WHAT TO DO WHEN TRADITIONAL MODELS FAIL

The website o~.it lines the different types of analytic support that might he useful to a customer at any given time. DI officers provide analysis that helps officials.
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The

Coming

Revolution in

Intelligence Analysis

What To Do When Traditional Models Fail Carmen A. Medina Editors Note: This article is

designed

to

from decades ago would recog

stiniulale debate.

nize most of what

Written and circulated within

govern inent circles

presented ation

by

officer on

2001,

it is

wider audience. CIA

a

Steven Ward joins the

debate with

vIe

in

here for consider

a

coznzIeipoi~zt

a,-ti

case

of the Directorate of

Intelligence change

The great

challenge facing

Directorate of

may

be what is most needed.

ana

Intelligence (DI) insight to smart

providing policymakers. Meeting this chal lenge is hard, but intelligence officers have long believed that careful

attention to

craft of

to

to

50-plus

the trade-

to

the information avail

policymakers. During years, the CIA. a

On the CIAs

sion

its

we

model that

only successful execu produce quality intelli gence analysis. When we fal tered, we blamed the analysts (or the collectors), but not the

Office of

Policy Support in Directorate of Intelligence.

the

the provision of

as

timely,

objective analysis on the full

gence

intelli range

of national security threats and

foreign policy

issues

facing

the o~.it

analytic support that might he useful

to

a

customer at

time. DI officers

given analysis

any

provide

that helps officials through their policy agen by: addressing dayto-day

work

needed

das

tion to

events;

model.

developments providing related background informa tion; assessing the significance of developments and warning

apprising

consumers

of

and

near-term

consequences~ and

What if the

signaling potentially dangerous

not

situations in Lhe future.

the

in the

internet

accurate, and

of

serves

public

DI defines its mis

lines the different types of

work that added

believed, evolved

Carmen A. Medlna

most

United States. The website

intelligence analysis

would lead

able

case

needed.

website, the

real

is

value

in the Dls

what is

The Current Model

and managers in the

lysts

comforting, but change may be

page 29 of this issue. + +

Stability is often comforting, but in the

a typical analyst does today, from read ing traffic to preparing finished intelligence. Stability is often

failing, however, lies with the analysts hut with model they are asked to fol

low? Customer needs and

A

preferences are changing rap idly, as is the environment in which intelligence analysis operates. Yet the Dls approach to analysis has hardly changed over the years. A DI analyst

that it focuses first

key aspect

ments. In

of this model is

fact,

the

on develop analysts

work process is structured

around

developments. They spend the first quarter or more of their workday reading

23

Future

Analysis

the

through to

overnight

determine what

is

traffic

new

Analysts today have to dig deep to surpass the analytic abilities of theft customers.

They

Analysts today

have

value in

of informa

an era

report what is new to their col leagues and superiors and then

tion abundance. The

often

consumer,

munitv. The

be

an

death of

eventthe

world leader decline of

or

Or it may be

the

a

precipitous

Asian currency.

an

an

gence reporting of interestfrom

item of intelli on

a

other type of collec source, tion. This basic model has or

Assumption 3: The CIA and specifically the Dl have unique information about what is

happening.

recently,

specific

have greater

which

mining what

to do on any given day. As a result, the model has acquired an adcliuonal step understanding customer feed back to determine policymaker

interests. This ever,

new

step, how

merely supplements

the

pivot around which the ana lytic work turnsidentification of the

new

Critical,

development.

sometimes

unstated,

assumptions underpin

this

Assumption need

a

1:

Policymakers

service that tells them

what is going on in the world or in their particular area of

that the model needs as

Assumption need help in determining vliat an

24

event means

long

as

identify the

unclassified information

sources

85 percent of the

weekly periodicals; sional networks;

was

to

informal as

developed during

the 1960s and 1970s and opti mized

against

the characteristics

of that

period. It was an era information scarcitytruth

about the worlds societies

was

a

of

many closed

rare

ity. Communicating

commod across

hardgoverniiient leaders rarely talked to each other on the phone and sum mits among world leaders

key

had the fastest

ideology

were was

or

right

incom

to

access

ing intelligence could

seeing paiticu

count on

policymakers. Today, thanks to information technology, policy~ makers often readl the

ffic

at

the

same

a

a

raw

time as, if

before, analysts. In

always important

kno\v how far left

lions, such

information and

tnt

driver in international rela was

nica

email.

Policymakers today also read raw intelligence reports on a regular basis. Twenty to thirty years ago, analysts in the DI

was

events.

commu

profes

official,

I any criuca I cables before

borders and with other govern

unusual

their

and

evolve

tradecraft

well. The Dls

model

to

2: Policvmakers

as

they operate. If reality changes. then it isa good bet

tionsit

concern.

only

suit the environment in

ments

traclecraft model.

tive. When asked to

con

illustra

are

icals; US newspapers and Models work

they

in deter

ducted in late 2000

on, they respondents picked all four of the following sources: foreign newspapers and weekly period

llleat1.

interests of customers must

weight

cus

of the Senior Executive

relied

Dl managers

that the

survey of

to a

Intelligence Bulletin (SEIB) 4: Dl

analysts are particularly insightful about what these developments may

Assumption

When Models Fail

have realizer

ways

developments, intelli gence-related or not The tomers

decades.

More

more

main

recent

responses

work for

Dls

intelligence

an

has

of staying informed about

situation

signals; imag

ery, human-source, open-

guided the

policymaker,

policymaking corn new thing nmy

the

to

add

to

a

survey

SEtB customers

asked,

What other

daily intelligence

not

1998-1999 were

of

sources

rio you read?

Almost one-half of the respon dents vol ii nteered that they often read

raw

government would tack. These traits rio not describe todays

that

environment.

real percentage

raw

offered

tia as

a

Ific

traffic. Given was

not

specific choice, the was

almost

Analysis

Future

certainly higher

than the write-

of

political activity

ber of countries

in responses indicated.

in any

even

num

though

the audience for this type of

Analysts today deep

surpass the

to

abilities

dig analytic

have to

of their

customers.

government leaders

and often. US officials to

allow

to commu

nicate with each other

freely

leaders. This

opposition party

makes it much easier for makers

to

be their

analyststo

broad

as

A recent

was.

policy-

of

exam

political developments. trast,

was

covered in

directly

written

questions from ers.

Only

who

consumers

economic

specialists

or to

niche substantive

tify

where the Agency

not

are

iden

areas

still pro

can

vide unique support. Scientific and

military analyses are bor defy easy

derline issues that

solutions. A number of

our

con

particularly

senior customers,

civilian

agencies,

in response to senior custom

topics

matched what

was

as

their

experts

own

cal topics.

so

techni

on

there is

more

for the

intelligence ana lyst to provide value-added. The issue for military analysis, room

is which agency

the intentions of other govern ments and decipher what

most on

policymakers mindscovered political mat

however,

developments may mean. The DI has probably always under

ters, and many of those discussed the behavior and atti

ble. This is

foreign leaders, a subcategory of political analysis that remains of high interest to senior policymakers.

DI and the Defense Intelli

estimated the

extent to

policymakers serve as their own analysts. Arguably, policymak ers

have

never

needed the DI

the

tudes of

which

to

tell them that riots undermine

governments

or

that currency

The

toward non-tradi

move

already

crises shake investor confi

tional issues is

Today, however, they no longer even need much help deconflicting signals from other

underway, evidenced by the creation of specialized Centers

governments.

ons

dence.

with terrorism, weap proliferation, and narcotics

in

important issue international relations; it has

no

been

longer

the

replaced by

a

growing list

of non-traditional issues that tend

to

many of

defy ideological

tion. In the

political analysis want to

is still

king.

follow the ins and

We

outs

field, occupied gence Agency, to the

more

crowded

not

only by

the

but, increasingly

point, by the strong

intelligence centers at the uni fied military commands. The DI is still in the process of defin

ing

comparative advantage

its

in

military analysis.

gies

with

Analysis

a

emerging realities. in

some

other

conven

provide value-added, but, like political tional

that Fits the New

Analysis

Environment

flagship products political analysis bias. We need to do a better job aligning our publishing strate

areas can

the

still

challenge

than before. Economic faces

DI, however,

now a

our

still reflect

analysis,

defini

primarily responsi

too

ical orientation of governments is

should be

to deal

and crime. Nonetheless,

Analysts today have to reach beyond political analysis, an area in which it is particu larly hard to provide value topolicymakers. The ideolog

in

cannot serve

memos

about one-third of

presumably

into

In

much wider variety of

a

those memoswhose

own

gain insights

it

as

study

articles in the SEIB, for

issues

talk

even

once

is not

ple, revealed that 70 percent dealt mostly with analysis of

Modern communication tech

nologies and evolving diplomatic practices now

analysis

serve

is

So, how does the DI, one, do an era

or

any

intelligence analysis

in

of information abun

dance, wellconnected

policymakers,

and non:tradi~

tional issues? First,

we

need

assumptions:

new

greater

analysis

daunting competition

from

the open-source world and those analysts need either to

New

Assumption

the time,

good

policymakers

sense

in their

1: Most of

have

of what is going

areas

of

a

on

concern.

25

Future

Analysis

Analysts concentrate

must on

ideas,

inteffigence.

not

Assumption 2: Policymakers frequently understand

Neu

the direct consequences of events and their immediate

New

and

Assumption 3:

particularly

lacks unique inft)rmation about

developments, especially in the political and economic spheres Raw intelligence is ubiquitous and can get to policymakers before it reaches the analysts. New

Assumption 4: Policy

makers need the greatest

help understanding nontraditional intelligence issues. There is still a market for political analysis and certainly for related leader ship analysis, hut to be successful in traditional the Dl

must

insights

areas

generate unique

Analysts

analysts, particularly those involved in political work, the focus would shift from tracking develop ments in their particular accounts to addressing the spe cific, hard questions of

optimized against

these

assumptions would understand developments, but only

current as

the

necessary

foundation for

its real contribution to

policy

Analysts would specialize in complex analysis of the most difficult problems. makers.

They would focus cymakers

hardest

on

the

poli

questions.

Their

goals would include iden tifving new opportunities for

policymaking

and

warning first

of cliscontinuities that could

spell

stronger Links between analysts and

mean

cal terms? Flow would

26

in practi

the

than a will

even more

regional Customers are actually experts. at letting us know pretty good what issues keep them up at night; we have to stop dismiss need

ing these questions as either too hard or not intelligence-related. To free

analysts

work, dcemphasize products that largely describe what has just happened. This will need

will he hard customers

do this

because there

sho

ucts, which

to

to

want

are

such

are

prod

seen as

convenient, free goods. But if

relatively painless experi

our

last year with the

ence

elimination of the Economic

custon~ers.

Intelligence Weekly, a decadesold publication that reviewed economic developments, is any

ideas,

must concentrate on

intelligence.

not

Because the Dl has

oly

over

no monop the dissemination oF

intelligence reporting, synthesiz ing it for others is a poor investment of its time and tal

This

particularly applies to political and economic analy sis; policymakers do in fact often need help deciphering ent.

technical reports as

proliferation

on

such issues

and informa

(ion warfare. In many

substantive serve

fields, the

the

Dl

can

policymaker by

the hard questions and to develop more reliable trying

ways of

identifying

guide, policymaker demand for such products is shallow at best.

Analysts must think beyond finished intelligence. Analysts are

schooled in the

and

need

to

pro

ci u cc valida ted, finished mean intelligencefinished has it that been carefully ing considered, officially reviewed, coordinated with colleagues,

and sent cover

tackling What does this

to unconven

ideas, perhaps

cies to create

best

danger.

tional

we

policymakers. An analyst, for example, would often start her day by reviewing feedback and tasking from customers, instead of first reading the morning traf fic. We need to use technology and a network of highcaliber representatives at policy agen

Analysts A Dl

must focus on the

customer. For many

well

relatively understood problems. into

well,

keen critical

need

thinkers open

The CIA

the DIoften

issues.

the Dl will

practice of intelligence analysis change?

significance.

understanding emerging To rio this kind of work

such

out

under official

The main

products

problem

often

pace with events or with information sources.

keep

officers who deal with

is that

cannot even

frequently

customersincluding

Future

those who carry the Pies/dents Dc/li Brie/to the most senior

The Old

officialsreport that many products short of finished intel ligence often satisfy the needs These include

policyniakers.

of

annotated

quick

intelligence,

raw

specific

to

answers

ques

tions, infornial trip reports, and memoranda of conversation.

intelligence analysts

Too many

and managers remain fixated

formal

products

makers

even

of the real scoop

most

events is

now

on

exchanged and telephone in

calls. Our adherence

to

the

Intuitive

Concrete/Reality-based Linear/Trend-based

Metaphor-rich Complex

Expert-based

Humble, Inclusive, Diverse

Hierarchical

Collaborative

P recede nt-ha secl

Precedent-shattering

\XTors t-ca se/Warning-

focused

Opportunistic/Optimistic Imagerich

Text-based

C us tome r-d riven/Policy

Detached/Neutral

relevant

makes the DI wary of such

ing little in the way of finished intelligence, and they are lot of time

a

individual tasks that

recognized

of the

adapters

other collaborative venues.1

Their focus must look to

Analysts Centers

the

long enough on a DI career ser vice panel, you will still hear some

say

managers

analysts

or

on

new

as

early

model.

customer

speaks

to

the future.

at

tran

something right.

the

of

like

old

analysis intelligence professional. We pnde our selves on carefully basing our judgments on fact, on our expertise, on our ability to warn, and on our neutrality. Sonic might argue that these are clearly the analytic qualities that

qualities

familiar

are

to

any

persist under any sce nario, regardless of whether must

our

Now for

needs

we

of

customers.

Something Completely

Heretical

the Crime and

the box

rewritten. The

look

have addressed the

that certain

in the Counterterror

ism Center

very

requirements. collaborative work, and less formal products

models. If you sit

as

meet

completely sition might

The

doing

specific customer needs. Instead of being perceived as outside should be

and

rooms

doing produc

not

are

the DI mainstream, the Centers

intelligence practices

electronic chat

are

real Dl work. They

spending

increasingly outdated concept of finished intelligence is what informal

Aggressive/Bold/Courageous

Fact-based

Narcotics Center

world

informal enmils

as

Cautious/Careful

recent

a

Embassy knows,

US

Century Analysis

21si

work. As

own

anyone who has done a

policy-

as

further away from

move

them in their

tour at

on

Analysis

Analysis

Perhaps not. To really hell) pol icymakers, we may

sm;lrt The need ished

five

10

escape the

intelligence

\cars

ago

by carol

currently leading he

rtnersltip.

Fri lures I a

sively sis an

In

on

new

mode

Dumaine.

would

produce

of

line,

10

Dl officer

a

for

exte a

inrellige nec in

a

ann

submission

intelligent e

unfinished

interact c,

mu

I,

an

irusied

i

consumers

policymakers

continue to

to

officer

Ii di

need

raise the standards for intelli

analysis. we may need change more than just our

ly

mielligenceall

tieral ne.

As

gence

nierd isciplina ry fabric of spe corn ribut ions a ad a-a il able 2-i hours a

inc as ion a

day

than

elecironic discussion database,

inhouse

ci al Li

a

who has written

1996. for example,

on

more

Dirccioraies Global

she noted thai the future

it

oi fin

consira tots

highlighted

was

assumptions

and

to

to

adopt

new

habits of

new

ways of

our

practices,

new

thinking,

and

communicating

analysis.

work habits.

The fundamental characteristics of

intelligence- an~~l~~sis, fully developed during

care

the last

To tell

thing

know,

half of the twentieth century,

to

may in fact need

go

to

he

a

policyniaker

he does we

not

have

take risks in to

print

to

some

already he prepared

our

thinking,

to

with new,

27

Future

Analysis

Neutrality cannot be justify analytic celibacy and

used to adventurous

analytic

lines

before anyone else. This is

disengagement

not

do nor

jump

to

best, an analyst will occasion ally lean forward, when in fact she

steps ahead of the on

policymaker

his difficult to generate

ideas when you have

close

new

stay the facts. New ideas are

to

to

often intuitive, based

on

one

stray bits of information that coalesce into new insight. or two

Analysts not only

are

to

ties for

no

handbooks

have

to

develop their

also have

agerswill

The

most

controversial

tral in favor of

tailoring

greater

to customer needs.

Some critics have

already

that

focus in

customer

our

years is

recent

eroding

customer

on

nity, the less neutral

trend

come, in

analysis. Unfortunately, are smart

easily

this for themselves. The

lysts

do

ana

real value

increasingly will lie in Identifying discontinul ties that shatter precedents and trends.

Analysts are tifying what work in ever, more

what in the

teach

28

a

often is not

good at iden likely to

given situation; how

policymakers interested in can

usually figuring out are

work. While

courses

Intelligence Community analysts how

to

warn,

more we care,

should, the

select

that

we

an

policymaking the

sense

in

as we

have

impact

commu we

that

on cus

analyze

are

most

rele

policymakers. Analysts understandably are confused by this new direction. They were taught, they say, to produce intelligence analysis that focuses on events and developments, not customers. It is not their job vant to

to

worry about whether

it has

integrity must

that

he

in

our

willing

anal to

or not

or

the State

Department and that are not compatible with the goals of policymakers. But we should not pretend that integrity and neutrality are the same thing or that they are dependent on each other. Neutrality implies customer

and

mystical ability to parse the truth completely free from bias or prejudice. Integ rity, on the other hand, rests on professional standards and the willingness to provide the most complete answer to a cus tomers not

the

question,

even

he

answer

if it is

wants to

hear.

used

to

and

Neutrality cannot be justify analytic celibacy

disengagement tomer. If

impact.

from the

forced

to

cus

choose

between analytic detachment This is the

most

significant

siy

uncomfortable

are

some near

topics based

those aspects that

course,

distance from the

be we

tomer interests and we

our

irrelevance. We need, of

for the Pentagon

and

neutrality are compatible; hut truth they are not completely.

and then project ing them onto the future. This is recent events

who

our

focus

Being completely neutral and independent in the future, how ever, may only gain us

things

assert

that

foreign policy observers often compensated for lack of infor mation with ideologically based assertions. Intelligence analysts correctly tried not to do thatthey were reliably objective

yslswe

their

The

most arecan

noted

man

to trust it.

values bred

century

analysts will need to become less independent and neu

Analysts today spend consider able time identifying patterns in

policymakers

conten

detachment from policymak ing. The usual answer is to

in the 21~ century will

intuition, theyand

and

on

identify new opportuni poiicyniakers.

tion may be that 21

basis.

regular

a

there how

strive to he several

must

are

of the Cold War, when

conclusions,

consider all sources, coordinate with colleagues At your jews

significant ideologi Analytic detachment

in

and neutrality

he conservative:

to

lacking

cal conflict.

the customer.

always our current style. Almost everything an analyst learns teaches her

from

and

difficult consequence of work ing in an information-rich era

and

impact

on

policymaking,

the 21s1 century analyst choose the latter.

must