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DNI Avril Haines Shares Lessons Learned From Ukraine & Thoughts on New National Security Strategy

President Biden’s newly released national security strategy outlines the White House’s plan for maintaining the country’s competitive edge on the global stage, strengthening coalitions with partners and allied forces and accelerating the modernization of our military. Notably, the new strategy focuses largely on outcompeting China and constraining Russia — the two most pressing challenges facing our nation today. 

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said the U.S. intelligence community largely has the same priorities and objectives as those defined in the strategy — and that we can expect to see a national intelligence strategy that reflects those similarities released in the next couple of months.

In a keynote address that closed out the Potomac Officers Club’s 8th Annual Intel Summit, Haines said Biden’s National Security Strategy lists the intelligence community as an “element of national power,” and she described the IC as playing a “critical” role in carrying out the President’s main national security efforts. 

“Central to our nation’s effort is addressing the challenging landscape of threats—is having a highly functional, adaptive and innovative intelligence community that’s capable of meeting the ever-evolving landscape—investing in the IC as an element of national power. And that is the priority, the institutional priority of having a strong adaptive and innovative IC, that I put at the top of my list at this critical time,” said Haines, a Wash100 Award winner.

Partnerships — with allied forces, industry and other government agencies — are at the center of the priorities Haines outlined in her remarks, and the importance of these kinds of relationships has been demonstrated most impactfully in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The conflict underscores “the importance of intelligence sharing to establishing a predicate for effective collective action,” Haines said.

“Before Russia invaded, by sharing intelligence and analysis regarding Putin’s plans or possible invasion, we were able to set the stage for our diplomats and policymakers to discuss what should be done in response and ultimately, to prepare for the coordinated effective response that was launched across dozens of countries. 

“Had we attempted to address the crisis on our own, we would’ve been far less effective. And moreover, without sharing intelligence before the crisis, our governments would not have prioritized planning for response, nor would the execution of that response have been as effective or timely as it was in countering Russia’s oppression,” she revealed.

The impact of robust and widespread relationships can also be seen in the effort across multiple countries to enact sanctions and export controls against Russia. 

Haines said, “Russia entered the war with the prodigious stocks of munitions, but has been firing them at an unsustainable rate. This is especially true for high end precision weapons such as the cruise missiles they’ve used in strikes on Ukraine’s electric grid and other targets. And in short, they’re running through their stocks.”

These export controls have forced Russia to rely on contraband and makeshift microelectronics, which Haines suggested is “probably leading to weapons and systems that are less capable.” 

Policymakers rely on the IC to help them understand the impacts of certain sanctions and export controls, which ones to deploy and how to adjust them as geopolitical events unfold. But Haines said these decisions are made most effectively using intelligence not just from the U.S. intelligence community, but from other countries and importantly, from the private sector.

Thus, multilateral frameworks and increased interoperability are major focus points for Haines and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence going forward.

In her Q&A session, Haines spoke on the importance of exploiting and developing the tradecraft for open source intelligence, and she highlighted a need for closer private sector collaboration in solving some of the IC’s cybersecurity challenges.

Join the Potomac Officers Club for its next in-person event, Defense Technology Summit: FY2023 Budget and Priorities, on Oct. 25 to hear from the leading voices across the DOD and industry. Dr. William LaPlante, the DOD’s under secretary for acquisition and sustainment, will keynote the summit. Register here

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