Monday, December 17, 2007

Capabilities inadequate? Enlarge your staff!

I have been wondering for quite a while whether CSE's staffing target of 1650 employees, first reported in 2005, was increased at some point. The fact that CSE's staff has been consistently larger than 1650 since the summer (it reached 1686 as of November) certainly gives reason for suspicion. Chief Adams's April comment that the agency employs "1700 individuals" might also be considered a tipoff, although you can't always count on the reliability of TESTAMINT.

Looks like it's about time to revisit the documentary record and see what conclusions are waiting to be drawn. No staffing projections at all in DND's 2007-2008 Report on Plans and Priorities. "Salary and personnel" cost figures are provided out to fiscal year 2009-2010, but since those don't change by a single buck they look to me like placeholder numbers. If they were accurate we would have to expect reductions in the number of full-time equivalents (FTEs) at CSE over the next few years. I'm not buying it.

Going back a year, we come to... what's this in the 2006-2007 Report on Plans and Priorities? A table of DND's projected civilian requirements. No specific figures for CSE, but a footnote to the table states that totals include "interim Communications Security Establishment (CSE) FTE's pending review by CSE. Interim CSE FTE's are based on RPP 2005-2006 planned FTE for fiscal year 2005-2006, and increased by 5% for every subsequent year" [emphasis added].

We don't know whether these "interim" projections still hold. (Institutions being what they are, it is hard to imagine that CSE's "review", whatever exactly that was, ended with a call for fewer resources. Given the amount of effort now apparently dedicated to Afghanistan, if given the option to do so it very likely called for more.) But at least this information gives us some numbers to work with.

The 2005-2006 RPP planned FTE number for CSE was 1546. Increasing that number by 5% in each of the three fiscal years projected in the 2006-2007 RPP gives us the following figures:
  • 2005-2006: 1546
  • 2006-2007: 1623
  • 2007-2008: 1704
  • 2008-2009: 1789
Is CSE headed for a total of nearly 1800? Or more? It would be stretching a bit too far to draw that conclusion on the basis of "interim" figures in a out-of-date budget document. But the 1704 projected for the current fiscal year looks just about dead on at the moment, so it certainly seems plausible.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Revenge of the CROs

Two former CSE employees testified to the Air India Inquiry on 6 December that, contrary to James Bartleman's testimony last May, no CSE intercept provided warning of the attack on Air India flight 182. W.D. (Bill) Sheahan, who retired as Acting DG Intelligence at CSE and was the CSE Client Relations Officer at the Department of External Affairs at the time of the attack, and Pierre LaCompte, a CSE liaison officer who focused on security-related issues at the time, testified that no CSE end product report, including reports received from Canada's SIGINT allies, warned of a threat to the 22/23 June 1985 flight.

News coverage of their testimony can be found here:The truly interested can also watch the testimony on CPAC (click the "next" button on the viewer 4 times to advance to the CSE-related testimony).

In addition to discussion of the Bartleman claim, the testimony provides considerable background discussion of CSE's history and activities. Sheahan, for example, outlines his analytic duties early in his career (largely analysis of "Soviet military sales and Soviet military assistance to other countries, particularly Third World countries").

He also describes CSE's Client Relations Officer (CRO) program, explaining that it was established in July 1984 "for the main purpose of enhancing the use of SIGINT by decisionmakers in key government departments". [Presumably this development was related to the new CSE collection and processing capabilities that were starting to come on stream around that time (embassy-based collection, satellite monitoring, acquisition of a supercomputer for cryptanalysis, and the first significant increase in staffing in over 20 years).] Under the initial pilot program, since expanded and made permanent, four CROs were embedded in government departments: one each in the Privy Council Office, External Affairs, Finance, and Industry, Trade and Commerce. Sheahan also explained that in addition to receiving SIGINT via CSE CROs and liaison officers, departments with indigenous intelligence capabilities such as External Affairs and National Defence were able to perform "bulk pulls", using daily keyword queries to receive printouts from CSE's end product database.

I'll try to add more notes and comments in another post soon.

November CSE staff size

1686. Another new record.

(If you click through on the link and get a different figure, it's probably because the Canada Public Service Agency has updated its website; they've been updating the numbers once a month recently.)