James R. Clapper Jr., Director, Office of National Intelligence
he terrorist attacks of 9/11 served as a catalyst for dramatic changes to the United States national security enterprise and in the relationships among the various national security agencies. Among those changes is the recognition that our local, state, and tribal law enforcement agencies make critical contributions not only to the protection of our communities but to the security of the United States at large. However, while we’ve all made lots of progress in working more closely together, there is more we can do.
The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA) of 2004 established my office, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), as the leader of the 17-member intelligence community and as the president’s principal intelligence advisor. IRTPA also called for greater integration of our collective efforts. These integration initiatives require us to work both horizontally and vertically, so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
The successful U.S. action against Osama bin Laden serves as a remarkable example of horizontal integration—that is, across the 17 members of the intelligence community. It was also an example of the integration of intelligence with military operations, through the partnership between the intelligence community and Joint Special Operations Command. This success reinforces the need for integration and demonstrates how collectively we can achieve more than working individually.
But we must also strive for appropriate vertical integration—that is, integration of intelligence with the efforts of local, state, tribal, territorial, federal, private sector, and international partners. In particular, we must ensure that the intelligence community’s integration efforts and partnerships with law enforcement agencies are strong and enduring, while always continuing to operate within our respective authorities.
The office of the DNI is making vertical integration efforts and partnerships with law enforcement agencies a top priority. For example, in each of the past two years I have met personally with the IACP Board of Officers in meetings I’ve found to be incredibly valuable in helping me acquire unique insights about our state, local, tribal, and international law enforcement partners.
Also, while I have reduced the number of advisory boards to the DNI as part of an efficiency review, I retained the Homeland Security and Law Enforcement Partners Board. This group of outstanding leaders helps me consider the responsibilities, the requirements, and the capabilities of the law enforcement and homeland security communities, especially at the state, local, and tribal levels of government. A number of leaders from the IACP participate on this board.
Finally, I have a senior executive on my staff with more than 30 years as a local and state law enforcement officer and executive. He and his team are responsible for ensuring that our partnership efforts with law enforcement and homeland security officials are given the priority and the attention they rightfully deserve.
There have been many developments in the past 10 years that have dramatically improved U.S. information and intelligence sharing, including the stand-up of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis in the Department of Homeland Security, the transformation of the intelligence capabilities within the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the emergence of state and major urban area fusion centers, the creation of the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative, the establishment of the National Counterterrorism Center and the Interagency Threat Assessment and Coordination Group, and the critical information sharing efforts of the Department of Justice and the program manager of the Information Sharing Environment, to name just a few. To continue this progress, I have directed my homeland security and law enforcement team to energize a dialogue to foster horizontal and vertical intelligence integration in the domestic field. The intent is to identify opportunities to improve information sharing and cooperation, while ensuring protection of our constitutional rights. IACP members will be part of that dialogue, especially as it relates to the vertical integration work we must continue together as partners. For example, the National Fusion Center Network is a key mechanism through which the two-way sharing of intelligence and information occurs, and fusion centers are one of the bright spots in our interaction together.
A number of collective challenges and opportunities we face remain. First, we all have a responsibility to share information and intelligence with each other to protect our people, our infrastructure, and the United States. We must therefore continue to work through policy, cultural, and other barriers that hamper our information sharing efforts and relationships.
Second, we also have a responsibility to protect sensitive information and intelligence from unauthorized access and disclosure.
Third, we must remain steadfast in our shared obligation to protect privacy, civil liberties, and civil rights as we carry out our work. Whenever I have met with members of the IACP leadership, the Criminal Intelligence Coordinating Council, and my Homeland Security and Law Enforcement Partners Board, I have been struck by law enforcement’s sincere, vocal, and ardent commitment to these principles. The intelligence community shares that commitment with you, and protection of these solemn constitutional rights must continue to be integrated into our work together.
Finally, I am acutely aware of the significant budget shortfalls facing law enforcement agencies. The U.S. intelligence community is not immune, so we are approaching this challenge knowing that everything we do in intelligence is not of equal merit. Simply put, some capabilities and programs are more valuable than others. But it is still necessary to maintain a level of intelligence capabilities that provides for the protection of our communities, our states, and the entire United States and to continue to support critical investments that have already been made.
I have deep respect and appreciation for the service you provide. You put your lives on the line to protect our communities every day, and you are a gold mine of wisdom and insight when it comes to what I call “street intelligence.”
The progress we have made to improve coordination between the intelligence community and law enforcement since 9/11 has been phenomenal—sometimes step by step, but always in the right direction. To continue this progress in tight budgetary times, protecting our hometowns and our homeland through effective intelligence must remain a top priority for all of us. ■
Please cite as:
James R. Clapper Jr., "Effective Intelligence Must Remain a Top Priority," From the Director, The Police Chief 79 (March 2012): 12.