The nation’s intelligence agencies are looking for ways to increase their expertise in a range of scientific disciplines as they struggle to answer unexplained questions — about the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, unidentified phenomenon observed by Navy pilots, and mysterious health ailments affecting spies and diplomats around the world.
Traditional spycraft has failed to make significant progress on those high-profile inquiries, and many officials have grown convinced that they require a better marriage of intelligence gathering and scientific examination.
The White House has given the intelligence community until later this summer to report the results of a deep dive into the origins of the coronavirus. It has pledged to make progress on determining the cause of ailments known as Havana syndrome. And a preliminary inquiry into unidentified flying objects failed to explain almost any of the encounters, prompting intelligence officials to promise a follow-up in the next three months.
To bolster the role of scientific expertise, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence brought an experienced epidemiologist from the State Department’s intelligence and research division to serve on the National Intelligence Council, according to intelligence and other government officials. The office has also created two national intelligence manager posts, one to look at climate change and the other to examine disruptive technology.
The National Security Council, working with the C.I.A. and the director of national intelligence, has established a pair of outside panels to study Havana syndrome, whose symptoms include dizziness, fatigue and sudden memory loss. Outside scientists with security clearances will be able to view classified intelligence.
The work reflects “a broader priority on science and technology,” a White House official said.