Friday, March 23, 2012

Part 13 - The Whole Picture (Let's Kill The Intelligence Cycle)

Part 9 -- Departures From The Intelligence Cycle
Part 10 -- The New Intelligence Process 
Part 11 -- The New Intelligence Process:  The First Picture 
Part 12 -- The New Intelligence Process:  The Second Picture 

In the end, whether you accept this new model of the intelligence process or not, it is clear that the hoary image of the intelligence cycle needs to be put to rest.  Whether you would do that with full honors or, as I advocate, with the use of explosives, is irrelevant.  The cycle, as should be clear by now, needs to go.

To summarize, the cycle fails on three counts at least:  We cannot define what it is and what it isn't, it does not match the way intelligence actually works in the 21st Century and it does not help us explain our processes to the decisionmakers we support.  Efforts to fix these flaws have not worked and, furthermore, this is all widely recognized by those who have studied the role and impact of the cycle. 

In addition, the community of intelligence professionals (and I include academics who study intelligence in this group) will have to be the ones to lay the cycle to rest.  Not only does no one else care, but also the community of intelligence professionals has, as the WMD report noted, "an almost perfect record of resisting external recommendations." 

Yes, the interregnum will be difficult.  The decisionmakers we support, the professionals with whom we work and the students we teach will all ask -- and deserve -- good answers.  These answers will come slowly at first.  In fact, at the outset, we may only be able to "teach the controversy", as it were.

Hopefully, over time, though, the need for a new vision of the intelligence process will drive intellectual curiosity and, through the iterative process of creation and destruction, something more robust will emerge; an improved model that will stand the tests of the next 60 years.   While I have clearly already placed my bets in this regard, I will be happy if the community of intelligence professionals merely recognizes the need to move beyond its historical constraints, accepts this siren's call for what it is, plugs its ears and sails off in a new direction - any direction.

Because anything would be better than continuing to pretend that the world has not really changed since the 1940's.   Anything would be better than continuing to spend countless wasted hours explaining and attempting to justify something that should have been retired long ago.  Anything, in short, would be better than continuing to lie to ourselves.

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