The CIA plans to radically overhaul operations, ramping up its capability to deal with cyber threats while boosting integration between departments via a network of new units.
Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan outlined the proposed changes to the agency in a message to staff on Friday described as a “Blueprint for the Future” covering four key areas.
Brennan said the US espionage agency would set up a new “Directorate of Digital Innovation” to reflect the rapidly evolving cyber landscape.
“We must place our activities and operations in the digital domain at the very center of all our mission endeavors,” Brennan wrote.
“To that end, we will establish a senior position to oversee the acceleration of digital and cyber integration across all of our mission areas.”
The changes reflect the increasing emphasis on cybersecurity by the United States after a series of high-profile digital breaches in recent years, such as the Sony Pictures hack blamed on North Korea.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper last month told lawmakers that foreign cyberattacks represented a bigger threat to national security than terrorism.
US media reports said Brennan’s sweeping changes would affect thousands of employees at the agency.
A centerpiece of the overhaul would be the establishment of 10 new “Mission Centers” aimed at enhancing integration between departments.
“Never has the need for the full and unfettered integration of our capabilities been greater,” Brennan said in his message. “We must take some bold steps toward more integrated, coherent and accountable mission execution.”
Analysts said the introduction of Mission Centers was intended to eliminate divisions between traditional departments covering the Middle East, Africa and other regions.
Several media reports said the new units would be modeled on the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, which grew exponentially in the years after the September 11, 2001 attacks on US soil.
The new centers will “bring the full range of operational, analytic, support, technical and digital personnel and capabilities to bear on the nation’s most pressing security issues,” Brennan said.
Each new center would be led by an assistant director who would be accountable for overall mission accomplishment in the field or geographic region assigned to their unit.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the overhaul follows an exhaustive review led by senior CIA veterans that identified several “pain points.”
“One of the things we’re trying to do here is to think about the agency operating in a way so that there are less of those… frictions that build up over time, and to have a more streamlined, a more efficient agency so we can, frankly, produce more, do a better job in some of the areas where we need to do better,” Brennan was quoted by the Journal as saying.