WASHINGTON: We’ve got bus-sized satellites that can probably see any blemishes on Chairman Mao’s badly rebuilt face from space (didn’t know about that, did you?). We’ve got U-2s with their superb sensors watching the Chinese coast (for now). We’ve got P-8s scanning the seas for Chinese submarines and testing their radar. Our subs — hopefully — cruise within their harbors and along their coasts. Our diplomats and spies collect rumint, humint and huge quantities of documents about China. But that doesn’t mean we really understand what China is doing, plans to do, or why it’s doing what it’s doing.
The man responsible for indicators and strategic warnings at the Pentagon, the so-called J-2, told an audience of intelligence experts and industry types that the US suffers from a “data glut but an information deficit” about China. “We need to understand their strategy better,” Rear Adm. Paul Becker said this afternoon at the annual Intelligence and National Security Summit here. Our intelligence analysts need to come to closer grips with China’s grand strategy (if it has one), “interim objectives” and their “main campaigns” so they can better serve commanders and other senior leaders, he said.
And in a very interesting sidebar, Becker made clear that he worries the US lacks the sort of towering intelligence analysts we once possessed: “Where are those people for China? We need them?”
These are the names the admiral ticked off from World War II and the Cold War: Layton (probably a reference to the legendary naval intelligence analyst Edwin T. Layton); Vernon Walters, a military officer who rose to become UN ambassador and deputy director of CIA; Inman (certainly a reference to Adm. Bobby Ray Inman, who almost became Defense Secretary after serving as NSA director and deputy director at CIA); and Rochefort (which must be a nod to Joseph Rochefort, who worked with Layton, and played a crucial role in cracking the Japanese Navy’s most secure code).