NIP’s July Virtual Speaker Event Features Instructive Perspective from Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence, Mr. Scott Bray

NIP hosted another successful virtual speaker event on Thursday, 23 July 2020, with guest speaker Mr. Scott W. Bray, Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence (N2N6I) and Director, Naval Intelligence Activity. Mr. Bray spoke first about his perspective as a senior leader returning to Naval Intelligence from his time at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. He then laid out his focus areas and discussed the role and mission of the Naval Intelligence Activity. NIP Chairman, Rear Admiral Tony Cothron (Ret) provided a brief update on NIP prior to introducing Mr. Bray, and CAPT Bob Allen (Ret) moderated the event.

Value of Time at ODNI
Mr. Bray began his remarks with an overview of his background and how it has shaped his perspective leading into his current position as DDNI. He spent a decade at ONI learning and doing the most fundamental things naval intelligence does before moving on to his job as Special Assistant to the U.S. Defense Attaché in Beijing, ONI China SIO and then to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) where he served as Principal Deputy National Intelligence Officer (NIO) for Military Issues and most recently as National Intelligence Manager (NIM) for East Asia. He articulated the reasons why his time as NIM for East Asia was such a great opportunity. For example, he saw firsthand how intelligence and policy come together. Spending a fair amount of time at the White House, he witnessed the impact intelligence has on decision-making; and he got a taste of how intelligence can inform decisions and play a significant role in implementing policy. He also remarked that his time at ODNI was a good opportunity to understand the full scope of both capabilities and limitations. Sometimes intelligence could provide the answer, and sometimes it couldn’t; but throughout all of it, he acquired a better understanding of how decision makers have to manage risk together.

Focus Areas for DDNI
Segueing into his current position on the OPNAV staff, Mr. Bray spoke very highly of Naval Intelligence and expressed how happy he is to be back in the Navy and back in Naval Intelligence. “Naval Intelligence plays way above its weight class,” he said, citing the high degree of professionalism with which we operate and the consistently high standards we uphold.

He continued by outlining his focus areas for the community:

  1. Developing unique Naval Intelligence capabilities: support to undersea dominance (ACINT); civil maritime assets; special mission support; Great Power Competition (GPC) in a maritime environment; and JWICS/capability to deliver intelligence securely. He further expanded on the GPC aspect to stress that the competition is playing out, not just in China or Russia, but in other places like Africa and Europe. It’s important to understand the right context in which the competition is taking place.
  2. Developing technologies that expand our capacities, especially AI/ML (Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning). We need to learn better ways to use that technology and be cognizant of the fact that our adversaries are making great strides in these areas. We can’t afford to let them gain the advantage.
  3. Ensuring Navy JWICS is capable and resilient. We depend on it to do our job.
  4. Building a continuously well-trained, diverse workforce.
  5. Ensuring security and counter-intelligence programs are in place. We need to protect our secrets.

Mr. Bray further elaborated by saying that meeting those priority areas takes an enterprise, and our enterprise fits into the larger intelligence community enterprise. This larger enterprise consists of a vast expanse of people with unique missions that all support each other, but he warned against building stove pipes, which is easy to do. He stressed the importance of ensuring we are aligned and integrated because when integration is done correctly, it is greatly enabling—particularly in austere fiscal environments. For Naval Intelligence to be part of the Navy’s overall goals (e.g. building a 355-ship Navy), we need to have clear priorities that are aligned with Naval leadership and the National Security Strategy to ensure we are as efficient as possible.

Naval Intelligence Activity: What does it do?

Finally, Mr. Bray discussed the Naval Intelligence Activity as a critical component of ensuring we are aligned with the Navy. The NIA was established to synchronize and manage the Naval Intelligence enterprise at an echelon 2 level. Its three key functions are:

He provided two examples that show what the NIA does by discussing efforts to address 1) diversity and inclusiveness in the community and 2) continuous training and education. For both of these areas, he stated that much work needs to be done.

In closing, he challenged the audience to always speak up when necessary and always speak truth to power. Knowing our tradecraft well is so much more important now, in a time when we have a reduced office presence—timelines are shorter, the review chain is shorter, but the demands and expectations for quality intelligence products remain.

The hour wrapped up with several questions, moderated by CAPT Allen.

NIP certainly appreciates the perspective Mr. Bray brings to the table, having started out in Naval Intelligence and coming back around to this community after his experiences at the highest levels of the national intelligence community.

Note: The next Virtual Speaker event will take place in September, as we take a break for the month of August