Global Futures Forum Meeting

Airlie House
Warrenton, Virginia
November 16, 2005

Excerpts from Remarks

This is a very timely meeting. My government and my agency have embarked on the most fundamental transformation of our intelligence system since the CIA was established over a half century ago. Like you, we know we face a dramatically altered future, one that is likely to be predictable only in its ability to surprise us all. In our business, we have a "no surprises" motto. From Pearl Harbor to the New York Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania, we know we must do better.

As some of you heard at the 2004 Rome Conference, out of which this gathering has grown, we are all engaged in a “learning race” to outwit our adversaries and enhance our readiness for the unexpected.

A former CIA director whom I greatly admire, Richard Helms, captured our purpose when he wrote, "I was and still am, convinced that there is no greater threat to world peace than poorly informed or misinformed leaders and governments…The first line of defense remains a competent intelligence service." Actually, our founding principle was that there be a vote by an informed electorate. So, Director Helms' idea was not new.

We can communicate globally and instantaneously these days, but do we understand one another any better; because, if not, there can be miscalculations and misunderstandings that will lead to tragic consequences. So, the intelligence services we represent must do everything possible to protect our governments against being blindsided by bad surprises – meaning providing them good information and insight.

Our strategy is characterized by a commitment to organizational transformation that can foster and protect innovation. However, as we all know, in bureaucracies there is seldom a constituency for change. We at CIA are faced with many challenges as we embark on our program of organizational transformation, including nearly 60 years of accumulated traditions, practices, habits and mindsets. We must make changes in an unusual climate. It is a new century, with new threats, a truly "global" environment, and a rapidly advancing technology.

As leaders of our organizations, we are the ones who must move people out of their comfort zones, when they would prefer to continue doing things as they have always done them. For CIA, I know what more of the same is not a satisfactory answer.

Earlier this year, a team of senior officers confirmed this and advised me that even with additional resources, a continuation of the status quo would not enhance CIA’s capabilities to carry out is mission in this new security environment.

One of their statements stands out, which I would like to repeat tonight, as it captures the essence of our major challenge:

"The intelligence organization must become as adaptive, diverse and networked as its decentralized and inter-connected adversaries. CIA must ensure the airing and sharing of diverse perspectives across its work force and expand its partnerships within the Intelligence Community with foreign allies and with US and foreign non-government institutions and individuals."

This is a bit of a culture shock.

That is why we are here tonight. I hope you will spend the next several days discussing how we can develop a collaborative tradecraft for confronting a more complex and dangerous world. At the end of this week, I hope we will have advanced the conversation about a Global Futures Forum, in which we can share ideas and insights about transnational issues that confront us all. There is plenty of mischief out here and that means plenty of work for us all…

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