Mim John, chair of the planning committee and member of the ICSB, opened the workshop. She explained that a goal for the meeting is to explore how the explosion in technology, particularly in information technology (IT) and cyberspace and in the biological sciences, affects the counterproliferation mission. She noted that the speakers are a selection of experts working in areas chosen to help participants and attendees become smarter about where particular trends and impacts of technologies might manifest themselves. She introduced Alan MacDougall, Director of the NCPC, to provide background and perspective from the sponsor.
MacDougall began by noting that global trends in technology and their potential effects on counterproliferation-related mission issues pose daunting challenges. MacDougall went on to note that the pace at which technological change happens affects how his agency organizes to address them, what the agency focuses on, and how the agency can make contributions to the nation’s policy and operational community. He said that ODNI leadership is also focused on global technology trends and their potential impacts.
MacDougall thanked Steve Thompson, Melanie Elder, and the entire NCPC leadership team, along with John and her team,
for helping to organize the workshop. He noted the importance of reaching out beyond the IC for insights and perspective on emerging technologies. He described the NCPC’s advisory board, which consists of senior leadership from each of the 17 intelligence agencies and related oversight organizations who lead the counterproliferation mission across the IC. He also provided some background and history of the NCPC.
MacDougall explained that after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the 9/11 Commission and the WMD Commission were foundational to establishing, through the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, two national centers at ODNI: the National Counterterrorism Center and the NCPC. He noted that the NCPC charter states that it is the primary organization within the IC for helping manage and coordinate intelligence policy, infrastructure, and, in particular, investments in capabilities that enable the community to support national policy and counterproliferation operations and actions for the U.S. government. He said that they are often most focused on near-term issues—in part because many gaps exist in their knowledge of foreign WMD programs and intentions and capabilities to acquire the capability to further develop them.
However, MacDougall noted that this near-term emphasis does not relieve them of the responsibility to stay focused on the future. The NCPC has an advantage that its operating model and charter do not require them to execute the day-to-day mission of collection or exploitation or capability development. He said they oversee and help manage and focus the community in leveraging its capabilities and identifying its key capability gaps. Currently, he said, the NCPC consists of a staff of approximately 50 officers. He said that the first DNI, Ambassador Negroponte, and, first Director of the NCPC, Ambassador Brill, recognized that in order for the NCPC to serve the community as its primary proliferation advisor within the U.S. government, it must be responsible for
“promoting the development and application of advanced science and technologies to enhance the counterproliferation capabilities of the intelligence community.”
MacDougall explained that the NCPC not only has advocacy responsibility, but also is asked to both evaluate and contribute to decisions on capability investments or dis-investments. In addition, the NCPC was given the authority and responsibility for executing a research, development, and integration fund chartered by Congress and the NCPC approximately 15 years ago. He explained that the fund is an annual resource that allows the NCPC to both identify and invest directly in promising novel and new methodologies, capabilities, and approaches to some of the most difficult and challenging WMD problem sets. He noted that this fund is above and beyond the base programs that each agency has for making investments themselves.
MacDougall described how over the past 15 years, the NCPC has spent considerable effort combatting numerous enduring threats. He noted that any number of global S&T developments exist in areas that can support WMD development and proliferation. He said that the agency is working to develop the partnerships and the capabilities to help it recognize and respond to global advances in S&T. The goal, he said, is to leverage those partnerships in a way that might lead to faster progress than the IC has been able to achieve heretofore.
MacDougall explained that the NCPC’s approach to the National Academies and the ICSB, as with other groups of experts, is to solicit insights that can help it plan and align its efforts and to ensure that it does not ignore key developments and trends to the United States’ detriment in terms of making investments or recommendations. He noted that this workshop would help examine technology convergence and how various S&T domains interact with each other.
Dynes asked to hear more about technology convergence. MacDougall replied with an example about WMD. He said that typically analysts are tasked to characterize foreign WMD threats both from the material capabilities side as well as its potential application side. Accordingly, he noted, they seek to gain direct insight into the development plans and their intent, the associated performance
specifications, the material, the engineering and test and evaluation, and ultimately, the deployment cycle. This, he explained, is a very standard set of tasks for the IC. And yet, he noted, the IC is often surprised by what emerges well into the development or test cycle in unexamined areas, suggesting a need to go beyond traditional intelligence analysis of technology development. So, for instance, the development of three-dimensional (3D) printing could have a massive impact on the manufacturing, material, engineering, and development of a particular weapons system well beyond what might be expected from traditional analysis.
John noted that the question of surprise, and how to avoid surprise, is one that successive secretaries of defense have asked. Further, an institution’s ability to avoid surprise depends on how much it is willing to change. She said that leadership must protect a group that it will listen to even if that group might challenge the status quo. She noted that a challenge for organizations exploring these questions will likely be to create new mechanisms that allow fresh voices to be heard. She asked whether the NCPC and the broader IC see any such mechanisms that could be used to help people build capability in key areas that are not strictly WMD (e.g., IT, the Internet of Things [IoT], biological engineering).
MacDougall responded that ODNI has an advantage, in that it does not have a day-to-day mission to collect, exploit, or even report finished intelligence to the President, and can therefore spend time on longer-term issues. He noted that ODNI has a tradition of bringing external voices to bear in that process. In addition, he said, each agency also has some mechanisms by which it ensures that those voices are considered within their mission purview. He noted that the counterproliferation community needs to routinize hearing from external voices to keep pace with global technological change and account for it as it makes threat assessments.
MacDougall commented on the importance of building capabilities. He noted the traditional tension in the intelligence business between the near, the tactical, the longer term, and the strategic. He further noted the strong demand signal placed upon the national IC and the collection systems in particular to satisfy that insatiable demand for near-term intelligence. He highlighted
the ongoing challenge from a resource management standpoint in sorting out how to manage that trade space for any given domain. He noted the importance of taking advantage of technology developments, some of which can improve the quality of the data collected on adversaries along with changing where and how the data are processed.
Fingar asked about how to take advantage of opportunities provided to the economy and society by new technologies. He noted the ongoing tension between the impetus to restrict technology for safety and security reasons and the reality of economic opportunity and industrial commoditization. He asked whether those issues are part of the NCPC’s purview and how it can discern whether restricting a particular technology would not work, given commercial imperatives. MacDougall responded that that particular issue is not a large one in the NCPC’s day-to-day work. He highlighted the example of the commercialization of overhead imagery—an area in which the IC used to dominate—which is now a successful industry. He noted the same transition may take place with regard to overhead sensing in the radio frequency domain. Of course, he noted, the IC is expected to maintain an advantage over adversaries, but the gap between when they can catch has shortened in some domains.
Kosal asked about partnerships from a university perspective. She noted that universities are receiving increasing scrutiny about their partnerships. She asked whether the NCPC is considering the implications of the government potentially restricting interactions with other countries’ scientists when an adversary might not impose the same restriction. MacDougall responded that this is a consideration for the NCPC. He said that one task that the NCPC performs on behalf of the counterproliferation community is to identify opportunities and partnerships to develop. He noted that the NCPC does not have the time or the resources in every mission domain beyond proliferation and WMD to keep abreast of global
technological advancements in agile and effective enough ways, which underscores the need to better leverage partnerships.
Dynes raised the topic of the diversity of ethical approaches to science around the globe. He noted that scientists tend to think that their scientific colleagues and counterparts around the globe think similarly in terms of scientific ethics and values. However, that is not always so. He asked how scientists and the IC can use that knowledge to better anticipate surprises. How, he asked, do we think like others from another culture when we have not been in that culture?
MacDougall acknowledged the importance of the issue and discussed how the IC is in part organized to address it. He noted that its role is to deeply understand the degree to which a different ethical model or different views might inform decisions made by an adversary country and their impact on U.S. security. He noted that its task is to not only understand foreign countries’ capabilities but also their plans and, in particular, their intentions. He observed that it is difficult to understand the mindset of foreign leadership even at a practical level when they are executing those intentions and plans. He connected this issue to another active debate: the ethics of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. This issue is being debated not only in the civil liberties, transparency, and legal communities, but also by the practitioners who are developing these new tools and algorithms.
John noted the challenge of building effective partnerships that also protect national security and observed that this challenge is emerging more frequently in the academic community. MacDougall reminded the group of arms control discussions in the 1970s and 1980s that benefited and were informed by a wide range of Track 2 and Track 1.5 international engagements.1 Kosal mentioned recent survey results that showed that greater than 80 percent of polled U.S. scientists working in the cognitive neurosciences said they had never reviewed an article that could be considered to carry dual-use implications.2 She suggested that similar surveys in other fields might help inform the discussion about academic science and partnerships.
1 Track 2 diplomacy refers to informal, nongovernmental interactions between private citizens or groups. Track 1.5 diplomacy typically refers to a situation where official and nonofficial actors work together.
2 M. Kosal and J. Huang, 2015, Security implications and governance of cognitive neuroscience: An ethnographic survey of researchers, Politics and the Life Sciences 34(1):93-108, doi:10.1017/pls.2015.4.
This page intentionally left blank.