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The Failure of 21st Century Intelligence. Robert David Steele Intelligence Coach Prepared 24 October 2002. Elements of Intelligence. Covert Action Black Ops Mind Ops. Collection Human Technical. Leadership Mindset Courage. Analysis Current Estimative.

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The Failure of 21st Century Intelligence

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The Failure of 21st Century Intelligence

Robert David Steele

Intelligence Coach

Prepared 24 October 2002

Elements of Intelligence

  • Covert Action

  • Black Ops

  • Mind Ops

  • Collection

  • Human

  • Technical

  • Leadership

  • Mindset

  • Courage

  • Analysis

  • Current

  • Estimative

  • Counter-intelligence

  • Defensive

  • Offensive

Brief History of Intelligence

  • Secret War

    • For centuries, this has been the primary focus on national-level intelligence. It remains valid.

  • Strategic Analysis

    • Sherman Kent introduced this as the focal point, but he was not successful. It remains valid.

  • Smart Nation

    • This is where I think we need to go. More later.

Global Collection Failure IIgnored Open Source Information

  • 80% of what we need to do intelligence is not secret, not digital, not in your language, and not owned by the government.

  • We failed to treat open sources with respect. We need OSINT!

Global Collection Failure IIVery LimitedNon-Official Cover

  • 80% of the bad boys and girls that we need to recruit/monitor for clandestine operations do not attend Embassy cocktail parties.

  • We have been lazy and cheap about non-official cover (in USA).

Global Collection Failure IIIAlmost noTechnical Processing

  • If we do not process what we have collected (generally at great expense), we might as well not collect it at all--we can save the money.

  • CN + PN = IntelNN

  • Processing Matters!

Global Processing Failure INo Data Standards

  • Data standards (for instance, XML) are vital if we are to be able to exploit modern information technology.

  • Microsoft is the enemy of the state! Open source software, and data standards, add value to your work.

Global Processing Failure IINo Geospatial Attributes

  • Automated “all-source fusion” is not possible unless every datum, in every medium, has both a time and a geospatial attribute.

  • XML Geo needs to be an international standard--you can lead.

Global Processing Failure IIINo Interoperability or All-Source Mixing

  • Security is the opposite of intelligence.

  • Compartmentation is the enemy of knowledge.

  • There must be one single processing agency where everything can be mixed and evaluated.

Global Analysis Failure IEmphasis on Security Instead of Answers

  • Intelligence is about decision-support--about answering the question!

  • Must not confuse expertise, foreign languages, and security clearances nor should we require that the same person have them all! Mix and match...

Global Analysis Failure IIFocused on Threats Instead of Opportunities

  • Threats that are here and now represent a strategic warning failure.

  • Intelligence is at its best when it makes the case for preventive investments--anticipatory policy--opportunities for advantage.

Global Analysis Failure IIIEmphasis on Local Now Vice Global Future

  • Greatest intelligence value comes from strategic estimative analysis about big issues--global issues

  • Politicians already know the local nuances--must teach them--and the public--the global tradeoffs

Global Policy Failure IFailure to Impact on Budget

  • National intelligence has virtually no impact on how the citizen’s taxes are allocated across various national priorities.

  • We spend too much on hard power and almost nothing on soft power.

Global Policy Failure IIFailure to Impact on Policymaker Wisdom

  • Policymakers are loosely-educated and often dismiss the value of global knowledge.

  • Intelligence is most valuable to the public interest when it constantly educates policymakers in a compelling manner.

Global Policy Failure IIIFailure to Win Public Support for Intelligence

  • Intelligence is not taught in schools and there is no public appreciation for its vital contributions.

  • We must establish a public discipline of intelligence across the seven tribes and in the public eye.

US military buys what contractors want to sell, not what we need.

Strategic generalizations about the real world have no impact on procurement.

US ignores allied interoperability and affordability needs.


Aviation temperatures

Cross-country mobility

Line of sight distances

Bridge loading limits

Ports (-), Airheads (+)

C4I anti-Internet/open

OOTW assets (MP etc.)

Global Acquisitions Failure IFailure to Impact on What We Buy

Failed to legislate stable transparent Application Program Interfaces (API).

Failed to define generic functionalities for joint development.

Failed to define an agile security architecture.

Global Acquisitions Failure IIFailure to Impact on Private Sector IT



US mobility, weapons, and C4I systems do not program funds for the acquisition and delivery of necessary data.

Intelligence is treated as a “free” good.

Commanders “assume” intelligence will be provided when needed.

Global Acquisitions Failure IIIFailure to Provide for Intelligence

Global Operations Failure ICannot Do Wide Area Surveillance

  • US satellites optimized for finding Soviet missile silos

  • Air-breather options never had the processing system created to do near real time change detection.

  • Still a labor intensive “hit or miss” activity.

Global Operations Failure IICannot Do Last Mile

  • Can’t see under jungle canopy or into city streets

  • Can’t find single individuals with technology--still a clandestine human endeavor and generally can’t do it

Global Operations Failure IIICannot Do Real-Time Change Detection

  • Air Operations Plans now require 24+ hours to prepare (US/NATO)

  • Sensor to shooter processing is terrible--and mostly manual

  • Have lost ability to do quick reaction strikes--when the lawyers let us.

Philosophical Failure INational Tribe instead of Global Tribes

  • National intelligence tribe has monopolized the money/attention.

  • Failed to create generic intelligence discipline with seven tribes.

  • Failed to develop regional or global intelligence networks.

Philosophical Failure IIGovernment Secrecy Over Public Sharing

  • The new paradigm rewards sharing more than secrecy.

  • Secrets are primarily valuable in the context of a rich open source knowledge foundation.

  • Cannot have smart spies within dumb nation.

Philosophical Failure IIILetting Americans Lead is Wasteful

  • American dominance of NATO intelligence is wasteful & dangerous.

  • We need a European alternative emphasizing commercial security, web-based sharing, multi-cultural approaches, global burden-sharing.

Conclusion I...spies only know secrets

  • Intelligence is about discovering, discriminating, distilling, and delivering ANSWERS.

  • The problem with spies is they only know secrets.

  • So, we still need secrets, but we need to be smarter about the context for our secrets.

Conclusion IISpies & schoolboys

  • We do not get extra points for collecting information in the hardest or most expensive way.

  • Do not send a spy where a schoolboy can go.

  • Find, Get, Buy, Steal--in that order.

Conclusion IIIMake sense or add value

  • If you cannot make sense of the raw data, or add value, you are not creating intelligence.

  • It’s about actionable answers, not about secrets, or spies, or toys.

  • Intelligence saves time, lives, money, and honor.

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