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Strengthening our Counterterrorism Efforts and Revitalizing the Intelligence Community

On September 24, 2001, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence voted unanimously to approve H.R. 2883, legislation that addresses critical and immediate counterterrorism needs as well as long-term intelligence issues facing the United States (US). This authorization bill specifically addresses funding for fiscal year 2002 for all intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the US government.

The Committee’s bill and accompanying report (H.R. 107-219), which is excerpted below, directly address Intelligence Community shortfalls in domestic counterterrorism efforts, intelligence collection and analysis, threat reporting, aggressive recruitment of human assets, foreign language capabilities, and sharing of intelligence information and analysis across the government. 

This is not the time to preserve the status quo, although there will be a tendency to do so as we embark on this war on terrorism. Now, more than ever, we must be bold in addressing our needs for intelligence—our first line of defense—and for our overall security.

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Overall Committee Findings and Recommendations

The Committee completed its review of the President’s fiscal year 2002 budget, carrying out its annual responsibility to prepare an authorization based on close examination of intelligence programs and proposed expenditures. The review reflected the Committee’s continuing belief that intelligence activities must be examined by function, as well as by program. Due to the late delivery of the details of the President’s amended budget request and to circumstances caused by the deplorable terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, the Committee conducted only a limited number of budget-related hearings. The Committee’s membership also had numerous discussions and briefings with the White House and the Intelligence Community leadership to examine the views and plans for the future of intelligence and the Intelligence Community. There were, in addition, numerous individual briefings to Members and over one hundred staff briefings on programs, specific activities, and budget requests. 

In the classified schedule of authorizations and the accompanying explanatory language, the Committee has addressed numerous specific matters related to the fiscal year 2002 budget. In the following section, the Committee addresses many issues that it believes are particularly important although there may have been no direct budgetary action. It should be noted that, because of the extraordinary circumstances with respect to the national security environment in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, the Committee made a determination to make very few modifications to the President’s request. Those changes that are made primarily are focused on responding to deficiencies that could quickly impact the Community’s ability to provide warning against future such attacks.

Taken as a whole, the Committee’s budgetary actions and general provisions reflect the Committee’s concern that the United States has placed, and continues to place, undue risks on its national security interests by not redressing the many critical problems facing the Intelligence Community. Many of these are enduring issues that the Committee has repeatedly highlighted in the past. However, the ominous message sent by the terrorist actions in New York and Washington DC demonstrates an urgency to correct these Intelligence Community deficiencies like no other time in our nation’s history.*

The United States cannot continue to use the same processes and priorities to build the intelligence budgets of the 21st century that were used in the Cold War. American interests have changed, new threats, particularly the elusive and unrestricted terrorist threat, have evolved and the priorities placed on intelligence and the role of the Intelligence Community have grown. For the President and senior policymakers, intelligence often forms the basis for key foreign policy strategies and decisions, and can provide insights as to the effect of such decisions. At its best, intelligence provides key indications and warning (I&W) information that can direct national command authority attention to issues and areas before crises occur. When fully successful, such intelligence support allows for appropriate actions to provide regional stability or, hopefully, ward off an attack or larger conflict. Yet, despite the Committee’s repeated direction to more broadly provide this information on the myriad threats worldwide, the nation’s intelligence resources remain highly focused on only the highest priority military support issues and nations, leaving few resources for the critical I&W functions, especially against transnational, non-nation state actors or against areas of the world that could erupt overnight. 

For the military, intelligence is now the basis for, and organic to everything it does. Human Intelligence (HUMINT) and Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), in particular, provide direct and immediate threat data to personnel engaged in activities that risk their lives on a daily basis: our ground forces in Kosovo, our pilots conducting Northern and Southern Watch missions in Iraq, our forces on the border between North and South Korea, our forces engaged in counternarcotics operations in Latin America, and our Special Operations personnel who may have to enter a country unannounced and undetected, and require the on-scene intelligence officer to give them “ground truth.” 

It must be pointed out that the requirements for intelligence support have grown at a rapid pace, making the relatively status quo intelligence budget more and more inadequate. Increasingly, existing resources are being siphoned off to meet day-to-day tactical requirements. Global coverage and predictive, strategic intelligence have suffered as a result, contributing to shortfalls such as the lack of warning of recent nuclear tests, the lack of information on the New York and Washington DC terrorist attacks, the inability to monitor key facilities suspected of producing weapons of mass destruction, the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, and the shortage of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) assets around the world.

Intelligence should be the first line of defense, yet, it is not treated as such. Remedying this situation, however, is not a task that Congress can, or should, take on alone. Along with a new focus on intelligence budgeting and conduct by the administration, there also must be a Community-wide effort actually to work as a “community.” Although there have been some areas of progress, not nearly enough is apparent.

The Committee’s review of this year’s budget request included in-depth discussions with, or testimony from, the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), the Community’s senior leadership the managers of individual programs and agencies, as well as leaders from the Department of Defense (DoD) and the military services who produce intelligence or who use or rely on intelligence systems and information on a daily basis. Their message continues to be that, despite the increases in the President’s amended request for the Intelligence Community’s people and programs, there are insufficient intelligence resources to meet the immediate national security intelligence needs, let alone future needs. Although the Committee does not believe that additional funding alone will correct all the Community’s deficiencies, indeed the Committee believes that there is a fundamental need for both a cultural revolution within the Intelligence Community as well as significant structural changes, the Committee is concerned that the additional funding sought for the Community constitutes a misjudgment in national security priorities. As an example, the Committee notes that intelligence funding constituted a significantly lower percentage of the overall amended defense request for fiscal year 2002. This amount is inconsistent with the overall Intelligence Community funding percentage relative to national defense and does not seem to comport with the administration’s or the Secretary of Defense’s emphasis on intelligence. Moreover, the fact that intelligence must continue to compete with other defense needs is a Cold War legacy that does not reflect the new national security definitions nor encompass the realities of today’s and tomorrow’s threats. The Committee is also concerned that increasing requirements for greater volume, higher fidelity, and more timely intelligence, especially by the military, is forcing the Intelligence Community to “accomplish much more, with much less.” The lack of long-term analysis to provide predictive warning against acts of war against the United States, such as that perpetrated by the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, is indicative of this problem.

For the past six years, the Committee and Congress have sought to increase the “top line,” or overall funding level for the Intelligence Community. The President’s amendment to the fiscal year 2002 request was welcomed as a recognition that the Congressional priorities for national defense, and particularly intelligence operations, were justified. However the extremely modest increase to the request does not demonstrate to this Committee the full commitment by the administration to build a healthy, future years’ intelligence budget that meets national security needs. The Committee does understand that the administration’s request that resulted in the “The Supplemental Appropriations Act for Recovery and Response to Terrorist Attacks on the United States’’ includes resources for the Intelligence Community. Further, the Committee recognizes that the new administration is attempting to conduct a full review of the Intelligence Community to determine its future needs. The Committee must assume that the supplemental appropriation is not a long-term “fix,” and must caution that the requested increase in this single fiscal year must be sustained in the future years’ request so that no future unfunded bills will result. The Committee is compelled to highlight this issue, since it is our understanding that the preliminary budget guidance for fiscal year 2003 appears to fall into the same, status quo, bureaucratic construct that will result in, at best, having intelligence on a flat-line funding track. With this in mind, the Committee has made some adjustments and recommendations in this bill in order to implore and to prod the President, the Director of Central Intelligence and the Secretary of Defense to re-examine the basic process used to put the yearly budget request together.

It is imperative that the Executive Branch address these critical shortfalls in planning and its intelligence capabilities, especially to include the following areas:


  • In the Human Intelligence (HUMINT) arena, ill-advised reductions of resources after the Cold War, combined with poor planning, infrastructure problems, extended requirements for military force protection, and unexpected contingency operations have all worked to take resources from the “front line” field officers, thus limiting our efforts to rebuild our “eyes and ears” around the globe. In stark contrast to the Community’s budget request that actually cuts manpower, it is imperative that the Intelligence Community increase its efforts to add to its HUMINT capabilities, particularly in the areas of increasing the number of clandestine case officers and defense attaches around the world, improving language and specialized skills training, and creating and fostering a positive career culture for specialists.
  • Also critical is the rebuilding and restructuring of the Community’s all-source analytic resources and tools. The number of analysts needs to increase, and collaboration across the Community and across intelligence disciplines must occur. The Committee believes that physical co-location of analysts may well serve to create a better, stronger analytic base for the Community.
  • Despite the oversight committees’ exhortations, the Intelligence Community is still faced with totally inadequate planning and investment for systems to correct the Community’s multi-intelligence tasking, processing, exploitation, and dissemination (TPED) problems. This is particularly true for current imagery intelligence collection capabilities, and more so for planned capabilities. The Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal year 2002 has begun to address imagery tasking, processing, exploitation, and dissemination deficiencies by providing the initial funding for the National Imagery and Mapping Agency’s modernization. The funding will enable the initiation of acquisition reform, improved information management capabilities, new business processes to better produce innovative imagery and geo-spatial products, and greater access to all imagery sources.
  • As the Committee stated last year, in the area of ISR assets, we continue to see extensive over-utilization of very limited, but critical airborne assets, with little relief in sight. While planning for deployment of new ISR airborne capabilities, the Department of Defense has taken money from existing, supposedly complementary, platforms to pay for future capabilities. The aging manned reconnaissance fleets are in clear need of recapitalization with no funded plan to do so. The result: our overall ISR capabilities and resources, in practical terms, are decreasing at a time when our military forces are relying on them more and more.
  • The most serious and immediate problems continue to be with signals intelligence (SIGINT) resources. The Director of the National Security Agency (NSA) has a new team in place to correct many of the significant infrastructure and modernization problems caused by nearly a decade of decline in resources and severe internal mismanagement. In the same decade the signals targets increased dramatically in both number and technological sophistication. The problems have been daunting: infrastructure needs went unfunded and major interruptions of service occurred, Information Technology (IT) resources were mismanaged and collection and analysis efforts suffered, and the lack of sufficient acquisition processes and expertise brought critical modernization efforts to a crawl. This did not come as a surprise: indeed, the Committee has, for over four years, warned the NSA and the Director of Central Intelligence about these problems. As stated, the Director of NSA has begun efforts to address these issues, and his efforts have the Committee’s support. However, the Committee is concerned about NSA internal management’s willingness to fully understand the need for radical change and to get behind these programs.

The Committee recognizes that the men and women who work in the Intelligence Community are taking the events of September 11 very hard and personally. These extremely hard working, dedicated, and courageous individuals are doing good work with what they have. Terrorism is an extremely difficult target, and the resources that the Community has appear inadequate. This reason alone should compel the administration and Congress to heavily invest in our intelligence disciplines. The government cannot, however, stop by responding to terrorism alone. There are many other issues that the Intelligence Community also must attend to in order to assure that our nation’s security is best maintained.

Heavy investments alone also will not sufficiently address the national security challenge and needs. As we sit today, it appears that many of the questions that are being asked after the attacks on September 11, 2001, are similar to those asked in the aftermath of the attack on US forces at Pearl Harbor. As was done after Pearl Harbor, the Committee believes, that the government must conduct a thorough review of our national security structures to determine whether these are the right structures to address the security challenges of the future.

The Committee will be discussing this issue in greater detail in the next few months, and stands ready to work with the administration to undertake this review and make whatever changes are deemed appropriate. This is not a time to preserve the status quo, although there will be a tendency to do so as we embark on this war on terrorism. Now, more than ever, we must be bold in addressing our needs for intelligence—our first line of defense—and for our overall security.

Areas of Special Interest 

In the following several pages, the Committee has chosen to highlight areas of special interest that it believes must be addressed by the Intelligence Community and the administration if our country is to have sufficient intelligence resources to protect our national security. The Committee has chosen to identify those issues that address the Intelligence Community as a whole or that cross bureaucratic boundaries of the various programs. These primarily relate to broader investment and management policies rather than individual programs and projects within the National Foreign Intelligence Program (NFIP), the Joint Military Intelligence Program (JMIP) or the Tactical Intelligence and Related Activities (TIARA) program that are addressed with these accounts.

The order of these issues is, by and large, irrelevant in terms of priority for the Committee—all are important. Moreover, these provisions, along with others in this bill, are intended to highlight for the new administration the critical need for intelligence, the critical state in which the Intelligence Community finds itself, and to emphasize that the administration must broadly address the shortfalls and needs of the Community, lest we continue to suffer attacks such as those inflicted on September 11, 2001—or worse!

Terrorism Threat Analysis

In the wake of the USS Cole bombing, senior Defense intelligence officials were directed to devise and initiate sweeping structural and procedural changes to strengthen the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA) counterterrorism analysis and threat warning efforts. The focus of this task was to improve long-term threat analysis, reduce duplication of effort, more precisely apply all-source intelligence, expand the base of source information to include location and disposition of US forces, and sharpen the focus of threat warning intelligence to those forces. The result was the formation of a new terrorism analysis center within the DIA.

Although the Committee applauded the innovative thinking of Defense Department officials with respect to the development of this center, the Committee was concerned that the initiative was moving forward without the resolution of significant implementation issues, particularly those involving information sharing of sensitive source data, and how such data might be reported—and more importantly protected in such a way as to be effective. Further, the Committee questioned the rationale for such a capability within the Department of Defense, since the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA’s) existing center was designed to provide the all-source analysis needed by the Defense Department. The Committee has determined to support both capabilities, but in a much more community wide sense.

The events of September 11, 2001, highlighted why and how the Intelligence Community, as a whole, must respond to the myriad national security requirements, especially to the war on terrorism. The Committee believes there can no longer be any cultural, bureaucratic or other artificial barriers to impede the flow and analysis of information related to countering this threat. Information must be ubiquitous and available to all-source analysts. The artificial, but existing barriers to true information sharing must be overcome. Security issues must be resolved such that source identifying information that needs protecting is protected and information that is needed to piece together terrorist activities be made available. Additionally, all technological impediments, such as on-line accesses to databases, must be immediately overcome. Existing data mining tools must be put to full use and additional tools must be developed. Most importantly, the concepts of the two centers must be adopted as a community-wide inter-agency approach. The war against terrorism necessarily crosses all boundaries. The Intelligence Community must, therefore, support all of its customers equally well—from the President, to the “soldier,” to those in law enforcement. Thus, the Committee has supported a new construct; one that leverages all the concepts of the military and civilian analytical functions, and that is Intelligence Community-wide in composition and in service.

Focusing on People as Long-Term Intelligence Needs

Congress has provided an initial response to the horrific terrorist attacks suffered by the United States on September 11. Emergency funds and grants of authority to the President have been provided. Additional responses will be necessary in the weeks ahead as the international effort against terrorism proceeds and as assessments are made about the performance of those federal agencies charged with safeguarding national security in the period before and during the September 11 attacks.

The Committee believes it critical that a comprehensive examination be conducted independently of the federal government. Section 306 of the bill establishes a ten member commission to conduct such a review of the activities of the Departments of Defense, Justice, State, Transportation, and Treasury (including the intelligence components of those departments), the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the CIA. The report of the commission is to include recommendations on changes in activities and programs, structure, and/or responsibilities of the departments and agencies reviewed.

This Committee conducts oversight of the Intelligence Community and has been concerned for some time that intelligence agencies were not well positioned to respond to the national security challenges of the 21st century, including terrorism. Despite a succession of Congressionally-provided funding increases to spur investment in all areas of intelligence, including human intelligence, the Committee is not satisfied that the Intelligence Community is moving quickly enough. There is a shortage of intelligence officers with the linguistic, operational, and analytic skills, as well as foreign area expertise and cultural background to discharge effectively the foreign intelligence mission.

Although a start has been made in increasing the ranks of officers, the Committee is not convinced that there is an Intelligence Community-wide strategy for ensuring that recruited persons have the diverse mix of skills and background necessary to enhance mission effectiveness. Accordingly, the Committee requests that the DCI submit a report to the Congressional intelligence committees, by April 1, 2002, detailing employment and training initiatives within the Community, including spending plans, through which a diverse workforce will be recruited and trained. The report shall comment specifically on those spending and policy plans designed to enhance language training and cultural expertise. The Committee acknowledges that there is no quick fix to remedying skills mix problems, but believes that a commitment to their solution needs a well considered strategy to be successful. The Committee expects the DCI’s report to present that strategy so that the authorization bill for fiscal year 2003 can provide resources against well defined objectives. In the Committee’s view, those objectives must include: aggressive recruitment of case officer candidates, particularly those with ethnic and language backgrounds needed by the Community; more overseas-based operations officers; increases in the numbers of civilian and military analysts; a greater emphasis on improving language skills through training and language proficiency incentives; a higher priority attached to building and maintaining expertise in foreign areas and cultures; and greater support for improving technological and operational disciplines. The Committee recommends consideration of the creation of a scholarship program, similar to the Former Defense Language Scholarship program, to assist in the recruitment of undergraduate and graduate students with proficiencies of use to the Community in areas such as foreign language and area studies, foreign cultural studies, and appropriate technical disciplines. The DCI’s assessment of such a program will be expected in the report.

Emergency Supplemental Funding

The emergency supplemental appropriations measure passed in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks contains significant sums to support Intelligence Community needs. The Committee expects to be notified promptly by the DCI when decisions are made as to how these funds are allocated to specific intelligence programs and activities. A considered allocation of these funds could greatly enhance intelligence capabilities against terrorism. The Committee believes that priority should be given in the use of supplemental funds to: improving the effectiveness of human intelligence, particularly through language training and proficiency; improving the effectiveness of signals intelligence, particularly in the analysis function; and improving the effectiveness of measurement and signature intelligence, particularly in the fielding of new technologies to discover weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and biological agents which may be employed by terrorists. It is the Committee’s expectation that all measures taken by the Intelligence Community in response to acts of terrorism will preserve a balance between the preservation of civil liberties and the need to improve the effectiveness of intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

Intelligence Community for the 21st Century

The Committee continues to believe that there is a need for a fundamental review of the Intelligence Community’s authorities, structure, funding levels, procedures, areas of mission emphasis, security procedures, depth and breadth of analytic expertise, and inter-agency relationships. The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon provided tragic emphasis for that position. The Committee does not, in any way, lay blame to the dedicated men and women of the US Intelligence Community for the success of these attacks. If blame must be assigned, the blame lies with a government, as a whole, that did not fully understand nor wanted to appreciate the significance of the new threats to our national security, despite the warnings offered by the Intelligence Community. In many respects, however, the nation now has witnessed another Pearl Harbor event, and the President has called for all means at our disposal, including placing a great responsibility on the Intelligence Community, to wage the worldwide war on terrorism. The Committee believes that there are both short-term and long-term issues that must be addressed if the nation is to win this war.

The Committee is fully aware of the ongoing internal and external reviews of the Intelligence Community under National Security Presidential Directive 5 (NSPD 5). The outcomes of those reviews are not yet determined, and may result in some recommendations for changes. If history serves, however, no major substantive changes will occur after these reviews are complete. The Committee believes that major changes are necessary. They were necessary in 1996 when the Committee released its Intelligence Community for the 21stCentury report, and they are necessary today. The only thing that has changed is the cause for immediate emphasis. 

The Committee’s response to the President’s fiscal year 2002 National Foreign Intelligence Program budget request is in many ways modest, but focused. The time and ability for change, however, is now. Programs that the Committee believes warrant a “fresh” look include the establishment of a separate Clandestine Service that would combine all HUMINT resources under a similar tasking and operating structure; a Technical Collection Agency that would operate all technical collectors under a single management structure to eliminate “stove-piping” and enhance cross-collection capabilities; a Technology Development Office that provides Community Research and Development and a new, all-source analytic effort that enhances collaboration and, thus, analysis. These are but some of the options. Clearly, changes in funding processes, authorities, and mechanisms are also warranted. The Committee had planned to address many of these issues prior to September 11, in order to serve notice to the administration that the Intelligence Community is in dire need of attention and investment, that structure and management changes may well be necessary, and that it is a time for the administration to be bold, innovative, and to think “out of the box.” The Committee retains these views, especially given the war on terrorism. Thus, the Committee requests that the administration begin to make such changes with the fiscal year 2003 budget submission.
The Committee believes the Director of Central Intelligence must take the lead in making these changes, working closely with Congress to effect the right changes.

Foreign Language Expertise

There continues to be a great need throughout the Intelligence Community for increased expertise in a number of intelligence-related disciplines and specialties. However, the Committee believes the most pressing such need is for greater numbers of foreign language-capable intelligence personnel, with increased fluency in specific and multiple languages. The Committee has heard repeatedly from both military and civilian intelligence producers and consumers that this is the single greatest limitation in intelligence agency personnel expertise and that it is a deficiency throughout the Intelligence Community. The principle agencies dealing with foreign intelligence—CIA, NSA, FBI, DIA and the military services—have all admitted they do not have the language talents, in breadth or in depth, to fully and effectively accomplish their missions. Too often, the Committee has seen these organizations focus on developing “intelligence generalists,” rather than intelligence professionals with strong linguistic capabilities and extensive expertise in a specific foreign language, culture and area.

This has certainly long been the trend in CIA’s Directorate of Operations. Too often CIA, and other intelligence agencies have neglected long-term priorities, such as building in-depth expertise in the intelligence collection and analysis cadres. Rather, people are readily assigned and reassigned to confront the burning issues of the day. At the NSA and CIA, thousands of pieces of data are never analyzed, or are analyzed “after the fact,” because there are too few analysts; even fewer with the necessary language skills. Written materials can sit for months, and sometimes years, before a linguist with proper security clearances and skills can begin a translation. Intelligence officers overseas often cannot contact and recruit key potential sources because they do not possess the requisite language skills. This language skill limitation dramatically affects our national security posture. The key to minimizing terrorist and other threats is clear: build a professional intelligence cadre with the requisite linguistic skills and in-depth expertise, with a long-term focus on areas of specialization. Advanced knowledge of the plans and intentions of America’s enemies, who almost never use the English language to conduct their deadly business, requires trained and experienced specialists, not generalists. This is not to say that some generalists are not needed. Indeed, given the complexity of many transnational targets and issues, individuals who can place a broader view on intelligence that is collected can be critical to assuring quality reporting. There must be a balance struck. 

The Committee is so concerned about foreign language capabilities that it believes the Intelligence Community must make major changes in policies and funding regarding foreign language proficiency for the HUMINT services, and for analysts at CIA, DIA, NSA, and elsewhere. The Committee believes that the DCI and the Secretary of Defense must enhance the current system of bonuses to provide additional positive incentives for employees to achieve and maintain proficiency, especially in the languages of the toughest and most important targets, particularly state sponsors and other nations that support terrorism. The size of the bonuses should be established based on the level of proficiency and the value of the language, as reflected in the CIA and DoD Operating Directives. Language specialists should be afforded the same or better opportunities for advancement as managers and other intelligence professionals enjoy. The Committee also believes that the IC and DoD should establish a policy, to be phased in appropriately to reflect current workforce realities that personnel engaged in foreign areas or subjects must demonstrate appropriate levels of proficiency in at least one foreign language relevant to their area of expertise in order to gain promotion. The Committee recognizes that such demands and requirements will probably exceed the infrastructure in place for instruction and proficiency testing. There is every indication that the Community requirements cannot be met by existing schools. Therefore, the Committee believes that it is time to consider a dedicated Intelligence Community school that addresses future language needs as well as allowing Intelligence Community officers the ability to keep and build proficiency. The Committee directs the Director of Central Intelligence, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, to develop a plan to implement these concepts/changes, conveying the plan to the Congressional intelligence committees within 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act. The Committee urges the Director and the Secretary to implement the plan as rapidly as possible, and thus would fully support use of supplemental appropriations for these important efforts, recognizing that sustaining funding would have to be included in future years’ budget requests.

Airborne Signals Intelligence Recapitalization and Modernization

The Committee has been vitally interested in properly sustaining the nation’s tactical airborne reconnaissance platforms. These aircraft provide the bulk of the real-time, tactical imagery and signals intelligence to theater commanders. Included in their numbers are operational RC-135 RIVET JOINT, the EP-3 AIRES II, and the U-2 Dragonlady; and the future Aerial Common Sensor (ACS) and Global Hawk aircraft. Longevity for the operational systems has become an issue. The Committee learned last year that most of the EP-3 aircraft will soon reach end of service fatigue life. Although not as urgent a problem, the RC-135 family of aircraft is aging and becoming more expensive to maintain. The U-2 fleet has fewer average total hours than either of the larger aircraft, and are expected to be operational beyond 2020.

In addition to the longevity of the airframes, the Committee remains fully aware of the state of the individual collection systems, particularly the SIGINT systems, that must constantly be improved to maintain parity with the threat environment. Unfortunately, the common SIGINT development, the Joint SIGINT Avionics Family (JSAF) Lowband Subsystem failed to produce the expected SIGINT collection system upgrade. Because the Department of Defense made the management decision to pursue this single SIGINT upgrade, foregoing most other airborne SIGINT improvements, the state of the operational collection systems has suffered tremendously.

Prior to the decision to pursue the single JSAF approach, the individual Services had effective but disparate upgrade programs, and technology sharing was sporadic and uncoordinated. However, the individual collection system capabilities against the fielded threats remained relatively good, as the Service program offices pursued mission-specific requirements and continually upgraded their weapon systems. The Committee is adamant that the Services must be allowed to return to constant and incremental system upgrades as the standard method of modernization. This modernization approach must be properly overseen by the Office of the Secretary of Defense to ensure a standardized architectural approach, guided by detailed standards promulgated by the Director of the National Security Agency (DIRNSA). Further, in his SIGINT functional manager’s role, the DIRNSA should ensure the service program offices share technologies consistent with Service mission requirements, funding, and unique integration challenges. 

However, the state of the airframes themselves continues to be a concern. The Committee is aware of the discussions within the Navy to possibly replace the EP-3 aircraft with its future Multi-Mission Manned Aircraft (MMA). The Air Force, too, is discussing replacement of its reconnaissance aircraft with the Multi-Mission Command and Control aircraft (MC2A). Both of these concepts have positive and negative aspects. For example, the Committee is concerned that the replacement airframe type the Navy is currently considering will have severe limitations as a SIGINT collection platform. Further, the Air Force’s concept may likely limit the number of aircraft available for worldwide reconnaissance operations. The Committee does not see budget requests that will make these proposals reality, nor does it see a coordinated approach that will maximize operational capability and flexibility while minimizing cost. 

The Committee believes that the concept of replacing the two fleets with two new fleets is not the right direction. The Committee believes a single manned reconnaissance fleet that is “owned” by an “executive agent” service, but co-operated by the two services is the right model for the future. This would be a concept analogous to the electronic combat EA-6B model in service today, and would be a concept that allows for the best operational concepts from each of the services to be put into use. Further, a combined fleet of dedicated reconnaissance aircraft could be smaller in number than two separate fleets of dissimilar aircraft.

From the Committee’s perspective, there seems to be a logical “way ahead” for both the multi-place, self-contained aircraft and the smaller manned or unmanned aircraft that depend on data-link tethers to ground stations or, in the future, other “mothership” aircraft such as the RC-135 or its replacement. This “way ahead” also appears to have a logical progression of sensor and sensor developments that would improve the flexibility and mission capability, while minimizing costs. 

The Committee’s concept consists of three basic parts: the replacement of the RC- 135 and EP-3 fleets with a single Boeing 767-sized aircraft fleet, with the first aircraft beginning delivery as early as 2012; the continuing improvement and eventual “cross-decking” of the RC-135 collection system to the new reconnaissance aircraft; and the continuing upgrade and eventual “cross-decking” of the U-2 collection system to the Global Hawk and the Army’s ACS programs.

Although, the Committee does not presume to choose the airframe, it firmly believes that the next generation, manned reconnaissance aircraft should be based on the same type airframe that the Air Force chooses for its next tanker aircraft—likely the B-767 aircraft. The concept for the development and fielding of this new reconnaissance aircraft includes the necessary life extension modifications to keep the EP-3 fleet capable until the first new aircraft can begin replacing them on a one-for-one basis. Under this concept, the new would first replace the EP-3s, and then later the RC-135s. The study for concepts, numbers of aircraft, and the design and modification of the new aircraft should begin no later than calendar year 2004, with the first funding provided in the President’s fiscal year 2004 budget request. The modification of the future aircraft will clearly require an acquisition process and organization that both understands the airborne reconnaissance mission and requirements, and has a proven record of delivering operational systems. The Committee believes the Air Force’s Big Safari program office is the only logical choice for fielding the new reconnaissance aircraft. 

The concept for the future of the new aircraft’s sensor systems is likewise relatively straight-forward. There is little question that the most sophisticated and capable collection system today is the 85000 System onboard the RIVET JOINT aircraft. The Committee’s concept would continue the incremental and continuous sensor improvement to the 85000 System with the goal of “cross-decking” it to the new aircraft in the then-current state of modification when the first aircraft is ready to accept it. This would require “new” equipment purchases for the first number of new aircraft that replace the EP-3, and the later number of aircraft would be outfitted with equipment directly transferred from the RC-135 aircraft as each is retired. The cost savings realized with this concept would be substantial over the alternative option to develop an entirely new SIGINT system. 

Lastly, the Committee believes the sensor approach outlined above would work well for the U-2, Global Hawk and ACS aircraft. The U-2’s collection system is very sophisticated, and moreover, operational. It, too, can be upgraded both architecturally and technically to maintain capability against the evolving threat. This needs to be done regardless of the new aircraft that will augment the U-2. The concept the Committee envisions is to incrementally improve the U-2’s sensor suite and eventually “cross-deck” it to the Global Hawk and the ACS aircraft. For the Global Hawk, this accomplishes several important tasks. First, and foremost, it provides a single collection system for the Air Force’s two high-altitude collection systems, simplifying both maintenance and logistics at the single main operating base location. Secondly, it results in no major ground station modifications to accept two separate SIGINT systems, thereby saving significant amounts of money. For the ACS, this would preclude the Army having to develop, on its own, a new SIGINT collection system, as the Air Force’s previous investments would be completely leveraged. Secondly, this would provide true interoperability between the Air Force and Army ground stations—allowing both services to draw on the assets of the other. Lastly, this would allow both services to share future research and development costs.

The Committee understands that this concept is a radical departure from the programs of record within the Services and that it forces a new way of doing business. However, the future of airborne reconnaissance systems must be addressed now, and concrete actions must begin. Therefore, the Committee requests that the Secretary of Defense conduct a study of this concept and provide the Congressional defense and intelligence committees a recommendation on the path to recapitalizing the Department’s reconnaissance aircraft. The Committee serves notice that it will not entertain a status quo answer, and that it will take direct fiscal action in future years’ request to ensure the nation’s reconnaissance capabilities.

*Editor’s Note: The New York Times of October 22, 2001, reported that “after a month of consensus that Congress should do nothing to demoralize the nation’s intelligence agencies or distract them from preventing terrorist attacks, crucial lawmakers now say that an unflinching investigation into why the September 11 attacks were not forecast or prevented is inevitable.” The article further stated that Senator John McCain (R-AZ) proposed that “the inquiry be made the job of a special commission” and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman (D-CT) “reached back to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s appointment of a commission headed by a Supreme Court justice to investigate the attack on Pearl Harbor. ‘I hope the President will do something just like that real soon,’ he said.”

Issue Date


Chairman, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, United States House of Representatives