The CIA is Part of a Technical Renaissance in the Intelligence Community

Surprising our adversaries is a major goal of US intelligence efforts, and key technological advances help to assure we continue to be capable of maintaining the element of surprise. The CIA has long been known for its revolutionary technology that has helped its spooks in the field and also benefitted ordinary people. For instance, the CIA developed the lithium-iodine batteries that are now used in pacemakers. The CIA’s Intelligence Technology Innovation Center spearheaded much of this technology.

Although controversial at the time, US military efforts have been hugely successful partly due to the groundbreaking DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) initiative created after the Sputnik launch in 1957. DARPA’s public successes include revolutionary breakthroughs such as the creation of the Internet, unmanned aerial vehicles, and global positioning systems.

The intelligence community is hoping for breakthroughs of a similar magnitude from the creation of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) in 2007. The IARPA is drawing from current research in biology, nanotechnology, neural sciences, and the social sciences to create new breakthroughs in technology that will help revive the ability of our intelligence agencies to surprise the enemy.

Created by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the IARPA fuses the CIA’s intelligence technology research efforts with those of two other key US intelligence agencies:

  • NSA: Disruptive Technology Office
  • National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency: National Technology Alliance

While much of its efforts are shrouded in secrecy, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence announced one new IARPA multi-year research effort with a press release in 2011. The FUSE (Foresight and Understanding from Scientific Exposition) program seeks to maintain our intelligence advantage by accelerating the process of identifying and prioritizing emerging technologies around the world.

IARPA draws from the country’s best talent in academia, the defense industry, and government research institutions to help the CIA and other intelligence agencies stay at peak performance in a world filled with constantly evolving threats.