A Regional Federal Model to Improve Intelligence Cooperation Between Member States

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By Ingo mayr-Knoch

Question: How should cooperation and information sharing between EU member states intelligence services be improved?

  • Small EU member states like Austria should actively work towards a stronger integration of the intelligence services of EU members states after the role model of the US federal model.
  • The EU Intelligence Analysis Center (INTCEN) should serve as a place were intelligence requirements for the national services are formulated by the political leadership of the EU member states.
  • Small states like Austria should seek to build such a federal model of national intelligence agencies on a regional level with neighboring EU countries to spur integration.
  • Trust for such a cooperation needs to be built in a bottom-up approach. Exchanges of intelligence officers between national services, joint analytical projects and joint regional centers for specific threat issues like terrorism can build trust and facilitate the exchange of different point of views.

The recent string of terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels and Germany have shown that the EU is seen more and more as a target system by adversaries. An attack on one member states significantly impacts the political situation in all the other member states because of the strong economic, social and media interconnection. Small states like Austria and Belgium with limited intelligence and defense capabilities will be seen as a weak spots to target the whole EU system by adversaries.  A stronger integration of intelligence and defense systems is therefore needed to detect future security threats against the whole EU system.

Currently information exchange in the EU is conducted via bilateral relations between the intelligence services of the EU member states. The EU INTCEN could become the first seed of an integrated EU intelligence community. A role model for this should be the US intelligence community which integrates the work of 17 different agencies. The US Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI) serves as a direct link to the President, integrates the analysis of the agencies, sets intelligence priorities and tasks and coordinates the intelligence agencies.  There is no need in the EU to build a central intelligence service on the EU administration level with its own collection capabilities. The current national agencies all have their competitive advantages in certain fields and regions. INTCEN should aggregate the analysis of the different national services to provide a common EU intelligence picture and serve as a place where intelligence requirements for the whole EU are formulated by the political leadership of the EU and its member states. INTCEN would then task and coordinate the services of the different nations. The heads of states and governments of the EU should participate in the formulation of EU-wide intelligence goals so they can serve as a link and implement these collection goals to their own service via their national chain of command. The national intelligence services would serve the double function of informing the political decision-makers at home and providing analysis for a common EU situational picture. The different agencies should work competitively in order to spur the development of different interpretations of analytical problems. An excessive centralization of the EU intelligence system would meet too much bureaucratic resistance because of fear of loss of sovereignty. Costly collection methods like satellites and SIGINT and cyber- intelligence can be centralized in an EU-wide service to focus the efforts.

Small states like Austria and Belgium should not wait until such an integration of the European intelligence community is decided on by all member states. Since such an expansion of the duties of INTCEN would influence the work of the national intelligence agencies, such a process at the EU level will take a long time. Such a close cooperation needs a high trust level which takes time to build. Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Hungary should seek to build such a federal model of national intelligence agencies on a regional basis. This will have the benefit that the member countries will have a higher combined budget to acquire technology needed for SIGINT and cyber-intellgience activities. Trust can be built. The participating nations will acquire a significant information advantage on how an integration process can be managed and therefore play a significant role when the integration of all EU national agencies will take place. This would allow the states participating in the regional model to gain a much stronger influence on the final EU intelligence system, on the strategic intelligence picture and therefore also on the security policy of the EU. The regional initiative should make clear that it is happy to welcome additional member states. This will create a direct yet friendly competition to INTCEN and speed up plans of the EU to integrate the national intelligence services.

The trust that is needed for such a regional federal model is hard to be developed through a top-down approach. Rather it needs to be constructed bottom-up. The participating states should therefore actively build trust  by hosting regular meetings at the executive and analytical level of their services. Exchanges of intelligence officers between national services, joint analytical projects and joint centers for specific threats like terrorism and cyber-crime could help to establish trust in a bottom-up approach and allow members of the organizations to get to know the different cultural perspectives of other intelligence services. The next step could be a local Joint Intelligence Coordination Center along the lines envisaged for the INTCEN above.  An online market place should be established between the national services for brokering information. Services could indicate what type of information they need and clarify which information they can provide in exchange.

Photocredit: Intelligence via pixabay (license)

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