ST. LOUIS—To better communicate its needs and enable partnerships across government, academia and the private sector the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) is creating a new “investment landscape” that shows the needs of the intelligence community at a level that is less classified in the past, the director of Science and Technology for the ODNI said on Tuesday.
The intelligence community was reorganized in the post-9/11 period to focus on competition but a new era of strategic competition with near-peer adversaries puts a significant focus on science and technology, John Beieler said during the opening keynote to the GEOINT 2021 Symposium.
“One of the primary differentiators between strategic competition and other paradigms is the criticality of science and technology,” he said. “It is the tech that our adversaries are able to bring to bear that differentiates the kind of strategic competition, great power competition from the counter-terrorism mission.”
Beieler said that the current S&T Investment Landscape, which covered fiscal years 2015 to 2019, “was created at a very high level of classification,” but that “a lot” of the intelligence community’s partners have expertise helpful to the IC’s mission and its “ability to field cutting edge capabilities.”
“Because of this, we’re are currently in the process of locking those needs down to the unclassified level,” he said. “We’ll of course lose some detail there, but the goal across each of these documents is to communicate to as wide an audience as possible what our needs are, so again we can enable that partnership.”
The investment landscape document “identifies and projects the IC’s S&T needs for preserving and advancing our intelligence advantage,” he said.
Beieler was asked what his office is doing to improve its partnerships with industry and government. He replied that the ODNI is working to get new authorities to enable more agile contracting efforts, including Other Transaction Authority and Cooperative Research and Development Agreements. These authorities need to be “repeatable” across the “enterprise” in the coming years so that the IC doesn’t have to do “heroics” to acquire needs in a crisis.
He also said that S&T has a “good handle” on what it needs now but wants more insight from partners on what technologies and capabilities are “coming down the pike” in the next five years.
In addition to the investment landscape, the ODNI S&T office is also updating its strategic plan and investment framework, Beieler said.
With a renewed focus on strategic competition, Beieler also said that the IC’s scientific community has a new process for sorting out needs across the IC, beginning with obtaining the requirements from the national intelligence managers and the capability gaps. From here, the S&T enterprise is figuring out how science and technology will help close these gaps.
Currently, there are several hundred needs across nearly two dozen technology categories, he said.
Beieler said the S&T office is whittling down the various priorities based on the needs that will actually “come to pass” and the impact on mission if a technology is fielded.
“And so, that gives us a rack order list of what’s important, and we hope that by doing this we’ll be able to concentrate our spending and our resources on those true priority areas and not just the priorities,” he said.