The relationship between intelligence analysts and strategists/policymakers
The relationship between intelligence and strategy is vital in creating policies that protect U.S. national security. Aclin (2010, p. 265) presents “two schools of thought” regarding the relationship between intelligence analysts and strategists, i.e., “distance” and “proximity” schools.
Distance school argues that intelligence analysis must remain separated from the strategy stage in order to avoid any influence that could manipulate the objectivity of the final evaluation. Analysts can then be “sheltered from undue pressure and can form their assessments independently” (Aclin, 2010, p. 265). This ensures that analysts remain open to different trends or predictions that may not always be supportive of the policies present.
At the other spectrum, “proximity” school rationalizes that constant interaction and collaboration between both parties would create a stronger camaraderie which would lead to better products. This school of thought argues that integrating analysts in the planning stages would provide them with insights to the strategists “immediate intelligence requirements,” specific “needs or perspectives,” and the “priorities and challenges” faced (Aclin, 2010, p. 265). Informing intelligence analysts about the context of why particular intelligence is needed and what strategists already know or do not know could eliminate redundancy and determine missed intelligence gaps.
Both processes have obvious advantages and disadvantages; finding a balance between both is vital in ensuring successful objective long-term strategic planning. Students tend to lean more toward the “proximity” school of thought believing that human nature tends to thrive more within a close-knit relationship that fosters trust, confidence, and a team player mindset. In order to avoid pitfalls such as “analytic bias” which occurs when “intelligence officers are involved in policy decisions,” there must be a constant check and balance from both analysts and strategists to ensure that inappropriate lines are not crossed (Aclin, 2010, p. 266). This ensures that objectivity remains uncompromised and forces strategists to look at other avenues of data.
Consumers’ role in the intelligence process
The business of intelligence is like every other business; it exists to provide a service to consumers. Fingar (2011, p. 5) indicates that the 16 distinct agencies in the Intelligence Community (IC) provide “tailored support” which “serves different, and somewhat unique, customers and missions.” It is important to not only understand what customers are requesting, but also for customers to understand and be sensitive to the limitations for intelligence analysts.
According to the National Criminal Intelligence Resource Center (2013), customers must understand what their role is in the intelligence process and what is expected of them. Customers should “integrate the IC into their operational cycle and processes;” “expect intelligence support to be a push-and-pull process;” “state their requests specifically;” “share what they know” and don’t know; “share their timeline;” and “provide feedback” (p. 36). Customers must buy into an equal partnership with the IC in order for a smooth transaction to take place. If strategists demand information with unrealistic expectations [such as a short timeline] final assessments could minimize the discovery of gaps and disregard essential potential trends or future scenarios.