Blair sets intel goals, ranks cybersecurity high

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair today unveiled an overarching strategy for the nation's intelligence agencies, which for the first time lists cybersecurity and counterintelligence as top mission priorities.

The 24-page National Intelligence Strategy identifies the intelligence community's goals and objectives for the next four years. Blair said in a conference call with reporters that the intelligence community has developed "a good understanding" of the complexities and dynamics of the international environment, from nation-states such as Iran and Russia to transnational criminal and terrorist groups.

Therefore, the strategy does not contain language that looks backward, such as referring to the international community in "post-Cold War" terms. Blair said the language is intended to look forward.

For the first time, cybersecurity and counterintelligence are listed as top mission objectives, said a senior intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of not being identified.

The intelligence community believes adversaries will use any means to acquire U.S. national security secrets, including cyberoperations and counterintelligence, the official said.

To that end, the mission objective for cybersecurity is to "understand, detect, and counter adversary cyber threats to enable protection of the nation's information infrastructure," according to the strategy document.

Notably, the strategy states: "The architecture of the nation's digital infrastructure, based largely upon the Internet, is neither secure nor resilient."

"Nation-states and nongovernmental entities are compromising, stealing, changing or destroying information, and have the potential to undermine national confidence in the information systems upon which our economy and national security rests," the document adds.

Regarding counterintelligence, the intelligence community must provide a "capability that is integrated with all aspects of the intelligence process to inform policy and operations," the document states.

Other high priorities call for intelligence agencies to combat violent extremism; counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; provide strategic intelligence and warning; and support current operations.

Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein and ranking member Christopher (Kit) Bond had a favorable initial reaction to the strategy. "The real and necessary work is for the DNI and the intelligence community to translate these broad goals into a reality to improve our intelligence collection, counterintelligence, and analytic capabilities," Feinstein said.