The defense intelligence community needs to take a focused, intelligence-specific approach to procurement rather than trying to fall in line with general military acquisition, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers said Tuesday.

Speaking about the intersection of intelligence and national security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Vickers said that the Defense Department has made clear its support for his programs–including cyber, special operations and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets–despite flat or declining budgets.

Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers
Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers

That said, he added that “now more than ever, you have to have an intelligence portfolio approach to investments” rather than trying to fit into a joint portfolio, which was the case pre-9/11.

Even within the intelligence portfolio, leadership needs to make smart decisions about where to invest limited procurement funds.

“We have to be very focused in our investments and what we prioritize,” he said. “So in ISR or in other capability areas–undersea warfare, long-range strike bomber, et cetera–we’re focusing on a critical set of investments that are very important to our Asia rebalance.” He said those investments, as well as ones needed for counterterrorism and cyber challenges, have been well protected during tough fiscal times.

Vickers couldn’t go into much detail about the procurement needs, but he did single out the Predator and Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles as being the “signature weapon of our counterterrorism capability over the past decade.” He added “we are very healthy in this area, but we are looking to make enhancements in some advanced sensors as well as extending the range of our second-generation platform considerably.”

Vickers noted in his presentation that the defense intelligence community would need to take its lessons learned from the counterterrorism realm and apply them to other threats around the globe–the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the rise of Chinese aggression towards its neighbors, Russian expansion, the Syrian civil war and more–though he did not say specifically whether that would include using the UAVs and acquiring sensors for these additional mission sets.

To address these threats, particularly the anti-access/area-denial environment in Asia, Vickers said “we’re working on assured, persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and the resiliency of our space architecture, and that’s about all I can say to that point.”

Aside from procurement, Vickers said the defense intelligence community had “big changes ahead in the way we use our overhead space architecture” that would not only boost persistence but would better integrate information. Rather than a set of separate systems, the changes will create “a really integrated architecture that can tip and cue, and there’s tremendous benefits that come with that.”