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Intelligence Failures And Reforms: Avoiding Strategic Surprise

1645 words - 7 pages

Intelligence Failures and Reform: Avoiding Strategic Surprise

Essay Paper

INTL302 Professor Nicholas Tzakis

By William Carter 1028079

18 December 2012

The recurring strategic theme within the past 100 years relevant to all significant reforms is the necessity to prevent strategic surprise. There have been a high percentage of surprise incidents throughout U.S. History. However, this should be not at all surprising to learn. Historically, the intelligence community does not adapt to changes in doctrine or technology until something drastic has occurred. By then, it is too late, and we have become a ...view middle of the document...

Even though this type intelligence can yield possible high impact scenarios and provide key indicators, it does not provide a crystal ball effect. In other words, surprise cannot be completely prevented. Let us fast-forward to the attacks of 9/11. The security situation was similar to that of 1947. The intelligence failures, compounded with 9/11 investigations that surrounded this event, led to another reorganization of the intelligence community. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA) was legislated by Congress and signed by the President. The purpose of the IRTPA was to provide more effective threat warning. “The IRTPA established the Office of the Director of the National Intelligence (ODNI) to coordinate better the now 17 agencies, approximately 200,000 personnel, and about $75 billion in annual expenditures that compromise the sprawling U.S. intelligence community. [3] It is important enough to point out that the Director of National Intelligence has been replaced four times over the past seven years. Later, I will touch on why this has occurred so many times in the seven years of existence of the Director of National intelligence.

Despite the IRTPA of 2004, the intelligence community will continue to experience intelligence failures. “Most intelligence failures in the past were the result of systemic weakness in the way the IC collects, analyzes, and disseminates intelligence.”[4] The intelligence community has not demonstrated the ability to get ahead of today’s priority threats. Our priority threats are terrorist groups, both foreign and domestic, and criminal organizations. Analysts and collectors are overwhelmed in trying to keep up with the current demand for intelligence when dealing with our priority targets. Second and third order effects will be the lack of focusing on long term planning about future threats. Additionally, efforts to think critically about such threats will be minimized due to the high volume of analytical efforts required. “History has repeatedly demonstrated that intelligence tradecraft practices, which do not detect, and adapt to emerging threats embedded in the international system, will likely result in more failures.” [5]

Intelligence failures have plagued our intelligence community so much that some analysts have determined that failures are to be expected. “Intelligence failures are more often due to political and psychological flaws than organizational structure.” [6] One myth about the intelligence community is that it should predict the future. Joseph Nye, former Dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, stated that “the job of intelligence is not to predict the future, but to help policymakers think about the future.” [7] Intelligence aides in establishing the enemy’s running estimates, capabilities, and limitations. Intelligence will always be less than perfect and cannot define precise future enemy...

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