Tuesday, January 4, 2011

RFI: Who Invented The Intelligence Cycle?

If there is one thing that virtually every intelligence professional, every intelligence sub-discipline, every intelligence training course uses, it is some version of the Intelligence Cycle. 

If you don't believe me, do a quick Google image search on the words "intelligence cycle".  While virtually none of the cycles are the same and virtually no intel professional will swear that this is how intel actually gets done, it appears to be one of the few things that everyone -- national security, law enforcement and business -- uses.

A number of years ago, when I began to question the utility of the cycle (more on that later), I also began to do research on where the cycle came from.  Who invented it?  When? And under what circumstances?  Why did the inventor think that a cycle was the best representation of the intel process? 

While you can find the cycle everywhere, I could not find any answers to these basic questions.  While I haven't been particularly aggressive in my research, I have asked numerous old-timers and intel historians and no one has been able to point to anything definitive.

Recently, though, while playing with Google's new Ngram Viewer, I ran across the 1948 book, Intelligence Is For Commanders by LTC Phillip Davidson and LTC Robert Glass.  Both were either instructors or had been instructors at the Command and General Staff College when they wrote the book and it was clearly influenced by the US Army's experience in WWII.

What really intrigued me, though, was their very explicit use of the term, "Intelligence Cycle".  I have scanned in a copy of their cycle and you can see it in the picture at the top of the page.  What is clear from the context of the book is that the intelligence cycle was not a new concept in 1948.  
Just a quick note on Intelligence Is For Commanders:  If you are at all interested in intelligence history and, in particular, military intelligence history, you have to get a copy of this book.  It comes complete with a packet of old school onion skin transparencies that are examples of 1948 analytic methods that later evolved into Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield  (In fact, one of the authors, Phillip Davidson went on to become the first officer in the Military Intelligence Corps to reach the rank of General).  That is just the tip of the iceberg; for the historically minded, this book is full of interesting tidbits about how intel was done back in the day...
In other research, I have been able to trace some descriptions of the intel process (which sound like the intel cycle but aren't called that) back to the 1920's.  What I am really interested in, though, is who was the first person (or organization) to refer to the intel cycle as the intel cycle and when and why did that happen?

Here's how you can help:

Stories.  When were you first exposed to the intelligence cycle?  Under what circumstances?  I am interested in responses from all three sub-disciplines of intel.  I think it would be fascinating to trace the intel cycle as it migrated through the years from the national security community to the law enforcement and business communities.

Books or manuals.  If you know of any books or manuals that specifically mention the intel cycle, I would be interested and would be particularly interested in any that were written before 1948.  Just give me the names and I will have my team of crack Graduate Assistants track them down.

Any other leads.  This is a bit of a detective story so any ideas that you might have to push the investigation along would be most appreciated.

Finally, I would really like you to leave your story, book or other lead in the comments below so that everyone can follow along.  If you want to contact me directly, though, my email is kwheaton at mercyhurst dot edu.
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Monday, January 3, 2011

2011 Predictions Of Interest (Link List)

Cartoon about a fortune teller contacting the ...Image via Wikipedia

The end of the year is always a good time for people and institutions who are in the business of taking a look at the year ahead.  Here are a few lists of predictions that might be of interest to readers of SAM:

Next Year's Wars.  A joint effort of Foreign Policy magazine and the International Crisis Group (and first spotted by the always helpful US Army INTLST...), this list provides some initial insight into 16 possible new crises predicted to erupt in 2011.  The list includes no-brainers such as Iraq and Sudan but also includes some surprises.

Forecast 2011:  Conflict Hotspots.  The International Relations and Security Network has put together an interesting end of year report that highlights Tajikistan, Pakistan and the North Caucasus as places to watch in 2011 among its fairly extensive list of reports and primary resources.

7 Technologies That Will Rock 2011.  Technology is not only of general interest to all of us but of specific interest to intelligence professionals.  One new tool, Quora, discussed in this list by TechCrunch, deserves a special look.

Virtual Worlds Predictions.  I know, I know; virtual worlds seem so ... 2009.  That is pretty much where you would expect them to be given the 2010 Gartner Hype Cycle, though.  It is worth taking a look at this list if only for the government and R and D aspects of this technology.

All these predictions tend to increase uncertainty about the future (well, my uncertainty, at least).  If it does the same for you , take a look at Wired magazine's recent essay on the Uncertainty Effect.  It might not help you feel less uncertain but it may well help you understand your own biases a bit better.

Got other lists worth looking at?  Leave 'em in the comments!
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