The recently published volume Intelligence Analysis: Behavioral and Social Scientific Foundations, edited by Baruch Fischhoff and Cherie Chauvin (Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press) is a major contribution to addressing the question at hand: how best to exploit available behavioral and social science research in “recruiting, cultivating, deploying, and retaining human capital,” to use the editors’ own words from the book’s preface. Intelligence Analysis is produced by the Committee on Behavioral and Social Science Research to Improve Intelligence Analysis for National Security and includes a wide array of focused papers, written by recognized experts in their respective fields grouped into general topics covering a wide spectrum of specific issue areas. The companion Intelligence Analysis for Tomorrow is a consensus report by the same committee.

We found Intelligence Analysis a unique and extremely informative guide packed with information of key importance not only to government policy makers and other official consumers, but also to those researchers, academics, and others scholarly engaged, who are struggling with the difficult problems involved in educating intelligence analysts and building relevant curricula in the fast developing area of Intelligence Studies, Risk Assessment, and Political-Military Forecasting.

Intelligence Analysis arrives at a time when intelligence agencies everywhere in the Western world need to re-define many of the strategies, tactics, skills, and methods they have been deploying as part of their “traditional” intelligence enterprise.

It is now obvious that events like the explosion of the Internet, the headlong expansion of Open Source Intelligence, and the influence of the various forms of radicalism upon intelligence requirements will be increasingly putting pressure on intelligence organizations to (a) address complex, previously poorly understood questions in a robust and meaningful interdisciplinary fashion (b) achieve ways and means of productive and time-sensitive inter-agency collaboration and (c) fast track a coherent “New Model” of intelligence analysis education that will encompass various classic disciplines alongside the wisdom emerging from the Information Revolution, changing patterns of information exchanges, like the various so-called “social networking” technologies of worldwide instant access, and the quickly developing need for shaping pragmatic aims for tackling today’s varied new threats.

The 9/11 catastrophe killed many a cherished assumption about how we weave a pattern out of traditional approaches with the more demanding imperatives of the modern age. If anything, 9/11 brutally removed the incipient tendency of many intelligence organizations to regard their own systems as “evolved” sufficiently to deal with the great majority of current threats in an acceptably effective manner. Such, even guarded, optimism was completely demolished by the 9/11 attacks, which starkly highlighted the overriding need for aggressive reform of not only strategic thinking but also of concepts and operational structures at the lower levels of “hands on” implementation.

The pressure of the moment though also brought forth another major concern in the headlong push to change tack and begin with a fresh perspective, namely how to direct and control the process of reform so that it would not deteriorate into “doing something, anything” in order to “prove” to the public that lessons delivered by 9/11 were lessons learned and put to use in defense of the homeland.

History has demonstrated repeatedly that lessons delivered are not necessarily lessons learned, let alone implemented.

This conclusion is in fact the one key factor that underpins the perennial need for constantly revising, improving, adjusting, and re-implementing the curriculum of Intelligence Analysis and broader intelligence education. It is indeed a Sisyphean task to try to tackle new threats with “time tested” (and politically “safe”) criteria, methodologies, and “proven expertise” so that the “limits of comfort” of various bureaucratic establishments aren’t disturbed.

The papers included in Intelligence Analysis provide plenty of food for thought and ideas for forward-looking action. Reading this volume closely should be able to provide significant opportunities for debate, not to mention ideas for re-drawing the mandate for change both within and without the Intelligence Community so urgently needed today.

Behavioral and Social Scientific Foundations
Published by the National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.
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Baruch Fischhoff and Cherie Chauvin, Editors
Committee on Behavioral and Social Science Research to Improve
Intelligence Analysis for National Security Board
on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
National Research Council of the National Academies

Intelligence Analysis for Tomorrow (consensus report)
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