Ways to Improve U.S. Intelligence: Intelligence Training and Intelligence Management

No recent issue (aside from 9/11 itself) underscores the importance of good intelligence as does the Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) issue. The WMD question was largely answered by intelligence; technical intelligence to be specific. However, technical intelligence is known to be based on extrapolations. Technical analysis synthesizes a number of intelligence bits and creates a larger picture based on those smaller bits. There can be a real problem when the bits and pieces involved in a technical analysis never really touch ground, in a sense, and the conclusion is not verified by other means. Needless to say a greater critical examination of technical analysis will likely be part of future programs in intelligence training.

Flawed interpretation of technical intelligence is not the end of intelligence, however. One can contrast the difficulties with technical intelligence leading up to the Iraq war with the success made by Human Intelligence (HUMINT) during the Iraq war and realize that HUMINT is an area to cultivate. Similarly, interpretation of regional and area factors (often gained by HUMINT) proved accurate in identifying a number of nuances of the Iraq war. For instance, intelligence assessments accurately described the Iraqi style of fighting, and they accurately interpreted the tribal and ethnic divisions that worsened after the fall of the Iraqi government.

Just because intelligence missed a threat or was not even tracking one does not mean that intelligence services are inept. It is widely accepted that the large number of targets makes it unlikely that intelligence can successfully address all of them. However, the opposite is also true as many threats have been addressed with intelligence. In fact, there are many threats that are appropriately addressed that likely go unnoticed by the public.

Because of the value intelligence offers in understanding threats and planning a course of action, it is important that decision makers have good useable intelligence. This means bridging the gap that often exists between policy and decision makers and the intelligence. To continue with the Iraq example, policymakers did not make appropriate use of the available information. Indeed, the policymakers acted on technical—and wrong—intelligence and did not immediately attend to the intelligence that correctly foreshadowed what Iraq would look like after the Iraqi government fell.

The Iraq example provides a good base from which to discuss the need for good intelligence training. The technical analysis leading up to the war was considered biased in many ways. It is instructive that policymakers emphasized such biased intelligence. Conceivably, what was missing from the situation at the time was intelligence management. Intelligence management could have been an asset when the technical analyses were being prepared because such oversight may have called for more context by which to understand the Iraqi weapons program. Similarly, intelligence management could have played a critical role in translating the technical analyses and other intelligence to decision makers to facilitate proper understanding of the intelligence, and, by extension, proper national security decisions.

The problems seen in the intelligence community can be remedied by intelligence training. Extensive and ongoing training can be valuable across the range of intelligence jobs, from HUMINT operations to the managerial level. Such training can facilitate appropriate decisions that impact national security.

Dan Sommer works for Henley-Putnam University, a leading educational institution in the field of Strategic Security. For more info on Henley-Putnam University, intelligence training, intelligence management, call 888-852-8746 or visit us online at http://www.Henley-Putnam.edu

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