Preventing Catastrophe: The Use and Misuse of Intelligence in Efforts to Halt the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

By Thomas Graham Jr.; Keith A. Hansen | Go to book overview

Appendix J
The Production of a National Intelligence Estimate

The production of a national intelligence estimate (NIE) is a multifaceted and intense enterprise, as is the case with most intelligence products. Because NIEs are interagency products, the process is more involved and complex than the production of single-agency analyses. What follows is a generic description of the NIE production process which can be adjusted somewhat depending on the subject matter and its complexity.

Requirement: The request for a national intelligence estimate normally comes from the policy community, but an NIE may be initiated by the Intelligence Community (IC) in anticipation of a policy need. The National Intelligence Council (NIC), now part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) determines the feasibility of producing the desired NIE and decides which of the national intelligence officers (NIOs) should take primary responsibility for its production.

Drafting: The relevant NIO proposes the scope, content, and timing for the NIE, which is then circulated and considered at an interagency meeting of IC experts. The NIO identifies a primary drafter, sets the schedule for the NIE's production, and solicits substantive inputs from IC agencies, depending on their particular expertise.

Coordination: Once the NIO is satisfied that a reasonable draft has been prepared, it is circulated to all IC agencies for review, and a meeting is scheduled to coordinate the draft and to prepare the Key Judgments. It is important that any alternative views are vetted and included, especially where gaps in information prevent a confident judgment.

Substantive review: Once the draft has been coordinated, it is submitted to a panel of outside experts to review for content, accuracy, completeness, and responsiveness to the policy need. The NIO considers the results of this review and determines if any adjustments should be made to the draft NIE.

Final IC review: When the NIO and NIC chairman conclude that the draft NIE is ready for final IC review, it is discussed at a meeting of the National Intelligence

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