Structuring Strategic Decision Support Intelligence

Richard Wright

According to a 16 February piece in the New York Times by Mark Lander, “President Obama ordered his advisers last August to produce a secret report on unrest in the Arab world, which concluded that without sweeping political changes, countries from Bahrain to Yemen were ripe for popular revolt, administration officials said Wednesday.”  Participants included experts from the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), State Department and, probably, experts from outside the government. The report was classified because of its political sensitivity. Although President Obama consulted with experts from the IC, the report was produced outside of IC analysis and reporting processes.

This is actually the third such independent report that the Obama administration has asked to be produced outside of IC channels. The other two were produced under the leadership of Brookings Institute scholar and former CIA Officer, Bruce Riedel and dealt with South Asia. Riedel’s reports were produced largely from open sources and indeed were later turned into quite important books [Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America, and the Future of Global Jihad; and The Search for Al Qaeda: Its Leadership, Ideology, and Future]. There is every reason to suspect that the August report on unrest in the Middle East was also a product of mainly open source material.

The common factor of all three reports is that they represent strategic intelligence in support of the presidential decision making process. It is also probable that an other common factor is that all three were developed primarily from open unclassified information rather than secret sources. They represent the sort of reporting that the IC in general, and CIA in particular, appear unable to produce. The fact that all three probably represent compilations based on the analysis of non-classified sources suggests that the erroneous, but widely accepted belief, that ‘real’ intelligence is only derived from secret sources and methods is a fiction promulgated by the secret intelligence agencies.

A rational conclusion from the above would be that a strategic intelligence capability should be established within the IC to support presidential decision making. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) would seem a logical place to establish such a capability. At the same time it must be recognized that strategic intelligence is largely based on the research and analysis of open sources. Therefore it would also follow that ODNI could well be the location of an Open Source Intelligence Center of the sort advocated many years by Robert Steele, perhaps the most experienced expert in both open source and decision support intelligence. Steele would be an obvious choice to head up both efforts.

Phi Beta Iota: Asked for comment about the kind recommendation of himself as head of the Open Source Agency (OSA) that he has long championed, Robert Steele suggested that Charlie Allen would be much better, with an Ambassador as a Deputy, Joe Markowitz as Chief Scientist, and Steele as Chief of Plans and Operations, and Carol Dumain, Andy Shepard, and Jack Davis on rotation from CIA, Chris Rasmuessen and Paul Leonard and one or two others from DoD also on rotation.  As discussed with Kathleen Peroff and others at OMB by Markowitz and Steele, the OSA should be fully funded by DoD as a non-reimbursable transfer to the Department of State, and under diplomatic auspices as a sister agency to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).  It would be the champion, as has been discussed for several years in OMB circles seeking common solutions, the champion not only of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), but also of Free/Open Source Software and Open Spectrum including OpenBTS and OpenMoko.  It would by definition (doing Whole of Government decision support) also champion a Strategic Analytic Model and M4IS2 (Multinational, Multiagency, Multidisciplinary, Multidomain Information-Sharing and Sense-Making).

See Also:

US Intelligence Unwitting of Most Open Sources [with Relevant Links]

Review: Strategic intelligence for American world policy (Unknown Binding)