By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Gary Ledford, EBCI public safety director, has been selected as the vice-chairman of the National Intelligence Sharing Advisory Committee. The One Feather asked him a few questions on this important position:
COF: In short, what does the National Intelligence Sharing Advisory Committee do?
GL: Basically, in late 2009, President Obama pushed out a mandate to all Federal programs…Strengthen the nation-to-nation relationships between the United States Government and Indian Country. Do those things necessary, and within your departmental capability, to solidify the working relationships with the individual Tribes. The Department of Homeland Security, specifically, the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs (DHS/IGA), responded by creating the State, Local, Tribal, and Private Sector National Intelligence Sharing Advisory Committee. It is this committee’s charge to examine the current intelligence sharing framework between all stakeholders, determine if they’re having the desired impact, develop techniques to improve the capability, and advise The President on the effectiveness of such. It is our goal to streamline the intelligence sharing process and ensure that critical threat and warning data gets into the hands of the people that need it, with limited and minimal delay.
COF: What agency is this under?
GL: The Committee is a product of The Department of Homeland Security who, as you know Scott, is the key center for analyzing, mitigating, and suppressing threats to the people and property of the United States. FEMA, Customs & Border Protection, ICE, TSA, The Coast Guard, and The Secret Service are all components of DHS. The threats to the United States are never ending, and sadly enough, the direct threats to Indian Country are increasing. Jurisdictional issues, potential for financial exploitation, and the limited intelligence collection capability, among other things, all add to an enhanced threat state for Indian Country. It is my every hope that while I occupy this position I can stand up a solid intelligence sharing architecture between the United States and the individual Tribes…one that is solidly supported by Federal agencies and assets, and one that will maximize safety and security for all native people.
COF: What was your reaction in being elected vice-chairman?
GL: Wow! What an unbelievable honor! That was, and continues to be, my reaction. It wasn’t a “on a whim” nomination and acceptance process, though. My background and experience played a huge role in this accomplishment. The solid work I did for Air Mobility Command and US Transportation Command while stationed at Scott AFB and working in the 67th Information Warfare Flight as lead Human Intelligence Analyst/PSYOP Mission Planner was a critical factor in me being named to this position. Initially, Scott, if you recall, on first entry to this committee, I was hand-picked by DHS/IGA to be the Tribal representative on the committee, representing all of Indian Country in the initiative. I was stoked then…I’m ultra stoked now.
COF: How might this help or aid the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians?
GL: Scott, when realized, this will not only benefit the EBCI, but it will benefit Indian Country as a whole. At present, in a great percentage of Tribes, there exists no dedicated process for sharing classified information between that particular Tribe and the various Federal entities that produce intelligence products. Examine the construct, if you will, for a moment…the Tribes are now widely viewed as sovereign nations, there are facilities in those nations that power local, and sometimes regional economies, a few of those nations are either on or near the United States border, and some are in close proximity to critical United States infrastructure. It stands to very good reason, and is obviously in the best interest of both, that threat indicators and warnings are shared and information of a critical nature is in the hands of those that can act on it. It is absolutely imperative that we are on the same page when it comes to identifying and eliminating potential threats to our safety and security. Additionally, in my opinion, this is a huge step in defining the nation-to-nation relationships, strengthening them, and determining the growth process as we move forward, in a very uncertain future.