The Intelligence Cycle
To make the policymaker-intelligence relationship work smoothly, a cycle of activity exists. The provision of intelligence begins with policy requirements—the need for information articulated by the policy community. Some of these requirements are obvious and are of continuing duration. For example, during the Cold War the best intelligence possible on Soviet intentions and military capabilities was a standing requirement. And today, detecting and understanding the status of clandestine WMD programs and learning where terrorists are likely to strike next are standing requirements. However, many requirements, such as reporting on a political crisis in a country of concern, can be ad hoc. Thus, policymakers' requirements for intelligence are dynamic and ever changing in response to the evolving international situation and threat to US national security. It is the responsibility of the policy community, beginning with the president, to articulate its intelligence needs and prioritize them. Only in the case of warning does the Intelligence Community have the responsibility to take the initiative to inform policymakers of a trend or potential crisis on the horizon, about which they might otherwise be ignorant. Policymakers do not like to be surprised by what they read in the morning newspaper or hear on CNN!
Once the requirements are identified, senior managers in the Intelligence Community decide how best to respond. If the desired information is essentially available, then analysts gather, organize, and put it into perspective to address the situation at hand. The information requested may require a blend of both open-source information (press reports, speeches, journals, magazines) and intelligence information, which is acquired through sensitive clandestine human or technical sources and methods. After appropriate analysis, the resulting “finished” intelligence is disseminated to the requestor (and normally to other policymakers and members of Congress who have a legitimate need to know). If, however, additional information is required to answer the question, then collection efforts of one sort or another are launched to fill the gaps before further analysis and dissemination can take place. At times, the collection of information requires new assets or techniques; if so, then