Our required textbook Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy, is abundant with reasons for intelligence failure.  This paper will require the student to approach the subject of intelligence failure from a particular angle, that angle being the Intelligence Cycle. 


Each step or phase of the Intelligence Process (Cycle) is a difficult task, and it should not be a surprise when intelligence failure occurs. 


The student is requested to identify four different errors that could possibly occur during each of the seven phases of the Intelligence Process.  Each error will be described in its own paragraph (for a total of 28 paragraphs), and each paragraph must consist of at least four full sentences which fully describe the error that could occur. 

Total Pages: 7

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Errors during the seven phases of the Intelligence Process Cycle

Phase One – Identifying Requirements

  1. Senior policy makers may assume that their needs are understood by the intelligence providers. This assumption is made because, after all, the key issues are apparent. This assumption might result in failure to properly communicating the intelligence priorities to the intelligence community. The question is then who would set the intelligence priorities?
  2. Some intelligence managers might be aware of the importance of identifying issues that are not of high priority now but could well be in future. The policy makers might not be able to look at issues far ahead. They might be focusing on the issues that need immediate attention. These far ahead issues could have significant reparations in the future.
  3. The issues of conflicting or competing priorities could arise during this phase. There are issues that do not have an inbuilt sense of order. Each issue might end up being of primary concern. The director of national intelligence (DNI) might be unable to impose priorities on daily basis. The intelligence community might be left with the decision to do the best they can in such cases.
  4. Resource allocation is big concern in setting up the priorities. Each required resource cannot be delivered. The lake of resources could severely affect the whole intelligence process. This could result in actually changing or shuffling the priorities.

Phase Two – Collection

  1. A continuous tension exists in the United States over the allocation of resources to collection of intelligence information. It is possible that due to the lake of resources, the required amount of information is not collected. The lake of intelligence information would adversely affect the intelligence process. This could well result in making the wrong decisions.
  2. The abundance of resources could result in much more intelligence information being collected than can be processes. For example only cyber data is required but imagery data is also collected in the form of photographs. This would add discrepancies to the intelligence process. This might result in assigning much more resources to process the information than actually needed causing financial and time management problems.
  3. The collection of information needs expert in different fields of intelligence information collection. Intelligence agencies need to have specified experts for their respective fields. Identifying requirements and collecting the needed information is meaningless unless performed by experts. These collection experts must collect information that can be turned into intelligence reports that serve the requirements of the policy makers.
  4. Technical collection is too expensive. Different types of collection techniques offer unique benefits. There could be errors in allocating budget to different data collection techniques. These errors could adversely affect the quality of the collected intelligence information.



Phase Three – Processing and exploitation

  1. Much more resources are allocated to collection of information than to processing and exploration. The systems for collection of information is greatly favored by the executive branch of Congress than allocating technical and personnel resources to process and exploit this information. This adds up to the delays of information processing and exploitation. It could also have repercussions in terms of technical and human errors.
  2. Collection has support from companies because the technical equipment is outsourced to subcontractors. On the other hand processing and exploitation are performed inside the intelligence installments. The technology for processing and exploitation is not as advanced as that of the technology related to collection processes. This is because the contractors are driven by profits to rapidly advance their technologies.
  3. Those who advocate that more needs to be spent on processing and exploitation believe that a large amount of data collected is never processed or exploited. This is just like never been collected. They are right on their part as in case of large amount of data, there could be high hopes from the processing and exploitation teams. But large part of the data collected might be meaningless to them and they might not yield the expected results.
  4. Internal errors in technical equipment might cause discrepancies in the reports generated after exploitation and processing. For example different encryption techniques are used to decode data to explore information. If these encryption programs have bugs, they might not produce correct results. This would be reflected in the reports but might go unobserved.

Phase Four – Analysis and production

  1. During this phase the problem of prioritizing the information for analysis could be an issues. Data related to short term issues is preferred over data that deals with long term issues. In the modern world there is a focus on tactical/current problems. Thus in depth analysis of the short term issues is done while the long term issues are overlooked.
  2. Simplified analysis strategies might cause cognitive errors in analyzing information. A single analyst or a team of analyst might be involved in a cognitive bias that acts at an unconscious level. This might be caused by an urgency to do the analysis quicker than other teams or individuals. These errors result in substandard analysis reports.
  3. Lack of proper training is another problem that is faced during the analysis phase. Analysts must have the required technical and scientific training. Failing to do so will result in failure of the analysis process. In a report “The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction Report to the President of the United States” had found that more resources need to be put to train analysts for better results of the intelligence processing activities.
  4. Analysis should have a key role in setting priorities for the collection of information. The ideal situation in such cases would be an analytically driven collection of intelligence information. Unfortunately this is not the case as the relation between analysists and collectors has not be as desired for the smooth functioning of the intelligence process. This effects the quality of the collected information to be analyzed.

Phase Five – Dissemination

  1. Dissemination of information is sometimes made to improper decision makers. Decision makers make decisions about the information provided to them. The whole process of intelligence gathering is dependent on the feedback from the correct decision maker. This feedback is important in the production of other related reports.
  2. Different intelligence agencies share intelligence information on regular basis. Local authorities might compile information and share it with federal authorities to help in on going investigations or vice versa. Mis-information might occur that could make it impossible to utilize the share information. Corrections should be made in such case whenever there is a realization.
  3. Privacy is also a concern when disseminating intelligence information. There are systems in place to ensure that the intelligence information does not end up where it does not belong. If the information is disseminated to wrong people, it could be disastrous for the whole intelligence process. The whole process could end up to be useless or damaging for the intelligence agency.
  4. Intelligence authorities might sometimes not disseminate information because they think it is too small or unworthy to share. This could be a fatal judgmental error. They fail to realize that it could provide leads to another ongoing investigation. Information should always be disseminated to the target audience no matter how small it is.

Phase Six – Consumption

  1. Policy makers might discard information because they believe it is useless. This could occur due to the length (both large and small) of the reports or due to the simplistic attitude of the policy makers. Policy makers might miss just the necessary information that they badly needed. This could be reflected in the announced policies.
  2. An over emphasis on the disseminated reports could lead to politically incorrect policies. This could result due to personal biases of the policy makers or their ignorance. This could have devastating results. The same happened when Iraq was reported to have weapons of mass destructions.
  3. The amount and format of the disseminated information has to be in line with the consumption behavior of the policy makers. There are policy makers who would better consume the information while it is in documented form. On the other hand there could be some who like presentations. The consumption behavior effects the feedback that is provided for further improvement of the intelligence material.
  4. The beliefs and attitude of the consumer of the intelligence report might play a role in their feedback. It is therefore important for the intelligence community to be aware of its implications in the feedback they receive. These beliefs and attitude could create a biasness in the minds of policy makers. They might demand specific results from the intelligence process.

Phase Seven – Feedback

  1. Decision makers might not provide a timely feedback. They might provide feedback on time but fails to deliver a clear message. This could be because the decision making authority is not competent enough. In both cases there are serious reparations for other reports generated related to the issues under investigation.
  2. The intelligence that policy makers receive may sometimes be not exactly what they want. This could cause in decline in the interest of the policy makers towards the issue. They might provide simplistic feedback. The feedback they provide could be of little or no importance to the intelligence community.
  3. The feedback of the policy makers requires the policy makers to have a thorough understand of the issue. They should be aware of the technicalities of the issues and its background. The ignorance of policy makers towards the basics of the issue might produce a feedback that has negative impacts on intelligence cycle.
  4. In providing feedback, criticism should be kept in the context of where the problems are in the reports provided for feedback. If a general critique is provided without specific context, a negative mind setup may prevail among the intelligence community towards the policy making authorities. This would create a miscommunication and take the intelligence process in a wrong direction.

Total Pages: 7

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