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Sensemaking a Structure for an Intelligence Revolution National Defense Intelligence College

Sensemaking a Structure for an Intelligence Revolution

National Defense Intelligence College

Published August 9th 2012
ISBN :
Kindle Edition
250 pages
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 About the Book 

How people notice and make sense of phenomena are core issues in assessing intelligence successes and failures. Members of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) became adept at responding to certain sets of phenomena and “analyzing” their significanceMoreHow people notice and make sense of phenomena are core issues in assessing intelligence successes and failures. Members of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) became adept at responding to certain sets of phenomena and “analyzing” their significance (not always correctly) during the Cold War. The paradigm was one of “hard, formalized and centralized processes, involving planned searches, scrupulously sticking with a cycle of gathering, analyzing, estimating and disseminating supposed enriched information.” The paradigm did not stop within the IC, either. As Pierre Baumard notes, it was also imported, unchanged, by corporations. However, the range of phenomena noticed by intelligence professionals has broadened from a focus on largely static issues to encompass highly dynamic topics over the two decades since the end of the Cold War. Intelligence professionals are challenged to stay abreast. A growing professional literature by intelligence practitioners discusses these trends and their implications for advising and warning policymakers.Th e literature by practitioners embodies a trust that national intelligence producers can overcome the “inherent” enemies of intelligence to prevent strategic intelligence failure. Th e disparity between this approach and accepting the inevitability of intelligence failure has grown sharp enough to warrant the identification of separate camps or schools of “skeptics” and “meliorists.” As a leading skeptic, Richard Betts charitably plants the hopeful note that in ambiguous situations, “the intelligence officer may perform most usefully by not offering the answer sought by authorities but by forcing questions on them, acting as a Socratic agnostic.” However, he completes this thought by declaring, fatalistically, that most leaders will neither appreciate nor accept this approach.Robert Jervis resurrects a colorful quote from former President Lyndon Johnson, who epitomized the skeptical policymaker: Let me tell you about these intelligence guys. When I was growing up in Texas we had a cow named Bessie. I’d go out early and milk her. I’d get her in the stanchion, seat myself and squeeze out a pail of fresh milk. One day I’d worked hard and gotten a full pail of milk, but I wasn’t paying attention, and old Bessie swung her shit smeared tail through the bucket of milk. Now, you know that’s what these intelligence guys do. You work hard and get a good program or policy going, and they swing a shit-smeared tail through it.Jervis asserts that policymakers and decision makers “need confidence and political support, and honest intelligence unfortunately oft en diminishes rather than increases these goods by pointing to ambiguities, uncertainties, and the costs and risks of policies.” The antagonism is exacerbated when policy is revealed to be fl awed and to have ignored intelligence knowledge. For example, in the case of the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq War, intelligence challenges to policy were seen as “being disloyal and furthering its own agenda.” Jervis adds that the Bush administration is only the most recent one to exhibit such behavior. He finds that the administrations of Presidents Clinton, Johnson, Kennedy, and Eisenhower also browbeat and ignored intelligence.