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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

At the session on Threats in a Era of Transformation at the GEOINT Conference in San Antonio, assistant secretary for information analysis at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Charles Allen, pointedly reminded the audience that we "need a shared means and a common understanding of information." Allen was making reference to the fact that there are often different interpretations from the same set of facts and this has contributed to poor vetting of information. Allen has only been in his position for one month and is trying to build a more unified intelligence infrastructure at DHS. But he warned that the United States faces a protracted battle with the current terrorists threats, similar to what the U.S. faced with Soviet-style Communism.

by Joe Francica on 11/01 at 08:36 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

An article in the Boston Globe highlights the lack of updates in online and city websites regarding our now-famous Big Dig realignment. The writer contacted Tele Atlas, who confirmed “they continue to update their maps every 90 days in Boston and make no attempt to avoid the tunnels during the Big Dig’s $14.6 billion construction.” Google, which does not create its data and sources it from Tele Atlas and NAVTEQ reportedly updates maps “on average every 18 months.” The icing on the cake? Association of American Geographers Doug Richardson is the source of this statistic: “Nationwide, about one in 50 computer-generated directions goes wayward.”

by Adena Schutzberg on 11/01 at 07:45 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

While attending a panel session at GEOINT, I recognized one of the panel members and reviewed is bio prior to the session. It said that Jeff "Skunk" Baxter was a national security consulant and a "famous" musician. As an avid fan of The Doobie Brothers Band, I was surprised (that’s an understatement) to see the lead guitarist from the 70’s rock band on stage as a "security" consultant. Mr. Baxter is now also a music producer and it is not uncommon for the intelligence community to invite people from the outside to help them "think outside the box." In fact, Baxter mentioned that while playing with the Blues Brothers, he enlisted Dan Akroyd to attend a White House briefing to explain Akroyd’s new plan for homeland security. Truly this a a surreal moment at the conference. With blue suits and blue ties stairing at Baxter, I wonder what the 3-stars and high brass thought, but it was quite obvious that he was a respected member of this group. He too was dressed in the typical blue suit but he pony tail was still intact.

by Joe Francica on 11/01 at 07:18 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

UPI reports FEMA provided USA Today data on the locations of evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. The paper published a map of the 18,700 ZIP Codes represented on Sept. 29 and many are looking for updates a full month later. At least three relief groups, who also want the data to help support those evacuees, claim they’ve not had access. US agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp have not received the data either. I guess FEMA has to work on other matters besides just the first response.

by Adena Schutzberg on 11/01 at 07:18 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

Distinguished panel members at GEOINT including Charles Allen, deputy under secretary for National Intelligence Collection, Jeff Baxter, national security consultant, John Gannon, VP of Analysis for BAE Systems, and Dr. Tom Fingar, deputy directory of National Intelligence for Analysis and Chairman of the National Intelligence Council. All were there to address the changes that needed to take place within the intelligence community to correct communication problems among the security agencies to prevent another 9/11. Much was said about building a unified and integrated intelligence infrastructure but especially in pushing a change to the culture which led to miscommunication or lack of cooperation among the intelligence gathering agencies.

When asked if this cooperation was being accomplished, Charles Allen responded with a luke warm ‘yes’ and proceeded to list the meetings he had with the varies agencies but lacked any concrete examples of where the ‘transformation’ was occuring.

Jeff Baxter was more direct. "An overall look at the situation is frightening," refering to the bureaucratic headaches he has encountered. However, on a more positive note, he mentioned that, unlike our allies, the U.S. is an innovator and "we never let our enemies know what we are doing." He prescribed a need to take the bureacracy we have and use it to our advantage, meaning that we have a very strong intelligence community but it needs to change and adapt to new threats.

John Gannon, formerly of the CIA, turned away criticism that the agency "was not a bunch of people who could not connect the dots," referring to the allegations that teh 9/11 terrorists could have been caught if the intelligence agencies had been able to communicate their information more effectively. Gannon said that at the CIA recognized its shortcomings wll before 9/11 but that "we were caught in transforming (the agency) but not fast enough…because we were not aligning the intelligence communities." Gannon went on to say that , "al Qaeda’s network defeated our bureacracy (on 9/11)." He also pionted out that the intelligence agencies are faced with processing an abundance of data (SIGINT, GEOINT, HUMANINT), a drastic change from the past.

Fingar said, "threats have moved from being the few to the many," and stressed the need for daily operational intelligence that is actionable. He said that intelligence must be tailored to support a wide range of customers, both military and policy makers.

This session was interesting but I never got the feeling that true cooperation exsited between the new intelligence infrastructure. Its been four years since 9/11 and it still appears that many of our intelligence agencies are finding their way in learning how to share data and communicate effectively.

by Joe Francica on 11/01 at 06:52 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share
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