Building an Intelligence Community

By Reveron, Derek S. | Naval War College Review, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

Building an Intelligence Community

Reveron, Derek S., Naval War College Review


Negroponte, John. National Intelligence Strategy. Washington, D.C: Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 2005. 32pp.

Negroponte, John. Strategic Human Capital Plan: An Annex to the US National Intelligence Strategy, Washington, D.C.: Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 2006. 47pp.

(Both documents are available online at

Spurred by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the poor analysis of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs, and numerous studies, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 created the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). Run by former ambassador John Negroponte, ODNI is an independent agency meant to oversee U.S. government intelligence activities and to transform the American intelligence community. Guiding Director Negroponte's efforts are two very different lessons learned from 9/11. First, that attack has been characterized as a failure to "connect the dots." If only intelligence agencies had shared their data, analysts could have predicted al Qa'ida's plan to attack, though the dots were not specific enough to connect the overall plan with individual names. To share intelligence, to "connect the dots," is now a national priority. Consequently, the slogan is "share, share, share." The second lesson, derived from prewar intelligence on Iraq, offers a contradictory lesson-to "collect more dots." While there was human intelligence informing of Iraq's weapons programs, it proved to be wrong. The slogan, however, is "collect, collect, collect."

Given these lessons and guiding legislation, ODNI is tasked to integrate U.S. intelligence, bring depth and accuracy to analysis, and ensure that resources generate future capabilities. However, the task to unify sixteen different agencies across six different departments will not be easy. With such a Herculean effort before him, Negroponte is well positioned to offer insight into the first-ever National Intelligence Strategy and its accompanying Strategic Human Capital Plan. Both documents outline mission objectives that will provide better intelligence and enterprise objectives to transform the intelligence community.

The Strategy includes topics that have been long-standing intelligence requirements, such as warning, counterproliferation, and counterterrorism, problems that transcend the private sector and touch all levels of government: federal, state, local, even tribal. This all-encompassing approach will likely have a dramatic impact on an intelligence community that fiercely guards its sources and methods. While it is relatively easy for the CIA and FBI to share information, there are legal, cultural, and technological factors that prevent the CIA from sharing intelligence with the Rhode Island State Police, for example. Further, though much attention has been focused on sharing intelligence within the U.S. government, the Strategy also recognizes the importance of sharing intelligence across national boundaries. Since 9/11, the United States has cultivated intelligence relationships with traditional allies like the United Kingdom, new allies like Russia, and nontraditional partners like Yemen. Intelligence sharing is not only essential in the war on terrorism but also provides a nonpublic way for governments to cooperate with the United States.

Perhaps as a reflection of his diplomatic career, Negroponte notes that the intelligence community must identify opportunities for democratic transformation, and he warns of state failure. Although the promotion of democracy has been a national priority for several decades, it is seldom linked to the intelligence community. While the community's role maybe misinterpreted as limited to direct action against dictators or supporting regime change, it is more likely that the intelligence community will, for example, build on its decade-old partnership with the Political Instability Task Force at the University of Maryland.

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