The defence intelligence function is the largest self-contained, yet diverse, all-source intelligence entity in the Canadian government. It is a complex adaptive system of systems serving a hierarchy of decision-makers from the Minister of National Defence and other Department of National Defence (DND) and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) senior leaders to a warship crew transiting the Taiwan strait, or a special forces operator enabling coalition partners in a firefight halfway around the world, or a pilot intercepting foreign aircraft near Canada’s Arctic airspace. However, as effective as it is, defence intelligence could be better. Given evolution of the contemporary international security environment, defence intelligence must do more to harness its diversity and energy, to act more cohesively as a true and complete enterprise. The Defence Intelligence Enterprise Renewal (DIER) project aims to do just that.
Brigadier-General Greg Smith is responsible for project implementation. He assumed the post of Director General Intelligence Enterprise (DGIE) in Canadian Forces Intelligence Command (CFINTCOM) in September 2020, after serving as Canada’s National Military Representative and Commander Formation Europe, and Assistant Chief of Staff J5 at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Mons, Belgium. Brigadier-General Smith has a rich operational background. He commanded the Canadian Special Operations Regiment and completed one tour of duty in the Balkans, three in Afghanistan and one in Iraq.
Having been an operational client of intelligence for many years, but never serving in a defence intelligence organization, Brigadier-General Smith is enjoying this opportunity to learn more about the defence intelligence enterprise and to apply his operational experience to its enhancement. He kindly agreed to be interviewed about the DIER project.
CDAI: What are your main responsibilities as Director General Intelligence Enterprise?
Brigadier-General Smith: I’m responsible for leading defence intelligence Force Development function, the Joint Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (JISR) system-of-systems conceptualization, and the DIER.
CDAI: Can you give us a brief outline of the project?
Brigadier-General Smith: The Defence Intelligence Enterprise Renewal (DIER) project is jointly led by the Chief of Defence Intelligence and Chief Force Development, to adapt and improve the functioning of the pan-DND/CAF Defence Intelligence Enterprise (DIE), to meet operational requirements of the future. It is a multi-year strategic change project, which takes a holistic, critical, and principles-first look at how the defence intelligence institution conducts intelligence, and how we can modernize and improve that system of systems.
There was no disruptive, catalytic event that forced the renewal, but rather a growing desire to ensure that Defence Intelligence is conducting business in such a way that ensures CAF operations are well-supported, that DND/CAF senior decision-makers are well-informed, and that DND/CAF remains able to evolve and adapt to the ever-changing, complex international security environment. Chapter six, in Strong, Secure, Engaged: Canada’s Defence Policy (SSE), speaks to the critical importance of intelligence in the future CAF.
It is important to recognize the exceptional complexity of this project. The DIER, in its entirety, encompasses projected change and technological upgrading across the entire intelligence enterprise, including all intelligence functions in all units, formations, and commands in the CAF, and in relevant elements of DND. Beyond CFINTCOM, DIER will have significant impact on navy, army, air force, joint and special forces intelligence organizations and practices. DIER will also modernize intelligence integration with other government departments and agencies (OGDA), and with our international partners including allies in the Five Eyes, NORAD, and NATO. It will not be an easy exercise, but the challenge has mobilized our enthusiasm to succeed.
CDAI: Given that background information, what specifically is the aim of DIER? What does it intend to achieve?
Brigadier-General Smith: The aim is to create a DIE that is a flexible, agile, and technologically enabled organization that meets operational needs, while supporting institutional decision-making. This includes seamless integration with all DND/CAF elements, and interoperability with OGDA, allies and international partnerships. The successful completion of DIER will be a DIE that enables activities and programs described in SSE.
CDAI: The DIER is a complicated project. What are the main lines of effort and their objectives?
Brigadier-General Smith: The early years of DIER have been spent thoroughly analyzing and understanding the current state of the DIE. From that effort, eight Problem Statements were identified and endorsed by senior leaders:
- The demand for Defence Intelligence products was growing at a greater rate than the planned growth in the DIE.
- While the various elements of Defence Intelligence at all levels generate a significant amount of intelligence products, the entire function did not operate as a cohesive, pan-DND/CAF enterprise.
- The DIE workforce must grow, diversify and evolve to exploit people with different analytic perspectives, leading-edge technological skill-sets and modern leadership attributes.
- Defence Intelligence needs to leverage new technology more effectively.
- The DIE has under-invested in the force development of intelligence capabilities.
- Of note, the DIE is significantly under-invested in collection capabilities.
- Beyond the increasing complexity and violence of the international security environment, domestic governance of intelligence policy, oversight, review, and accountability regimes have introduced another degree of complexity to DIE work that needs to be addressed, with additional resources.
- There is an enduring expectation among Canada’s closest intelligence allies to do more in the international arena and this enthusiasm challenges the DIE to match their ambition.
To address these Problem Statements, 25 detailed optimization measures were developed, deployed into three lines of effort: People; Process and Governance; and Technology. While these three ‘pillars’ form the backbone of everything DIER is trying to accomplish, there are six major Rapid Implementation Initiatives (RIIs) currently underway:
- Development of a modern Joint Intelligence Operations Centre (JIOC). In collaboration with all Level 1 DND/CAF appointments (e.g. Commanders of the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Airforce, Assistant Deputy Minister Information Management etc.), but particularly with the Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC), DIER places emphasis on creating a JIOC to provide an integrated, pan-domain, all-source intelligence production, target development, and collection coordination capability. The JIOC will prioritize and synchronize fused intelligence support for operational commanders and DND/CAF strategic decision-makers, while enabling tactical commanders to ‘reach-back’ for intelligence support. Further, the JIOC will be a critical driving function for the overall integration of intelligence and operations disciplines, and strategic-to-operational level capabilities, while enabling DIE innovation across the tactical, operational, and strategic continuum.
- Modernization of intelligence management processes. In April 2021 the report of an extensive CFINTCOM study revealed major deficiencies in the DIE’s Intelligence Requirements Management-Collection Management-Production Management and Dissemination Management (IRM-CM-PM-DM) processes. Together, they are intended to coordinate the entire intelligence cycle, eliminate gaps and redundancies, and ensure that decision-maker priorities, collection and processing resources, and delivered intelligence are aligned, to give the best possible intelligence support to the strategic decision-maker or warfighter on the ground. Major improvements will include increased staffing for constituent processes, improved education and training for practitioners and consumers alike, and endorsement of the Joint Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (JISR) Management System (JIMS) as the technological enterprise solution for IRM-CM-PM-DM.
- Validating the governance operating framework. As DIER implementation unfolds, there will be a continuing need for fulsome review of the overall DIE governance structure, to ensure that governance bodies collaborate effectively, and so they are able to effectively ingest and understand direction from senior decision makers, thereby enabling the production of relevant and timely intelligence products.
- Technology integration. The swift advance of technology demands continuing review of the DIE digital posture. In the short-term, the project aims to improve the speed and agility by which the DIE exploits emerging and novel technologies. In the longer term, a more fulsome enterprise digital strategy will have to be created and implement.
- Primary Reserve improvements. Over many years, the Primary Reserve (PRes) has provided outstanding support to all facets of the DIE. It is expected that by leveraging PRes intelligence capabilities, enabled by additional investments in personnel and information technology (IT) infrastructure, the PRes can increase its effective operational output. Furthermore, the PRes can offer the DIE a significant degree of workforce diversity in areas such as foreign language ability, education, culture and ethnicity, regional expertise, and access to various national diasporas throughout Canada, as well as a range of varied skill-sets learned in civilian jobs.
- Public-Private-Partnership. The days of governments holding a monopoly on advanced technology are gone. Industry now invariably leads the way. The DIER is exploring ways to initiate and leverage relationships with industry and academia, to acquire access to leading-edge thought, new and innovative technologies, and ground-breaking research. We intend to shed our former, somewhat regrettable confrontational approach to academia and industry. We recognize both sectors have much to offer, and we intend to build a collaborative partnership with each.
CDAI: How confident are you DIER will succeed as planned? What are the primary risks that threaten DIER success?
Brigadier-General Smith: There are three principal risks. First, due to the duration (extending over a decade or so) and scope of DIER, institutional inertia and reluctance to change will be consistent challenges in the years ahead, particularly if we move faster than some find comfortable. This will demand determined, engaged, and inspired leadership at all levels of the DIE. We are quite aware that consistent communications engagements will be required, particularly within DND/CAF and the DIE itself. The length of this project extends over two or more personnel posting cycles, so the DIER project has been institutionalized in my position as DGIE in CFINTCOM, to help ensure the project’s durability.
That said, the second challenge is that DIER is a small team of project personnel, which necessarily constrains our general output and the number of project initiatives that can be managed at any one time. We therefore need to be deliberate about prioritizing initiatives, maintaining communications internally to strategic leadership and within the overall DIE, as well as constantly pursuing deliberate, notable ‘wins.’ The sheer size and nature of the project will certainly challenge our ingenuity.
A third risk is found in the overwhelming complexity of the project. DIER is strategic change management exercise requiring change in structures, governance, and various designated authorities, responsibilities and accountabilities, what people actually do, and therefore how the intelligence function is exercised. All this change ‘bumps’ into existing culture – how we currently do things and what we think ‘right’ looks like. We need to communicate, communicate, communicate. That said, I remain concerned that, over time, DIER will lose strategic attention or internal support, and therefore constant, quick wins, progress, and communication are critical.
CDAI: What else should people know about the DIER?
Brigadier-General Smith: The personnel portfolio is perhaps the most critical and most complex element of the project. The recruiting, sustainment, and professional development of a competent DIE workforce in the future is the DIER vital ground.
We need an increasingly diverse workforce. Intelligence assessments can be enhanced by a variety of views held by those who share the ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and other backgrounds of the areas or groups being studied. We are keen to attract Canadians to this challenging but rewarding profession. I’m happy to report that a DIER Work Force Modernization analysis has already begun to examine what a coherent, modernized, diverse, and agile intelligence workforce should look like. I am confident we will end up still having a world-class DIE personnel.
To get it right, we must deal with at least five different military trades, officer and non-commissioned member training, Regular Force and Primary Reserve training, civilian training, and other professional development demands. I should note that we are counting on new and better training for PRes personnel and units, so they can routinely engage in important intelligence work.
Ultimately, like any strategic change project, DIER is a balance of scope, time, and resources. Today, a principal strength of the DIER is that the project has thus far received tremendous support from across DND/CAF. Departmental and CAF leadership understand the value it will bring. There has been significant buy-in for DIER initiatives at all levels, which suggests that we are on the right track.
In conclusion, I suggest that DIER is a good idea whose time has come. A successful DIER that modernizes and improves the DIE will benefit the overall Canadian Government Intelligence Enterprise, because the DIE is an important and valued intelligence partner in government and among our allies.
General (Retired) Dr. James S. Cox is a Senior Fellow with the Conference of Defence Associations Institute. He served in the Canadian Armed Forces for over 35 years, mainly in operational command and staff positions at home and abroad. Jim served as a Library of Parliament analyst, from 2005-2011, supporting parliamentary committees dealing with national security and defence issues. He was Vice-President Academic Affairs with the Canadian Military Intelligence Association from 2012-2015. Jim is a graduate of the University of Manitoba, the Canadian Army Command and Staff College, the Canadian Forces College and holds an MA and Ph.D. in War Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada. He was appointed as an Officer to the Order of Military Merit.