Security Experts Explore Post-9/11 U.S. Intelligence Efforts
September 12, 2011 – Georgetown’s Center for Peace and Security Studies and its Mortara Center for International Studies convened three panels of faculty experts this past Friday to discuss the trajectory of the war on terrorism over the next decade.
Moderated by recent alumni of the Security Studies Program (SSP), the discussions explored the long-term impact of 9/11 on U.S. intelligence efforts, foreign policy and the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Next Big Surprise
Jennifer Sims, director of intelligence studies and visiting professor in the SSP, surveyed the intelligence landscape after a decade of change.
“Looking back, history tells us that [the United States] did pretty well,” argues Sims, a recipient of the intelligence community’s highest civilian award, the National Distinguished Service Medal. “We captured bin Laden and we foiled plots against the United States. We’re succeeding, but we also had some big misses.”
Sims also spoke about the need for the U.S. government to prepare response strategies for the next unknown act of terrorism or political uprising.
“We can’t solve the problem of surprise by focusing on current conflicts,” says the former deputy assistant secretary of state for intelligence coordination in the Clinton administration. “We have to figure out how to know about the unknown threats.”
Tough Nut to Crack
Paul Pillar, director of graduate studies at SSP, retired in 2005 from a 28-year career in the U.S. intelligence community. He says the next 10 years of intelligence work will be similar to the previous decade except for an increase in the public’s demand for information.
“The public expects to know, above all else, the tactical details of the next big terrorist plot,” says Pillar. “This happens to be an extremely tough nut to crack … no matter how sophisticated the processes are.”
The problem with this dynamic, Pillar argues, is the amount of resources that are required to understand and unveil such plots.
Future of Security Studies
Bruce Hoffman, director of Georgetown’s Center for Peace and Security Studies and SSP, convened the afternoon panel series, “The Next Ten Years in the War on Terrorism.”
Hoffman, who has studied terrorism and insurgency for more than 30 years, cites 9/11 as a pivotal moment in field.
“Not one of SSP’s current faculty was at Georgetown on Sept. 11, 2001,” he says. “[They are] at once a product and reflection of the events of 9/11.”
Hoffman attributes the strength of security studies at Georgetown to the intense student interest in international affairs after 9/11, as well as the interest among U.S. armed-forces service members and veterans.
“The Security Studies Program would not be what it is today had it not been for the events of a decade ago,” he says.