Intelligence transparency creates innovation, says NGA director
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Director Robert Cardillo highlighted the opportunities inherent in intelligence transparency during a panel discussion at a conference on national security hosted by George Washington University and the Central Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C., Oct. 27.
This was the CIA’s second annual “Ethos and Profession of Intelligence” public conference and this year’s theme focused on the intelligence mission in the 21st century.
Cardillo spoke about changes in the satellite and geospatial intelligence industry over the last thirty years, which has created a “global transparency.”
"We had a monopoly, quite frankly," said Cardillo. "In order to do the business that my agency does, there were many barriers to inclusion. One of them: Not many people could put satellites in space in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, not only are people doing that from an academic point of view, but from a commercial point of view, in a way that is creating a transparency whether we seek to embrace it or not."
Taking advantage of a broadening marketspace and embracing transparency can be an asset to the way the intelligence community operates, said Cardillo.
"I just think now there are more players whether they are academic or industrial or research and development in the space that we used to occupy by ourselves," he said. "I think that creates an opportunity for innovation and conversation and mutual benefit in a way that it never could before."
The panel on 21st century challenges was moderated by Gwen Ifill, moderator and managing editor of "Washington Week" and co-anchor and managing editor of the "PBS NewsHour." Other panelists included Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan, National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael S. Rogers and Defense Intelligence Agency Deputy Director Douglas Wise.
Cardillo also discussed some of the lessons learned from the agency’s efforts during the 2014 Ebola Crisis and after the Nepal earthquake in April 2015.
“We can, we should and we did provide unclassified support to those who deployed to combat the Ebola virus in West Africa,” said Cardillo. “But, in order to be relevant to that decision maker I couldn’t -- one, ask them to get a clearance -- two, ask them to sign in to some secure classified system -- three, go into some secure protected area because they needed to be relevant with their iPhone and their iPad in the conflicted area.”
The answers to improving this kind of unclassified support might be found in the innovations of industry, academia and Silicon Valley, he said.
“Broad-based applications so that you can find a convenient cup of coffee without a lot of traffic are the same kinds of technology that I can use to help advise that medical official where should I put that treatment unit to create the greatest effect,” said Cardillo.
The full panel, as well as the entire “Ethos and Profession of Intelligence” program, is available to watch via YouTube .