Michael T. Flynn
Major General, United States Army
As the top military intelligence officer in Afghanistan, you raised eyebrows by writing a report earlier this year in which you said too many intelligence analysts are “ignorant,” “incurious,” and “disengaged.” You said more has to be done to study the Afghan people and their needs. What has the reaction been?
Honestly, I’ve had easily 15,000 to 20,000 e-mail responses that were all positive.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he liked what you had to say, but didn’t like that you released this critique through a Washington think tank rather than traditional military channels.
Frankly, we just didn’t have the time for normal publications to get out there. [Military channels] are just too cumbersome. I needed the seriousness of the situation to get noticed. And I knew that going that route was going to get wider readership, faster. At the end of the day, it ended up being exactly what was needed.
You’ve demanded that 2,000 additional intelligence analysts be brought into Afghanistan and empowered to collect and report field intelligence as journalists would. Why?
Media people are all over the battlefield, and what I discovered—and it’s a no-brainer—is that they see things that are not seen by others, because of what they look for and how they gather information. They see things. What we were missing was all these elements of information, because we were so focused on driving our intelligence system to collect on the enemy. We were missing these vital components of information that were out there. And that’s what I wanted.
There’s been some push-back against some of your reforms from other generals.
At the end of the day, everybody in senior leadership positions—they read something like that and they go, “Ooh”—you know, it makes them a little uncomfortable. But when they really read it, they go, “Shit, this makes sense! This is exactly what we should be doing.”
I am, like, Mr. Change. People that work for me know that we’re going to be innovative and, to a degree, we’re going to be uncomfortable in terms of how far we’re going to go to innovate. Because in war, if you stick with the norm, you’re going to lose.