On the occasion of his retirement from the Central Intelligence Agency, Sherman Kent wrote this valedictory description of the origins of Studies in Intelligence for its Winter 1968 number. In it he ruminates on the journal's successes and failures and on the intellectual and theoretical bases demanded by the intelligence as a profession. Kent's valediction was preceded by the following farewell from the Editors of Studies in Intelligence.

With this issue the Studies bids an official farewell to Sherman Kent, who somewhat quixotically founded the journal in 1955 and has been its prime sustainer for a dozen years. The infusions of his vigor and polymath good judgment have been so much the wellspring of its life that it has reason to tremble a little at this severance. Yet he has borne himself the wise father, encouraging spontaneity and initiative, nudging here and checking there but fostering the independent child; and he has thus brought it to a stature that can stand the shock. It can take comfort, too, that he will not be altogether out of its reach for fatherly advice. This is the end of an era, but the era's works go on.

Succeeding Chairman Kent on the Studies editorial board, as on his more history-making Board of National Estimates, is Abbot E. Smith, long his deputy on the latter.

My colleagues on the Board of Editors have asked that I mark my retirement from the Board with a backward glance at the beginnings of the Studies in Intelligence and a drawing of some sort of balance sheet. What follows, is, I trust, a minimally autobiographical, but nevertheless wholly personal appraisal of the journal's accomplishments and disappointments.

First--about its establishment:

When the National War College convened in January 1947 after its Christmas recess, Bernard Brodie gave the morning lecture. His topic was the Grand Strategy. To the surprise of everyone, and the disquiet of some, his presentation was not about strategy but about how few Americans had interested themselves in the study of it. Citing the case of economics, he noted that a hundred and fifty years of study had produced from scratch a large library of highly enlightening literature. What had our military produced in the way of a literature regarding strategy, the heart of their profession? He answered this question by referring to Alfred Mahan, whose contributions to this literature was unique in both senses of the word: outstanding and lonesome. The speech came to a climax when Mr. Brodie identified a couple of strategic decisions of World War II which he held in low esteem and indicated that they might not have been made if Americans had devoted more time to thinking and writing about strategy. The moral was pointed and purposefully so: strategy is your business, why don't you systematize your thinking about it and perpetuate your reflections in a professional literature?


Sunday Before Christmas

One of the reasons I so vividly remember Mr. Brodie's remarks was that I realized at the time that everything he was saying about strategy could be said with equal force about intelligence. I had just completed almost five years in the business and was poised to begin work on my book Strategic Intelligence. In the next few months all that I had suspected regarding the absence of a literature of intelligence I was pretty well able to prove. Calling upon the library resources of the National War College and its able reference librarians, I believe that I read practically every printed document which our military had issued on the subject of intelligence and a number of typed student articles from the services' war colleges. There was nothing from the pen of a civilian intelligence practitioner. The collection was no better than I had anticipated, and going through it was a pretty shattering experience for an intelligence buff. Clearly, the profession ought to put the talent of a lot of its devotees to the creation of literature of the trade.

I did nothing much about the matter except for occasional broodings until one Sunday in December 1953. I had the morning duty in Mr. Dulles's office and after reading the cables I still had time on my hands. It was then that I wrote the memorandum that follows. The cover sheet of transmittal looked like this:

21 December 1953


The attached arises from:


  1. My general interest in the "Life."
  2. A sense of disquiet at the realization that Intelligence is a non-cumulative discipline.
  3. A sense of outrage at the infantile imprecision of the language of intelligence--I give you the NSCIDs for a starter.
  4. A desire to give Uncle Matt a Christmas gift.

At the bottom of the copy I have is written, in Matt Baird's hand:

    To OTR Staff and Division Chiefs
    re parag. 4--I like to share my Christmas cheer; comments will be acceptable in return!


Here is the memorandum itself:

SUBJECT: How a major flaw in the intelligence business (its lack of a serious systematic literature) might be corrected.

  1. Intelligence work in the US has become an important professional discipline.
  2. It has developed theory, doctrine, a vocabulary, and a multitude of techniques.
  3. Unlike most other important professional disciplines, it has not developed a literature worthy of the name.
  4. Without a literature intelligence has little or no formal institutional memory. What institutional memory it does possess exists in (a) fragments of thousands of memoranda primarily devoted to discrete intelligence operations, not to the theory and practice of the calling, and in (b) the living memories of people engaged in intelligence work.

    What kind of a way is this to run a railroad? Where would the sciences and social sciences be, if their students had not systematically contributed to their literatures?


    A literature is the best guarantee that the findings of a discipline will be cumulative.


    A disaster to our unlettered intelligence service such as occurred with the budgetary cut-backs of 1946-7, or as might occur with an A-bomb on Washington, could put US intelligence back to the stone age where it so long dwelled.
  6. How do you produce a literature?

    Some answers.

    a. You pay for it. That is, you offer a livelihood to the man who wants to write a book or an article during the time he requires to do the job.
    b. You make sure that the man who wants to write a book or article has something to say and a reasonable command of the art of verbal expression.
    c. You subsidize his publications. That is, you print at your own expense what your critics and editors think will advance the discipline.
    d. You circulate his publications and encourage comment thereon. You may wish to publish the best written comment.

  7. How would I go about the above?

    Some answers.

    a. I would establish on a modest scale an "Institute for Advanced Study of Intelligence."
    b. I would have a Board of Admissions who would both (1) pass on the suitability of applicants and (2) actually invite likely candidates who did not apply.
    c. I would have no one eligible for admission who had not had a substantial and varied experience in intelligence work and who was not capable of systematic thoughtful research, analysis, and writing. Further I would accept no one who did not have a well-thought-out project.
    d. The project would have to be in the field of intelligence work, overt and clandestine; not in the substantive findings of intelligence. Appropriate sample projects might be:

      (1) Strengths and weaknesses of intelligence dissemination techniques.
      (2) An examination of the "third agency" rule.
      (3) The theory of indicators.
      (4) The intelligence service of country X.

    Inadmissible projects would be:

      (1) The Red Army.
      (2) The Trieste situation.
      (3) The Outlook in Liberia, etc.

    e. I would have no faculty as such. I would have a director who would arrange for occasional meetings with outsiders and who would see to it that the students spent a few hours per week together in seminars at which the students would present papers and discuss them.
    f. The greatest part of the student's time would be his own to pursue his project through any means whatever with a view to publishing something at the end of his fellowship.
    g. I would establish a journal--probably a quarterly--which would be devoted to intelligence theory and doctrine, and the techniques of the discipline. I would have an editor who fully understood the limits of his mandate. The journal could be Top Secret; its component articles could be of any classification or unclassified. The editor would provide for the separate publication of "reprints" for separate circulation where appropriate.
    h. Along with the journal I would establish an "Intelligence Series" for longer works.

  8. Some dimensions.

    a. As a starter I would have no more than 10 or 12 students.
    b. They would receive their regular in-grade pay if they came from the government; they would receive appropriate compensation if drawn in from the outside. All would, of course, be fully cleared.
    c. They would be expected to be "in residence" at least 50 percent of the time; that is, at work in study or seminar rooms on the school premises.
    d. Although my major interest is in positive intelligence, I would always aim to have a few security intelligence students around.
    e. The duration of the fellowships would normally be one year. If I found a Mahan of intelligence I would keep him as long as he would stay.

There are hundreds of details beyond this rough outline. If the idea were accepted, they could be easily worked out.

What my school must never be is an intelligence equivalent of the higher service schools. If you feel the need of a model, study Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton--the Einstein school.


The Start

True to his penciled promise, Mr. Baird did discuss the memorandum with his principal lieutenants in the Office of Training. I can only surmise, for I was not present, that the founding of an Einstein school for research in intelligence method, doctrine, and history was put on a back burner and that my suggestion for the establishment of a journal was fetched up front over moderate heat. There followed, for example, a weekend conference at a country retreat sometime during 1954 and a good bit of general conversation about a journal--who should finance it, edit it, supervise it, and so on.

Some time later I was asked to set forth orally my thoughts about the journal before an Agency gathering with the understanding that the speech would be recorded and transcribed. This procedure was Mr. Baird's artful way of inducing me to produce, in writing, the first article of the new journal. When it appeared in print in September 1955 it bore the title "The Need for an Intelligence Literature: Articles by Sherman Kent and the Editors." My contribution was no more than an Englished version of the oral presentation, which in turn was an elaboration of the thoughts touched upon in the first five paragraphs of my Christmas memo to Matt Baird.

Before the appearance of the first number of the quarterly proper, there were two other unperiodic issues with a couple of articles each, the first including Abbot Smith's disquisition on the matter of capabilities in intelligence publications.(2) This gave rise in the second, oddly enough, to a comment by the British intelligence officer then representing the British Joint Intelligence Committee in Washington, Alan Crick. I say oddly, because soon after the journal began to appear in its present form, the Editors ruled that there should be no dissemination to friendly foreign services. The main articles in the last issue in slender format dealt with economic intelligence.

At the initiative of one of Matt Baird's able officers, James Lowe, the journal became a quarterly with the Fall issue of 1957, and starting in 1958 under the editorship of Philip Edwards it has come out four times a year ever since.

Now for the balance sheet: what is there about the journal that we can regard with pride and happiness, and what with regret?



Let me begin with the good ones: our second five years of quarterly existence has produced a larger number of contributions and a larger number of good ones than did our first five. In recent times there have often been many more pages of highly commendable manuscript than the editors wished to commit to a single number. It is not exactly that we are being lost in a blizzard of contributions, but compared to the bleak years of the fifties, we feel that we are doing very well indeed.

As to the quality, we should have to do no more than to call the reader's attention to the list of winners of the annual $500 prize(3) and advise him to reflect again on what whacking good articles they were and what a very substantial contribution to the lore of our profession they made. That the Board has on two occasions been unable to distinguish between the two or even three best essays and has accordingly split the award is explicit testimony, at least, of the Board's awareness that it has just passed through a bumper crop year.

That the Studies has in fact contributed to a richer understanding of the bones and viscera of the intelligence calling is beyond argument. We have run dozens of articles on intelligence history, the range of which can be sampled in those of Arthur Darling(4) on the early years of CIA, the half dozen on the early struggle between the Russian revolutionaries and the Tsar's Okhrana,(5) and William Harris's two on the March 1948 Berlin crisis, in which intelligence played a pivotal role.(6) None of these articles required a high security classification and all of them could have been disseminated widely as long memos. But who would have sponsored them, reproduced, and circulated them if there had been no Studies to serve as a vehicle?

The contribution of the journal to an appreciation of some of the aspects of intelligence theory and doctrine has been highly significant. I cite as outstanding examples the succession of articles by W. E. Seidel,(7) George Ecklund,(8) Clyde C. Wooten(9) and Julie D. Kerlin(10) clarifying the proper role of economic intelligence in defense planning, the many articles that discuss problems of estimative intelligence,(11) and the view from the summit in Richard Helms's "Intelligence in American Society," [Summer 1967].

Perhaps we have been at our best on intelligence method. Where else could a wide audience of professionals gain insight into such techniques as those illustrated in Thaxter L. Goodell's piece on cratology,(12) Paul R. Storm's on Soviet gold,(13) and C. N. Geschwind's comments on interrogation?(14) Increasingly, as intelligence itself turns more and more to science, we have featured new scientific methods, from David Brandwein's "Telemetry Analysis" three years ago [Fall 1964](15) to the new infrared reconnaissance techniques recently explained by R. E. Lawrence and Harry Woo.(16)

The point is that as one looks back through a cumulative index (which one should do(17)) he cannot escape the belief that the intelligence profession is indeed more professional and more durable now that it has the beginnings, at least, of this tangible institutional memory.

Another cheering aspect is inherent in the widening spectrum of contributors. There is not a major component of CIA that has not by now produced at least one author and an interesting article. Furthermore we have had a good number of contributions from intelligence officers not associated with the Agency in any way. One of our prize winners, Colonel Hartness, four years back, was such a man.(18)

Lastly, we have had a heart-warming reaction from our consumers. The members of the Board are pretty well convinced that our fan mail represents a genuine appreciation on the part of scores, perhaps even hundreds, of readers scattered all over Washington, indeed all over the world. As old intelligence officers, we are naturally suspicious of a warm consumer reaction, for well we know how rare it is that a consumer receiving a piece of substantive intelligence will ever give anything except a "thank you." To be sure, some of the thanks are a good bit less fervent than others. But what we have found particularly pleasant have been the requests from men running small intelligence units in large and small domestic and overseas commands asking permission to incorporate this or that article into one of their publications destined to circulate among their own people.

Probably our nicest fan letter was one which Adm. B. E. Moore, then of the CINCLANT headquarters, wrote to Adm. D. L. McDonald, the CNO, saying how he had come across our publication and suggesting that the CNO ask that it be sent to a good number of flag officers serving with major components of the Fleet. As a result, we put some 40 or 50 additional addressees on our distribution list.

A principal cause behind these good things has been our editor, Philip Edwards, whom we know to be the best in the business. When you read these words you must realize that he has been overcome by the Board's exercise of force majeure, and that the paragraph is appearing in print despite his efforts to kill it. Mr. Edwards combines his great skill as a critic with a rare talent for writing, a world of patience, and a great ability to help authors help themselves. The journal's successes owe more to him than any other single person.



And now for my regrets. The first has to do with the classification of the quarterly. The Secret stamp on the outside and what it means is obvious to all. The most melancholy implication is that it must be given what we call Class A storage, something none of us has in his home. Accordingly, one has had to read the journal on business premises and perhaps in business hours. This means that it has been competing for attention with urgent professional matters.

When I bespoke my hope for lots of unclassified articles in my first essay, I was clearly whistling Dixie. What the Board swiftly came to realize was that unclassified articles by people outside the government or the intelligence community were by definition going to be a great rarity--principally because we were not going to advertise that we had a vehicle to publish such writings. Even if we had successfully solicited, we would probably have had to reject most offerings on the grounds of quality or lack of sophistication. There are after all very few outsiders who have been able to keep abreast of the extraordinary developments of the profession from the vantage point of private life. And not many have chosen to do purely historical pieces or notes of reminiscence.

On the other hand, the very fact that an insider wrote such and such and that the Board thought it important enough to publish was oftentimes the prima facie reason to put some sort of classification stamp to it. In actual fact, the Board has on many occasions felt impelled to question sensitive topics discussed by an author and even to do a bit of sanitizing to get the contribution by as Secret.

All this is the long way of saying that, regrettable as is the Secret classification, it is the very best that can be done. We are convinced that there is no way by which our publication can be made into something which our readers can take home to read in the evening and which, at the same time, will have a content worthy of their attention. One reader wrote us a communication suggesting a commonsense method by which copies of the Studies could be kept out of the safe for an hour or so after close of business for people who wanted to stay after work to read them. We thought he had something and passed the idea along, but nothing came of it.

A second and last regret. No matter that, as noted above, the quantity of contributions has increased and the quality improved, there are by no means enough people in our vast community writing articles and submitting them. The Board of Editors, at each of its weekend meetings, spends several hours on Saturday night discussing subjects which would make interesting articles and trying to figure out who would be the best author to undertake them. Between meetings of the Board, members put in a good amount of time dunning their colleagues and acquaintances for an article of this or that specification. I should imagine that we receive in finished form one article for about every ten we ask for. Some of the articles which have finally appeared have required almost as much suasion or browbeating on the part of a Board member as they did effort on the part of the composer. On the other hand, the number of high-quality walk-ins has been low.

There are several reasons why this is so. To start with, the ideal author or authors for such and such a piece are as a rule overextended with the primary tasks of their job descriptions and cannot take on an additional duty. Nor do their supervisors by and large feel able to lighten their professional burdens for the two or three weeks which they would have to do the article in question.

Not infrequently the right author could be given time, but just does not want to take it. Maybe he has a quite understandable desire--to this writer, at least--to avoid the pain of literary composition at all costs. Maybe also the man or woman whose job keeps driving them down into the present and forcing them to look into the murk of the future can be pardoned for an indifferent concern about that which is over and done with. And many of the articles which we feel should be written are essentially historical in nature. Some of these have an added built-in repulsiveness. For example, who is naturally inclined to go back over the history of an intelligence blooper? The fact that such a backward glance could be of immense professional importance does little to alleviate its essential unattractiveness.

Though the so-called missile gap debate owed but little to the shortcomings of intelligence, getting an article going on the subject has so far been impossible. One reason--not the ruling one--has been a reluctance on the part of knowledgeable analysts to return to the agonies of our early estimating on the Soviet ICBM force and relive those days of groping around in the uncertainties of Soviet ability to build the missiles and the magnitude of the force which the Soviets would probably wish to deploy.

No such Freudian explanation is applicable to our experience in getting the article which we published in the autumn of 1966 on "The Detection of Joe I," the first Soviet nuclear test. This piece, which recounted one of our country's truly great intelligence successes, required more effort in terms of false starts and carryover from year to year than any other we have printed. Here perhaps the issues of security and delicacy were important inhibitors. Telling the story orally in a safe place to an inside group possessed of every clearance in the book would have been one thing, telling it in writing at the Secret level for publication to the community at large quite another. The stupid little mechanical difficulties of the latter course could and probably did very rapidly build up into a mountainous barrier.

Whatever the difficulties and however overcome, the Studies in Intelligence venture has been eminently worthwhile. The Board's celebration of its tenth anniversary a year ago presaged, I trust, not so much a ceremony of self-congratulation for a decade of past performance as an earnest of still other decades of good and useful work to come.




(1) Matthew Baird, then CIA Director of Training.

(2) [Studies in Intelligence (May 1956). The Editor of these Collected Essays has provided Studies citations for the articles mentioned in this essay.]

(3) 1960--Clyde R. Heffter ["A Fresh Look at Collection Requirements" (Fall)]; 1961--Albert D. Wheelon and Sidney N. Graybeal (co-authors) ["Intelligence for the Space Race" (Fall)]; 1962--F. M. Begoum ["Observations on the Double Agent" (Winter)]; 1963--(1) Paul R. Storm ["Estimating the Soviet Gold Position" (Fall)] and (2) Lt. Col. William Hartness ["Aspects of Counterinsurgency Intelligence" (Fall)]; 1964--(1) Andrew J. Twiddy ["The Recruitment of Soviet Officials" (Winter)], (2) Theodore H. Tenniswood ["The Coordination of Collection" (Spring)], and (3) Thaxter L. Goodell ["Cratology Pays Off" (Fall)]; 1965--John Whitman ["On Estimating Reactions" (Summer)]; 1966--James Burke ["Seven Years to Luna 9" (Summer)]; 1967--Henry S. Lowenhaupt ["The Decryption of a Picture" (Summer) and "On the Soviet Nuclear Scent" (Summer)].

(4) ["Origins of Central Intelligence,"(Summer 1964), "The Birth of Central Intelligence" (Spring 1966), "Central Intelligence Under Souers," (Winter 1968), "With Vandenberg as DCI" (Summer and Fall 1968), and "DCI Hillenkoetter: Soft Sell and Stick" (Winter 1969)].

(5) [All by Rita T. Kronenbitter. "The Okhrana's Female Agents" (Spring and Summer 1965), "Okhrana Agent Dolin" (Spring 1966), "Paris Okhrana 1885-1905" (Summer 1966), "The Illustrious Career of Arkadiy Harting" (Spring 1967), "The Sherlock Holmes of the Revolution" (Fall 1967), and "Paris Okhrana: Final Phase" (Summer 1968)].

(6) ["March Crisis 1948 Act I," and "March Crisis 1948 Act II" (Fall 1966 and Spring 1967)].

(7) ["Intelligence for Defense Planning" (Summer 1964).]

(8) ["Guns or Butter Problems in the Cold War" (Fall 1965).]

(9) Clyde C. Wooten, ["Economic Intelligence in Defense Planning" (Winter 1966).]

(10) ["Military-Economic Estimating: A Positive View" (Fall 1966).]

(11) These are compiled conveniently under one cover in the new publication cited on p. 74 of this issue. But already this is outdated by Jack Zlotnick's "A Theorem for Prediction" in the last issue of the Studies [Fall 1967],Willard Matthias's "How Three Estimates Went Wrong" in this [Winter 1968], and Keith Clark's "Notes on Estimating," Summer 1967.

(12) ["Cratology Pays Off" (Fall 1964).]

(13) ["Estimating the Soviet Gold Position" (Fall 1963).]

(14) ["Counterintelligence Interrogation" (Winter 1965).]

(15) See also his article in the current issue ["Interaction in Weapons R&D" (Winter 1968)].

(16) ["Infrared Imagery in Overhead Reconnaissance" (Summer 1967).]

(17) See the compilation at the end of this issue [Winter 1968].

(18) ["Aspects of Counterinsurgency Intelligence" (Fall 1963).]

Historical Document
Posted: Mar 19, 2007 11:00 AM
Last Updated: Jul 07, 2008 02:09 PM