Posted by Kara Kennedy on 2010-04-07

The Director of the United States Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess, told a Samford Business Network breakfast audience that the United States has a global mission in 138 countries and 30 U.S. states.


“We (DIA) provide timely military intelligence to the military and to national consumers,” Lt. General Burgess told a crowd of about 125 in Brock Recital Hall at Samford University.  “Our purpose is to provide the nation with the most authoritative assessment of foreign military intentions and capabilities.”

After 9-11, there was a cry in Congress and by the American people to look at how the U.S. gathers and organizes intelligence information, Burgess noted, and the findings of the 9-11 Commission warranted the establishment of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2004.  The Agency is made up of approximately 18,000 people and taxpayers invest $45 billion a year in intelligence gathering.   The DIA supports specifically national intelligence requirements, military operations and Defense policymaking.

Burgess said the U.S. has ongoing military operations in four key areas—Iraq, Afghanistan, transitional terrorism and in the horn of Africa—and in these areas their core mission is to provide source analysis, defense counterintelligence, technical collection, measurement and signature intelligence, and document and media exploitation. 

One area of significance the general brought up was the new focus on the Global Secure Information Networks, or cyber security.  He said he works closely in U.S. cyber security to ensure that information from the President down the chain of command is safe and secure on the Internet.  He said the agency also protects the U.S. from allies who might attempt to hack into the U.S. computer systems.  

“In the Intelligence world, everything is not always as it appears to be and we are working on a daily basis to keep Americans safe,” he added.

As for Al-Qaida, Burgess said the group is becoming more sophisticated and expanding its efforts.  The example he gave was of the failed attempt of an attack on Dec. 25 on a trans-Atlantic flight that landed safely in Detroit.  The attempt was made by a Nigerian man who was not on the terrorist watch list and who looked normal.  Burgess said  the attempt was planned quicker and faster than any by Al-Qaida prior to then, and that we should be worried that the time frame between planning an attack and executing it is diminishing.  He still believes that Al-Qaida will continue to plan to attack us. 

When asked what “we as Americans” can do to protect ourselves from an attack, he stated that we need to keep our eyes opened and report anything that is out of the norm, but that we should keep living our lives.

Burgess also stated that he plays a role in providing policymakers with information they need to form policy.  He stated that Amendments in 2008 of FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) gave the Defense Intelligence Agency the tools they needed to do their job more efficiently.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 66th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 104th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,683 students from 47 states and 19 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 3rd nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.