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New US Intelligence Strategy Calls for More Partners, More Sharing  

FILE - Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines testifies during a Senate hearing in Washington, May 10, 2022. She cited the "interconnected threat environment" facing the U.S. in the new National Intelligence Strategy unveiled Aug. 10, 2023.
FILE - Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines testifies during a Senate hearing in Washington, May 10, 2022. She cited the "interconnected threat environment" facing the U.S. in the new National Intelligence Strategy unveiled Aug. 10, 2023.

U.S. intelligence agencies are looking to vastly expand the roster of countries, companies and even nonstate actors with whom they partner in order to get — and share — information on threats to the United States and its allies.

The change is part of a "rethink" ordered in the nation's new National Intelligence Strategy, unveiled Thursday, which aims to better prepare the U.S. for a range of threats that are no longer limited to traditional nation-state competitors such as China and Russia or terrorist groups such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

"The United States faces an increasingly complex and interconnected threat environment," according to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, who cited a range of challenges from global powers such as China and Russia to climate change and pandemics like COVID-19.

"Subnational and nonstate actors — from multinational corporations to transnational social movements — are increasingly able to create influence, compete for information, and secure or deny political and security outcomes, which provides opportunities for new partnerships as well as new challenges to U.S. interests," she wrote in the 2023 strategy.

Global challenges, disruptive advances

"In addition, shared global challenges, including climate change, human and health security, as well as emerging and disruptive technological advances, are converging in ways that produce significant consequences that are often difficult to predict," Haines said.

The seeds for the new strategy, and the emphasis on finding new partners like those in the private sector, have been in the works for months.

Since before Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the U.S. has been selectively declassifying intelligence to better share information with allies and partners.

The effort, credited with building support for Ukraine while catching Russia off guard, is already becoming part of a formal U.S. game plan for countering threats.\

Haines publicly called for more outreach to the private sector and technology companies as recently as April, during an appearance at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"In many scenarios, they see things before we do," she said at the time.

The U.S. intelligence community's annual threat assessment, issued in February, likewise warned of "an evolving array of nonstate actors," global emergencies such as climate change, and emerging technologies that "have the potential to disrupt traditional business and society with both positive and negative outcomes, while creating unprecedented vulnerabilities and attack surfaces."

The new strategy seeks to counter those trends by strengthening existing intelligence partnerships, including the "Five Eyes" arrangement with Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and by forging new ones.

Specifically, the strategy envisions U.S. intelligence agencies exchanging information with private companies and what it describes as "nonstate and subnational actors."

That includes relationships with nongovernmental organizations, think tanks and other entities that could help provide the U.S. intelligence with local or on-the-ground expertise.

It is also likely to include the type of intensified cooperation and information sharing that has been part of so-called U.S. “hunt forward” cyber operations in countries such as Latvia and Albania, or even more outreach along the lines of what has been done with state and local governments in the U.S. to help secure elections.

'Essential' partnerships

Some former intelligence officials call such outreach a necessity.

"It is a simple fact of how elections and communications infrastructure work that tech companies in the private sector are best positioned to be aware of many such threats first, and so close partnership with them is essential," said Paul Pillar, a former senior CIA officer who now teaches at Georgetown University.

"There will always be delicate negotiations about exact sharing arrangements to give due respect to values such as personal privacy," Pillar told VOA. "But government and the private sector already have gotten into that a lot."

The new U.S. intelligence strategy also emphasizes better understanding of new technologies and supply chains to make sure countries such as China "are not able to undermine our competitiveness and national security."

The strategy is meant to guide all 18 U.S. intelligence agencies, including the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

It replaces the previous strategy issued in 2019, which focused on "speaking truth."

"We need to reassure the policymakers and the American people that we can be trusted … despite the stresses that are persistent in the current environment," said then-Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

Some key U.S. lawmakers are welcoming the updated intelligence strategy.

"The National Intelligence Strategy appropriately organizes the Intelligence Community around seminal challenges: a rising China, Russia's war of aggression in Ukraine, and the opportunities and complexities presented by emerging technologies like AI [artificial intelligence]," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner said in a statement shared with VOA.

"An expert workforce, robust partnerships and resilient capabilities will be central to this effort," Warner noted.