Do the Technical Seasons of the Intelligence Community Need Adjusting?

By admin / September 15, 2006
By: Bradley Siddell
Category: Psychology

Have you noticed that during the past few years the season's Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer have no longer coincided with the familiar calendar. In past decades it was easy to recognize a change in season, at least for us Canadians in the north.

As soon as the leaves began to fall, our children were on their way back to school and the deadlines for business proposals and a fresh management vision were on our September to do lists. As the cold winter followed, the snow machines were tuned up, and four wheel drive SUV's replaced soccer Mom's in passenger vans. As March approached, the days grew longer, the sun was warmer, and the snow melted to leave brown grass that eventually turned green. This year, our seasons have turned upside down. Fall dragged into December as we experienced a "brown Christmas" and March was colder than January. Could it be that we can no longer predict a change in season? Have we confused our understanding of seasons, adjusted our internal calendars to adapt, or is this an unexplained supernatural phenomena?

This same question has been asked by law enforcement and intelligence professionals as the cycle of information collection, collation, evaluation, analysis and dissemination evolves. Is there a new requirement for us to re-shape our definition of these steps? As intelligence experts and analytical scholars we prefer to apply formulas with well defined calculations to our best practices. Unfortunately, the business of intelligence is flexible. It is more common to experience the pressure of forcing a "round peg in a square hole" than offering a synopsis or recommendation that is void of any interpretation.

The art of information and intelligence management is more successful if recognized as a "liquid environment". Criminal intelligence investigators and analysts are exposed to circumstances that require an opinion and focused effort to produce and document a concise visual representation of "the problem"; profiling, pattern recognition, statistical trending, and link associations are common work products.

This product is often utilized to formulate strategies and plans for the injection of resources to combat illicit activity which often translates to financial accountability and perhaps the risk of loss of life.

Nevertheless, it is unrealistic to assume that the intelligence process is without discrepancy. Like the Earth's orbit around the sun, it's spinning axis, and gradual elements of atmospheric deterioration (global warming), we are continually in motion - some might suggest out of control - as we spin through space counting on the gravitational strength of our solar system to hold us on course. Some of us cross our fingers, others close their eyes and cover their ears, and some place their faith in a higher authority to ensure we do not spiral out into infinity.

Similarly, the intelligence community relies on a collaboration of resources, subject matter experts, technology, and clinical experience, to process hundreds of thousands of sources of data before an informative answer is provided. Intelligence personnel must continually "recalibrate their compass" to ensure they are on the correct path. They must resist rigid interference and misguided political or organizational agendas which tend to force them in a particular direction. The analysis of the information must be "open ended and free flowing" allowing an opportunity for multiple interpretations and theories to be funneled through a professional, competent and objective process. This does not suggest that the final product should not be illuminating or concise. On the contrary, the more revealing and applicable the results the better, but it is perfectly acceptable for an analyst to report results which are inconclusive; being decisive about your indecisiveness is often the best answer.

Understanding the intelligence process equates to accepting the responsibility and being accountable to all expectations, regardless of their reasonableness. It also translates to acknowledging that the results are at times unpredictable. As intelligence professionals we are required to modify our protocols in order to best fit the global demands placed upon us in-between our seasons of preference. On the other hand, although we have little control over changes in the intelligence climate, we do have the power to create a new calendar.

Who said we are not allowed to work from a metric schedule? Where is it written that we must accept 12 months a year instead of 10? If the Fall and Winter seasons are difficult to differentiate and no longer merge with our traditional methods of seasonal measurement, then why don't we change the periods to match the weather? After all, the creation of the seasons were designed to tell time on an annual basis.

Too often intelligence experts fall back on traditional methodology to justify a gap in their analysis. We must be mindful that gaps which cause fractures in the intelligence process may be directly related to the methodologies we employ. Of course, core fundamental concepts of information management, intelligence collection, evaluation and analysis should remain protected, but be cognizant of the fact that our best practices can become dated.

Technology is your friend. If you deny this statement, then your procedures have already become obsolete! Our civilization is growing at an exponential rate and the volume and diversity of information reflects this pace; this is the information age. Moreover, the accelerated speed of technology advances is consuming the traditional methods of our profession. More quickly we are developing technology solutions to challenges that have plagued the intelligence environment for years. Interestingly enough, the greatest opposition to the insertion of technology is not with the "tool" but change itself.

In order to be effective and efficient in this rapidly evolving intelligence arena, subject matter experts must become change agents. Continually searching out alternate methods of reaching enhanced results is your mandate. As one who works in the "trenches", you equate this to devices which relieve the pressure of complexity, reduce the inconvenience, and free up more time which can be redirected for other priorities, such as analytical thought. This is good. For those Managers and Corporate Leaders in the crowd, this translates to long term tangible cost savings. This is also good.

Adaptation is a very good thing; it has been our fundamental survival technique for thousands of years. Species other than humans have utilized this "technology" of survival as a way of life. The Chameleon is a fascinating example of a creature who modifies his external armor to appear as part of it's surroundings or environment.

Perhaps it would be more appropriate for the intelligence professionals to rely less on their clients modifying their expectations of the intelligence process and more on equipping themselves with the technology to assimilate. We may not need to re-write our calendars with new dates for the seasons, but we can anticipate that Spring will arrive a little bit later. Are the clients we serve telling us we need to do better at "blending in"?

No doubt, there is universal agreement that this technological trend is a scientific phenomena. The pattern of growth is worth further research and study. You may even label the level of advancement as supernatural as it can be very intimidating if you're left unprepared or less familiar with the ramifications. The good news is that you are not alone. There are many peer organizations that are faced with like pressures and challenges. Many associations of colleagues have been developed which increase communication and the sharing of ideas and solutions. You have come to the right place to find some answers!

Do you have an opinion or any comments - we are all interested in hearing from you...

Bradley Siddell has 25 years experience in law enforcement, emergency

operations, major crimes investigation, criminal intelligence, analysis, and

national security. He leads the ISS division at">">  and is the

administrator of www.analystsupport.com">, a forum and blog dedicated to analysts around the world.

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