The Top Five

By Thomas Duffy / November 4, 2008 at 5:00 AM

A senior Pentagon advisory panel has issued a 66-page report laying out the top five issues the next commander-in-chief must put on his agenda. According to the Defense Science Board, these issues "could lead to future military failure" if left unresolved.

According to the report, “Defense Imperatives for the New Administration,” those issues are: Developing the intelligence needed to confront terrorism, protecting and defending the homeland; maintaining the capability to project force around the world; bringing stability to states and regions; and supporting state and local authorities in providing domestic catastrophe relief.

On the intel front, the science board says the United States lacks the means to get the type of intelligence needed to get inside terrorist networks. No matter who is sitting in the Oval Office next year, he will have to confront the threat of terrorism, a threat the science board board contends the U.S. intelligence community is not fully equipped to handle.

The limiting factor in thwarting terrorists is learning their identity and location. Terrorists have gotten better at their trade craft -- they are harder to detect and more lethal. In turn, we are spending a considerable amount on intelligence overall, and many intelligence community efforts have been redirected toward terrorism. Despite concerted efforts, we still lack the deep penetration required for actionable intelligence -- both foreign and domestic.

Despite the millions of dollars the U.S. government spends annually on intelligence gathering, the science board contends the intelligence community does not know enough.

The number one issue in counterterrorism is that we are information limited. Many nostrums for improving intelligence in support of counterterrorism focus on 'connecting the dots' on the presumption that we have all the dots. We do not, nor are we sufficiently astute and aggressive in collecting them.

One improvement needed is to strengthen domestic intelligence, the report says.

The creation of the Director of National Intelligence responded, in part, to the September 11 attacks against our homeland and placed domestic as well as foreign intelligence within the purview of a single individual. Notwithstanding, the successive directors of national intelligence have been slow to embrace domestic intelligence and that must be remedied.