Improving Policymaker Understanding of Intelligence

An Educated Consumer Is Our Best Customer

Dennis C. Wilder

The quality of service a consumer receives from the IC depends heavily on the expertise and experience that the policymaker or legislator brings to their interaction with the IC.

This essay was a recipient of the top prize in the 2010 Galileo Intelligence Community Award competition. The competition, held annually since 2004, is intended to provide active members of the Intelligence Community opportunities to put forward innovative ideas.—Editor

It may seem odd to title a paper on Intelligence Community (IC) innovation in the 21st century with the commercial slogan made famous by discount clothier Sy Syms. But this slogan holds the key to solving some of the challenges vexing IC leaders that span issues from policymaker expectations to intelligence budgets to public perceptions of the IC. At the core of this paper is the contention that we have neglected the education of our customers—defined as appointed and elected officials and the American public—to our own detriment. The quality of service consumers receive from the IC depends heavily on the expertise and experience that policymakers or legislators bring to their interaction with the IC. Our chronic failure to communicate across the policy-intelligence divide has led to pent-up frustrations on both sides and, too often, charges of intelligence failure. This proposal provides a series of recommendations for the ODNI on redesigning the policy-intelligence interface and implementing a strategic communications strategy that leverages new social media so that the American people and the policy community will better understand and appreciate the centrality of the Intelligence Community to national security.

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All statements of fact, opinion, or analysis expressed in this article are those of the author. Nothing in the article should be construed as asserting or implying US government endorsement of an article’s factual statements and interpretations.

Posted: Jul 06, 2011 07:01 PM
Last Updated: Jul 06, 2011 07:01 PM