Intelligence Analysis

Question 1:

Applying the Intelligence Community’s Analytic Standards, contained in Intelligence Community Directive 203, are essential for quality work to be produced by the IC. The job of an intelligence analyst is difficult enough as it is. History is replete with enough examples of failures of the US IC to share information amongst one another, such as Pearl Harbor and 9/11. If you also consider that black swan events can pop up at anytime, then it is a wonder that everyone in the IC does not have an ulcer eating away at their gastrointestinal tract. The security blanket for the IC is the IC’s Analytic Standards. If we diligently employ the five Analytic Standards along with the nine Analytic Tradecraft Standards, then that gives the IC the best chance to produce and evaluate analytic products that are accurate, timely, relevant to the customers of US intelligence. Steadfast use of ICD 203 is the quality assurance process that gives the IC the ability to provide IC customers with the right intelligence to make their decisions.

I do not think the five Analytic Standards can be broken down into which is the most important or least important standard. I believe that all five are vital and are inseparable if one desires the IC to produce quality products. “Sherman Kent believed that the IC had to have tough-minded tradecraft, openness to alternative views, and the flexibility to adapt to the needs and wants of the customers of US intelligence.” ICD 203 embodies a lot of Kent’s analytic doctrine and Kent as the “Father of Intelligence” would champion its daily use in the IC.

Question 2:

Intelligence analysis is not like working an assembly line job in the manufacturing industry. Many of those types of workers only have a high school education. They may only require a modicum of training in order to accomplish their simple and repetitive task in the assembly line. An intelligence analyst does not have that kind of luxury for their profession. An intelligence analyst has many challenges to deal with in order to do their job well. Two of those challenges are cognitive bias and lack of education.

Cognitive bias is a ever-present challenge to intelligence analysis. “Cognitive biases are mental errors caused by our simplified information processing strategies.”

Intelligence analysts always have to be cognizant of cognitive traps when doing their job. If they are not aware of cognitive traps, then occurrences such as the attack on the USS Cole or 9/11 may occur again.

Another challenge inherent to intelligence analysis is the lack of education for the IC. Speaking for myself, I have associate degrees in elementary education, registered nursing, and Chinese-Mandarin, but those degrees have left me ill-prepared to be a vital contributing member to the IC. Many of my co-workers in the IC have worked for their respective agencies for years without benefit of the knowledge that we have gained just from semester one of our BSI program. I think that is a significant vulnerability for the intelligence analysis profession.

I would overcome both of my listed challenges that is inherent to intelligence analysis by using education. It does not matter if you come in with a PhD in electrical engineering or if you have just retired from 30 years service in the US Army as a cryptologic linguist. If you are hired and work in the IC as a “worker bee” or as a manager/supervisor, then it is beneficial for all parties involved to take the classes that we have taken in semester one of the BSI program here at NIU. The effect of forcing people to read and write papers related to cognitive biases, collection strategies, and intelligence analysis will result in a learned and knowledgeable staff, thereby leading to better intelligence analysis. An education incentive/reward program with paid sabbatical should be implemented that applies to everyone in the IC.

Question 6:

If I were DNI, then I would emphasize to our consumers/policymakers that intelligence analysis cannot be perfect. Intelligence analysts can diligently use ICD 203 when doing their analysis and evaluation but ultimately black swans can and still do arise. Just as not a single human being in the world is without flaws, it is impossible to seek perfection in analysis when forecasting is being done on humans. It needs to be recognized analysts can be wrong sometimes. If we do not give analysts that freedom to be wrong, then they may fall prey to mirror-imaging, target fixation, or stovepiping. “The role of intelligence analysis is to inform the policy process.” Very little of what we do as intelligence analysts deals with specific point-prediction. Most of what we do deals with long-term decisions and trends. Policymakers need to understand that.

A counterargument to my proposal to emphasize that perfection is unattainable in the IC is that everything can be improved upon. But that applies only to certain things like medicine, safety, science, etc. But, I believe if we try to do too much to improve intelligence analysis, then we will shoot ourselves in the foot. ICD 203 is our best tool for success in the IC. We just have to make sure that everyone in the IC respects its and uses it.

Question 5:

Sherman Kent said that the most important relationship for analysts is the one that they have with the policy officials that they seek to inform. It is an unequal relationship heavily weighted in favor of the policymakers because the IC needs policymakers but it is not vice versa. Policymakers do not even have to go to the IC for information in order to help them make policy. Just take a look at the number of think tanks in the Washington DC metro area.

Analysts want policymakers to receive, understand, and consider the analysis that they have come up with. Policymakers have high expectations of their analysis centers, ranging from getting it right most of the time to getting it right all the time and every time. This type of “marriage” between analysts and policymakers has historically experienced moments of friction, which will be a constant thorn to marital bliss.

The role of intelligence in the policy process is that of an innocent bystander. Intelligence is just out there. The IC is doing its best to piece together “breadcrumbs” of intelligence, analyze it, and forecast intentions of foreign nations. The best way both sides can enhance the relationship is through continual education. I suggest that we require intelligence producers and intelligence consumers go through the NIU BSI program.

Question 4:

Without argumentation, IC products would lack objectivity. Argumentation is effective reasoning and effective communication, which are essential in producing IC analytic products. To me, argumentation is integral in ICD 203 and is enmeshed with the analytic standards.

I claim that the secret to marital bliss is a combination of four pillars of marriage and the whole-hearted commitment of spouses to each other. The pillars are respect, trust, honesty, and communication. My reasons for my claim is that since I have known my wife for 13+ years (years include both dating and marriage time) we have not had a fight yet and I am still in love with her and our kids. My evidence to support my claim is that my wife, my kids, and myself are happy being around each other. We have moved six times as a family and gone through one combat deployment to Afghanistan and yet we still are happily married with four children. Alternatives to my claim could be that I am like Kim Jung-un of North Korea and I rule my family with an iron fist. They fear my wrath and cower at my mere presence. Another alternative could be that my wife who is 12 years younger than me is just biding her time until I croak so that she can take my retirement and run. My warrant is that the past 13+ years together has not been easy. It takes hard work and commitment to each other every day because each day is different than the last. But because we have adapted and supported each other when necessary due to circumstances like a deployment and the post-deployment reintegration, our marriage and our kids still happy and strong.

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