Needed: More Thinking about Conceptual Frameworks for Analysis—The Case of Influence

Bolstering Analytic Tradecraft
Needed: More Thinking about Conceptual Frameworks for Analysis—The Case of Influence

Jason U. Manosevitz

US policymakers want intelligence that helps them avoid surprise, understand evolving developments, and identify opportunities to advance US objectives or avoid risks to national security interests. How is China’s power in Asia evolving? How can the United States influence political developments in Egypt? What can be done to shape Iranian and North Korean leaders’ decisions about their nuclear programs? What public diplomacy efforts might overcome the appeal of terrorist ideologies? How can stability be brought to tumultuous regions in Africa?

Policymakers who must answer these kinds of questions expect Intelligence Community (IC) analysis to help tackle them. Many structured analytic techniques (SATs) that IC analysts use are well suited to exposing assumptions and to carrying out an analyst's first duty-which is to warn. The IC's overwhelming focus on SATs since 9/11 however has crowded out attention to conceptual frameworks that analysts and policymakers need in order to address many of our national security questions, such as those above.

This article reviews a framework for thinking about the concept of influence and suggests that conceptual frameworks can complement SATs to strengthen analytic tradecraft. The application of influence is fundamental to policymakers trying to shape events, but it is only one of many conceptual frameworks that analysts could usefully develop and incorporate in their analysis. My goal in this discussion is to spark more attention to core conceptual frameworks in the course of IC analysis and generate debate about how to continue developing analytic tradecraft.

Jason Manosevitz is an analyst in CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence. He is also a member of the Editorial Board of Studies in Intelligence.

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Posted: Feb 12, 2014 11:13 AM
Last Updated: Feb 12, 2014 11:13 AM