After 9/11, the phrase “connect the dots” took on a whole new meaning. As the 9/11 Commission confirmed, intelligence and law enforcement officials had uncovered a number of warning signs that a terrorist attack on U.S. soil was imminent, but the failure to recognize the links between the intelligence precluded authorities from stopping the attacks. Congress passed multiple laws to break down the barriers between intelligence agencies and enhance collaboration on threat recognition within the U.S. government. But the threat of terrorism is global, making it imperative that we enhance collaboration on intelligence analysis both within our borders and beyond them. Unfortunately, you cannot pass a law to compel foreign countries to do more to work with the United States. It takes leadership to make that happen. Carol Dumaine has provided that leadership. Practically singlehandedly, she founded a highly innovative new think tank to leverage international expertise to enhance intelligence analysis.
Carol Dumaine is the founder of the Global Futures Forum (GFF). This initiative brings together a multinational community to stimulate strategic-level discourse on ever-more complex transnational security challenges. The GFF looks at intelligence that is in the public domain and promotes open, interactive linkages to knowledge and insight outside traditional security organizations. These engagements enhance our collective capability to innovate, challenge ingrained assumptions, and to identify newly emerging issues that demand our attention.
One of the most significant aspects of the GFF is that in addition to uniting experts from different countries, it brings together people from different professional disciplines. GFF delegates represent intelligence and security organizations, multilateral institutions, academia and the non-government sector from more than 30 nations.
While Dumaine and her Global Futures Partnership team structured the GFF to ensure that there are multiple ways for partners to collaborate, the central component of the program is a series of forums where these experts can work together face-to-face. The inaugural GFF workshop took place in November 2005 in the United States, and it included more than 120 experts from 25 countries. GFF’s December 2006 forum in Europe had nearly 300 senior participants from more than 30 countries. In between these two events were smaller topically focused workshops, held in Canada, Europe and the United States, each involving about 50-75 participants from about 10-15 countries’ security services and non-government organizations. Clearly, this effort is building serious momentum as the participants recognize the value of these working sessions.
Topics addressed at these forums include strengthening partnerships to meet global security challenges, radicalization, emerging challenges for the 21st century, new methods for foresight and warning, illicit trafficking, social networking, pandemics, practice and organization of intelligence, and terrorism and counterterrorism studies.
At the end of each workshop, a report is produced that summarizes the session and offers actionable recommendations. Many governments are putting these recommendations into practice; one is using GFF’s strategies to help crack down on money laundering while others have improved their domestic cross-agency and cross-sector collaboration and maintained new international ties enabled by GFF sessions.
Dumaine was determined to ensure that partners should have opportunities to collaborate outside of the conferences, so she created a GFF Web site. GFF partners log onto this site and share their latest thoughts and research either on their own blogs or in chats with other participants. This Web site has ensured that the dialogue fostered by the GFF never ends.
In the end, Carol Dumaine’s accomplishment is not so much that she and her team created a new program. Her achievement is in creating a global community that increases exposure to diverse perspectives and catalyzes discussion on adapting intelligence organizations to address nontraditional challenges. Whereas the program never would have gotten off the ground without Carol Dumaine’s drive, it is thriving because it has become a bottom up, rather than a top down organization. Participants are sharing ideas with each other independently, just as Carol Dumaine hoped they would when she envisioned this global community. These resilient partnerships will hopefully help ensure that when it comes to potential security threats, the dots will never again remain unconnected