The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) in September established a new unit at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to help close gaps in intelligence related to aviation security, James Clapper, the director of ODNI, said on Monday.

The Air Domain Intelligence Integration Center is led by Tina Gabbrielli and includes a dedicated support staff that will report “directly to me on threats to aviation,” Clapper said at the International Air Transport Association’s annual AVSEC World conference in Washington, D.C. “She is responsible for planning and integrating intelligence on aviation threats, both horizontally and vertically.”

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Photo: ODNI.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Photo: ODNI.

Clapper said his most important job is to bridge the gap within the intelligence community to enable “joint action” and “intelligence integration.”

“And that responsibility goes way beyond just getting the intel agencies to talk to one another,” Clapper said. “It’s about helping them to recognize the cultural strengths and capabilities that each of the 17 U.S. intelligence community elements brings to the table and then getting them to think as a community. Bring our best and most appropriate community resources to bear against our toughest community problems.

Clapper said the new center, which he described as a fusion center, will routinely work with various aviation community stakeholders, including airlines and airports, manufacturing and technology firms, cargo carriers, general aviation, and leaders within the critical infrastructure space. The ODNI worked with the private sector in setting up the new center as place “where analysts and security professionals from both the public and private sector…can voluntarily share threat information and intelligence, and we hope to grow this capability.”

Already, the Air Domain Intelligence Integration Center has been “invaluable in helping to sort information on the current Ebola crisis,” Clapper said, adding that it will improve as it works with the private sector and other government agencies. Clapper said he has been spending more time on the Ebola crisis than most people would think but it is a national security issue as it has “intelligence implications.”

Clapper said he’s open to working with the aviation community to prevent a “West African epidemic to becoming a global pandemic.”

“So the scope of threats potentially enabled by air travel has shifted and grown,” Clabber said. “And so has the scope of threats to aviation,” noting that civil aviation is a “reoccurring” target of terrorists.