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DIA chief faces surprising foe

The Defense Intelligence Agency director is getting serious push-back from within his agency over his plan to reorganize around one of the agency's core missions: collections of intelligence abroad.

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn had a quick answer when asked what he would do if people in his agency resist the changes -- “Move them or fire them,” he told an audience at the GEOINT symposium in Orlando. The comment drew rare applause from the group of industry executives and intelligence officials.

Afterwards, in a brief interview with Deep Dive, Flynn showed no remorse about that simple answer. “It’s a bureaucracy,” he said. “People like their little worlds.”

Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn on stage at GEOINT symposium

In April, DIA began the process of converting the Defense Counterintelligence and HUMINT Center, known as DX, into the Defense Clandestine Service, a name chosen to mirror the CIA’s National Clandestine Service.

Flynn arrived at DIA in July promising big changes, and he used his GEOINT speech to explain how the clandestine service figures in. “I’m going to use (the Defense Clandestine Service) to integrate the entire agency. This is not a marginal adjustment for DIA. This is a major adjustment for national security,” he said.

Flynn said the U.S. will need to work abroad with partner nations to avoid strategic surprises in what he expects will remain a tumultuous century.

“I believe that for the rest of my time, we will be in this era of persistent conflict,” he said.

The changes won’t just involve members of the clandestine service. DIA analysts will be sent to embassies around the world, rather than being restricted to joint intelligence operations centers, he said.

Deploying DIA staff more widely would provide “better finger tip feel, better sense of what’s going on, whether it’s in Afghanistan, whether it’s in Central or South Africa, whether it’s in South America, or whether it’s in the Asia Pacific basin somewhere.”

Flynn took pains to emphasize that the changes would not come at the expense of work in Afghanistan.

“My number one priority is Afghanistan in terms of the tactical operational level of stuff that we get involved in,” he said.

The reorganization around the clandestine service is to be described in a document called Vision 2020.

“Vision 2020 is a team effort that will take a broad look at everything we do across the Defense Intelligence Agency and look at how we need to operate in the future. Certainly over the coarse of the rest of this decade and probably at least 2025, 2030 and as far out as we can see.”

After his talk, Flynn said news reports casting the clandestine service as an entirely new entity were overstated.

“It’s an evolution,” he said.

He said a formal notification to Congress about the reorganization would be forthcoming, but that the agency has conducted briefings on Capitol Hill.

“We have to keep congressional staffs and member in the loop along this path,” he added.

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