September 24, 2019


Sean Roche at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies
Sean Roche at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies
In a world of instant information, we all have a digital footprint, a circumstance that disrupts the established methodology behind intelligence gathering. This challenge is part of what prompted the Central Intelligence Agency in 2015 to establish a new directorate for the first time in more than 50 years—the Directorate of Digital Innovation (DDI).


The CIA now describes DDI as “the engine of creativity, integration, and rigor” necessary for navigating the digital age. By arming its officers with necessary tools and techniques, DDI serves as a partner for the CIA’s other directorates and other agencies in the intelligence community.

DDI’s associate deputy director, Sean Roche, visited SIPA on September 10 for a discussion hosted by the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies and SIPA’s Tech & Policy Initiative. Conversing with faculty members Peter Clement and Jason Healey before an audience of students, Roche considered the challenges and complexities faced by today’s cyber world.

“The creation of the fifth directorate was a recognition of how digital transformation has changed the intelligence business, especially in terms of how it collects, analyzes and operationalizes information,” said Clement, who worked at the CIA for many years.

Roche began by providing the audience with an overview of how cyber has emerged as a global threat in a short span of time. He assessed current and future challenges confronting the United States in cyberspace, with special note of how such challenges relate to the return of great power competition.

Roche fielded questions on issues such as international cyber norms, rules of engagement in cyberspace, and responsibility of the private sector to partner with the public sector.

In conclusion, Roche emphasized the growing need for individuals who do not necessarily have a vast technical background, but rather those whom are able to follow a digital trail through the complexities of this space.

— Virpratap Vikram Singh MIA ’20