created by Congress to assess the state of spy agency R&D efforts and whether they are keeping pace with global technology development. The classified version of the panel’s study reportedly details growing cyber threats. The unclassified report warned of the growing availability of advanced encryption schemes that could thwart intelligence collection. It also cited the growing inability of spy agencies to defend against cyber attacks that are growing “in scale and scope.”

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