The Director of the United States Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess, told a Samford Business Network breakfast audience that the United States has a global mission in 138 countries and 30 U.S. states.
“We (DIA) provide timely military intelligence to the military and to national consumers,” Lt. General Burgess told a crowd of about 125 in Brock Recital Hall at Samford University. “Our purpose is to provide the nation with the most authoritative assessment of foreign military intentions and capabilities.”
After 9-11, there was a cry in Congress and by the American people to look at how the U.S. gathers and organizes intelligence information, Burgess noted, and the findings of the 9-11 Commission warranted the establishment of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2004. The Agency is made up of approximately 18,000 people and taxpayers invest $45 billion a year in intelligence gathering. The DIA supports specifically national intelligence requirements, military operations and Defense policymaking.
Burgess said the U.S. has ongoing military operations in four key areas—Iraq, Afghanistan, transitional terrorism and in the horn of Africa—and in these areas their core mission is to provide source analysis, defense counterintelligence, technical collection, measurement and signature intelligence, and document and media exploitation.
One area of significance the general brought up was the new focus on the Global Secure Information Networks, or cyber security. He said he works closely in U.S. cyber security to ensure that information from the President down the chain of command is safe and secure on the Internet. He said the agency also protects the U.S. from allies who might attempt to hack into the U.S. computer systems.
“In the Intelligence world, everything is not always as it appears to be and we are working on a daily basis to keep Americans safe,” he added.
As for Al-Qaida, Burgess said the group is becoming more sophisticated and expanding its efforts. The example he gave was of the failed attempt of an attack on Dec. 25 on a trans-Atlantic flight that landed safely in Detroit. The attempt was made by a Nigerian man who was not on the terrorist watch list and who looked normal. Burgess said the attempt was planned quicker and faster than any by Al-Qaida prior to then, and that we should be worried that the time frame between planning an attack and executing it is diminishing. He still believes that Al-Qaida will continue to plan to attack us.
When asked what “we as Americans” can do to protect ourselves from an attack, he stated that we need to keep our eyes opened and report anything that is out of the norm, but that we should keep living our lives.
Burgess also stated that he plays a role in providing policymakers with information they need to form policy. He stated that Amendments in 2008 of FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) gave the Defense Intelligence Agency the tools they needed to do their job more efficiently.