Marvin Ebrahimi has served as an intelligence analyst. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.
National Security Situation: Centralization of United States Intelligence Community (USIC) Analytical Tools.
Date Originally Written: March 6, 2017.
Date Originally Published: May 1, 2017.
Author and / or Article Point of View: Author has served as an all-source analyst. The author has personal experience with the countless tool suites, programs, and platforms used by intelligence analysts within the USIC to perform their analytical function, and the fact that there is no centralized collaborative environment from which such tools can be learned, evaluated, or selected for unit-specific mission sets tailored to the end-user.
Background: Various USIC agencies and components have access to countless tool suites, some which are unique to that agency, and some available across the community. These tools vary according to intelligence function, and are available across the multiple information systems used by intelligence components within the community. While a baseline of tools are available to all, there is little centralization of these tools. This lack of centralization requires analysts to learn and retain knowledge of how to manipulate the information systems and search engines at their disposal in order to find specific tools required for specific analytical functions.
Significance: Digital collocation or compilation of analytical tool suites, programs, and platforms in a collaborative space would benefit all-source analysts who require access to a diverse set of tools required of their broadly focused function. The knowledge and ability required to conduct tool-specific searches, i.e. manipulating a basic search engine in order to navigate to a landing page or agency-specific site where tool-specific information can hopefully be found, is time-consuming and detracts from analysts’ time available to conduct and employ analytical tradecraft. This loss of time from an analyst’s daily schedule creates an opportunity cost that has yet to be realized.
Option #1: Centralize analytical training, visibility, and accessibility to tool suites, programs, and platforms through creation of a USIC-wide collaborative analytical environment such as the Director of National Intelligence’s Intelligence Community IT Enterprise initiative. Centralization of analytical training is used here to describe the necessity to train analysts on how to manipulate various databases, search engines, and environments effectively to find the specific tool suite or program required for their function. Option #1 does not refer to centralizing all USIC member analytical training as outlined in the Intelligence Community Directive 203, “Analytical Standards.”
Risk: Centralization of analytical training and accessibility leads to conflict primarily within respective USIC members’ unique identities and analytical functions. The tools used by one agency may not work or be required by another. Various agencies provide different functions, and centralizing access to tools requires further integration of all USIC agencies in the same or at least a compatible digital space.
Creation of a USIC-wide entity to collate, evaluate, and manage access to the multitude of tool suites, etc. creates yet another potentially bureaucratic element in an already robust community. Such an entity would have to be controlled by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence unless delegated to a subordinate element.
Compartmentalization required to protect agencies’ sources and methods, analytical tradecraft included, may preclude community-wide collaborative efforts and information sharing necessary to create an effective space.
Gain: Shared information is a shared reality. Creation of a community-wide space to colocate analytical tool suites enables and facilitates collaboration, information exchange, and innovation across agencies. These are positive factors in an information-driven age where rapid exchange of information is expected.
Effectiveness of end-user analysts increases with greater access to collective knowledge, skills, and abilities used by other professionals who perform similar specific analytical functions.
Community-wide efforts to improve efficiency in mission execution, development of analytical tradecraft, and the associated tools or programs can be captured and codified for mass implementation or dissemination thereby improving the overall capability of the USIC analytical workforce.
Option #2: Improve analyst education and training that increases knowledge, skills, and abilities to better manipulate current and existing tool suites, programs, and platforms.
Risk: USIC components continue to provide function-specific training to their own analysts while other agency partners do not benefit from agency-specific tools, due to inaccessibility or ignorance of tool), thereby decreasing the analytical effectiveness of the community as a whole. Worded differently, community-wide access to the full range of analytical tools available does not reach all levels or entities.
Analysts rely on unstructured or personal means such as informal on-the-job training and personal networks in learning to manipulate current tools, while possibly remaining unaware or untrained on other analytical tools at their disposal elsewhere in the community. Analysts rely on ingenuity and resolve to accomplish tasks but are not as efficient or effective.
Gain: Analytical tradecraft unique to specific community members remains protected and inaccessible to analysts that do not possess required access, thereby preserving developed tradecraft.
Other Comments: The author does not possess expert knowledge of collaborative spaces or the digital infrastructure required to create such an information environment; however, the author does have deployment experience as an end-user of several tool suites and programs utilized to perform specific analytical functions. The majority of these were somewhat proliferated across a small portion of USIC components but were not widely accessible or available past basic search engine functions.
 Treverton, G. F. (2016). New Tools for Collaboration. Retrieved March, 2016, from https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/legacy_files/files/publication/160111_Treverton_NewTools_Web.pdf
 Office of the Director of National Intelligence IC IT Enterprise Fact Sheet. Retrieved March, 2017, from https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/IC%20ITE%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf