Defense Intel Chief Puts Great Power Competition in Context

People told the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency that in his speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies he should just say “Great power competition, artificial intelligence” and then drop the mic and walk off.

It was a good line, but Army Lt. Gen. Robert P. Ashley Jr. knows the world is more complex and that even in great power competition among the United States, China and Russia, context is important.

“We look very closely at the technology development. Obviously, there’s some breakout things — we watch the AI side of the house, the hypersonics, counter-space, [and] what they’re doing with regard to subs, if you’re following the maritime piece of that as well,” he said. “They’re in the trials for their first carrier. They got an old one from the Russians; now they’re building their own.”

Ashley said DIA’s mission is to “make sure the secretary of defense is never surprised,” and that the 16,500 people in DIA work constantly to ensure Defense Secretary James N. Mattis receives the intelligence he needs, when he needs it.

The general talked about context, saying it is not enough to tell leaders what equipment or how many troops a rival military has; they need to know what foreign leaders are likely to do with those troops and equipment. “How are they going to fight…

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