Neglect of "Strategic Intelligence"


Intel Enabler
Verified SOF
Sep 9, 2006

A long but very interesting read on the state of strategic intelligence. Please note that it links directly to the CIA's website, if that matters to you.

Some excerpts:

as the security act's architects would have approved of a published national strategy, they would, I believe, be greatly surprised, perhaps even incensed, by today's neglect of strategic intelligence in the Intelligence Community. Strategic intelligence collection and analysis is a capability they took pains to preserve; we are perilously close to losing it. The reasons are complicated, but they deserve our examination and discussion in this anniversary year.
strategic intelligence is that intelligence necessary to create and implement a strategy, typically a grand strategy, what officialdom calls a national strategy. A strategy is not really a plan but the logic driving a plan.

At CIA in particular, General Michael Hayden told Congress last year that for every 10 CIA analysts with less than four years of experience, only one analyst has more than 10 years of experience. "This is the least experienced analytic workforce in the history of the Central Intelligence Agency," he said.10 One result, warned Carl W. Ford Jr., a former assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research, is that "we haven't done strategic intelligence for so long that most of our analysts don't know how to do it anymore."

Another reason strategic intelligence "isn't done" is that among today's intelligence consumers, urgency is pushing tactical thinking. To stop terrorists, I need this specific piece of tactical intelligence--right now.Consequently, by default, those analytical topics that feel somehow too grand, or too distant in time and place to matter immediately, tend to get ignored
does strategic intelligence exist in a realm without strategy? Should it?

In your professional opinion, would you say that this is not a matter of evolution in a target environment as much as it is a matter of expressed concern by battlefield commanders and the powers that be to develop "immediate results"?
If you look over the history of the ME in contrast with Africa, surely it's not nearly as chaotic as it is dogmatic. Even as unfortunate as it may be, there were glimmers of a long, long term strategy in the ME being shared uniformly with the media and various interest groups. However, the tactical community seems to get the results that the people want. In this environment, compartmentalizing terrorist organizations and radical Islamic groups, targeting fundraiser organizations abroad, and facilitating a paradigm shift in the scattered masses doesn't feel relevant.

Today, by contrast, the typical intelligence analyst rarely exploits open sources as well. Working in environments dominated by secrecy and security concerns, most analysts work in relative seclusion. As a result, compared to an experienced professor or a seasoned business researcher--both proficient at exploiting open sources deeply--most entry-level analysts are novices.

I feel that as highlighted above, the generation in which I have grown up in is accustomed to working in relative seclusion in an environment that doesn't harbor genuine growth as much as aesthetics. If it's fast and cheap it's worth the lack of effort. Similarly, a fundamental need to "look grown up" could push young intelligence professionals out of academia and into operation where their lack of patience and passion for excellence will leave the handler with a product that's lacking.
Excellent thread, sir. IMHO many leaders currently on the ground in theater want immediate results and are concerned with only the tactical aspect of intelligence collection. Many leaders desire the "golden nugget" of intel which will capture one of the top ten on their AOs specific HVI/HVT lists and boost their credentials for follow on billets. Our government agencies are far too focused on what is going on right now in AFG and Libya instead of conducting the true purpose of analysis and "preventing uncertainty" for future missions in areas we haven't even began to consider as a threat. Far too reactive instead of proactive. Again, only my .02c.
This is the result of a now 20+ drift in the direction of the IC as a whole. Prior to DS/DS intelligence at the national agency level was produced to support the national level policy maker. Tactical level products were almost exclusively a service intelligence component or DIA product. National named intelligence agencies were seldom supporting even theater level commands with products, let alone direct support.

After OJC/DS/DS the big buzz word became "support to the war fighter" at the national level. This has continued to expand to where it would seem now that little attention is paid to strategic or "big picture" intelligence. That is why to many; the "Arab Spring" has been so surprising. Also tactical intelligence is much easier to collect through technical means. Technical collection gives you a result... right now; kill that target now. While strategic intelligence will take years to give you a definitive projection on how and why a single years wheat production will impact on Soviet military vehicle production. A better example is hobby of a friend. He spent decades trending the hierarchy of Soviet leadership based on where they stood in the formal pictures at the May Day Parade and a couple of other annual formal occasions.

Another point to consider in the move to tactical technical collection is since DS/DS there has been a decrease in the skill level and willingness to undertake long term suborned agent recruitment, operation, and exploitation. The requirement that recruitment of a foreign agent requiring approval at agency policy maker level, restrictions on the quality/type of people recruited has contributed to the decline of strategic HUMINT which provides long term strategic reporting.

The US remains the one nation-state able to project force and national will world wide in literally hours. Without a clear threat to focus on there is not major direction to look at a strategic threat. This coincides with war being waged for almost ten years now. While historically conflicts have been confined to a specific geographic area, the GWOT has been just that, global in nature with operations taking place on multiple continents, simultaneously.

Also the US has been hesitant to see the protection of business and industry as a valid use of national intelligence sources. While your on top, you can grow complacent. This is radically different from the Chinese approach who use their intelligence organizations to gather social, economic, and proprietary business intelligence. True the west has some private companies and organizations that do this, but not on a national level.

The erosion in the importance of national strategic products is not something that came about over night. It's been a slow drift of decades.
So would it be fair to say that the demise of the Soviet Union has caused a demise in strategic intel?
Demise is much too strong a word to describe what is going on. SI has merely declined in interest by the policy maker and has not created a new paradigm in product delivery with it's customer base. Support To The Warfighter (STTW) brand has been able to upstage SI. STTW is often what will put the latest technology in front of the policy maker and will adapt and play in the crisis de jour. Since DS/DS and the end of a bi-polar international paradigm it would seem US foreign policy has been in a crisis management mode. This brings into consideration the paradigm of warning. The paradigm, which will invariably create blow-back is that if strategic analysis sees a trend or a sub-set of events and warns that this creates a high probability of a undesirable scenario occurring and gives warning, the policy maker can come back and decry the original analysis or warning product as crying wolf because it didn't happen. This has happened on more than one occasion. Normally the critic is someone who did not heed the warning, while someone else at the policy making level does heed the warning and quietly takes action. Strategic intelligence should be able to give sufficient warning through a national indicator and warning (I&W) system. In more emergent situations the product could be an ad hoc report or briefing. To provide this type of warning requires a high level of topical or area expertise. I'm talking about studying for at least several years till not only have a who is who level of knowledge, but to develop the inter-connectivity of families, clans, political alliances that can take years to develop. A lot of this expertise can be dependent not only on technical collection, but HUMINT. Who has lunch with who on a regular basis for example is information that generally you will only get from HUMINT. All this information can come from strategic, operational, or tactical sources too.

Strategic intelligence is not the sexy, high speed, max face time way to promotions. In the military it's hard to develop serious regional expertise because of the transient nature of assignments. This is then left to civilian analysts at a variety of agencies that are easily drowned out and overlooked because of the crisis de jour. SI draws the true intell geek who often will transit into the private sector or academia.

The issue with SI now boils down to a lack of experience and vision at the intelligence community (IC) policy making level. The IC has completely bought into the STTW for so long; I don't believe that SI requirements - that can take years to satisfy; are given the attention they deserve. This has been aggravated by the drive to more and more technical collection.

The fragmentation or additional level of bureaucracy by the creation of Director of National Intelligence (DNI) is just adds to the issue. The DNI post should have budgetary and policy control of the IC. The post does not as much of the IC will hide behind the skirts of their component military service or DOD. The DNI has been too subject to political infighting and not been able to project that "vision thing" and make it stick. While the DNI post was to be a non-partisan management office... it has been anything but.

This is crux of where the SI issue lies. A lack of focus, direction, and goals. You can't collect everything on everyone.
Those are two great posts and I'd like to thank you for taking the time to make them. They've given me a lot of food for thought.