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The Kent-Kendall Debate of 1949

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Debate

 

 

 

 

 

 

Research and Analysis Branch (R&A) in what started as the Office of the Coordinator of Information and was transformed in 1942 into the Office of Strategic Services. R&A was quickly dubbed the "Four-Eyes Brigade." whose most powerful weapon was the index card.4 At war's end, though, Kent described it as an institution "of almost bewildering power, resourcefulness, and flexibility." s

 

bonds between first-rate scholarship and national defense.7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kent relied mostly upon his experience as historian and analyst, though he also read through the "infantile" student essays on intelligence at the War College library, and conducted bull sessions and exchanges of letters with an impressive array of R&A, Yale University, and War College colleagues. His third and final draft was completed late in 1947, at which time he did return to teaching history at Yale.

 

 

 

 

Kent was proud as well of his own wartime achievements, especially the Herculean research effort in support of planning for the 1942 Allied invasion of North Africa. He won recognition for his bureaucratic as well as his research skills, especially his ability to manage often reluctant fellow scholars to work as teams and to meet deadlines as well as standards. For the North African exercise, his unit worked around the clock for several days and impressed the military consumers with the wealth of useful information uncovered from R&A's perch in the Library of Congress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1950, in the wake of the Korean War emergency, Director of Central Intelligence Agency General Walter Bedell Smith in effect drafted Kent back into intelligence service. Kent was named deputy and heir apparent to his old R&A boss William Langer for the new Office of National Estimates (ONE). Kent was recognized as one of the leading US authorities on intelligence research. Indeed, General Smith's deputy, William Jackson, had lobbied to have him named to the top ONE post.8 Kent served as head of ONE from 1952 until his retirement from the agency in 1967. As with his R&A experience, he impressed his colleagues with a talent for leadership as well as scholarship.9

 

 

 

 

For his efforts, Kent was recognized as the senior R&A division chief when, upon the abolition of OSS in 1945, the 1,500-strong research unit was moved to the State Department. He rose quickly to deputy and then acting director of the newly created Office of Research and Intelligence. No pride here; rather, dismay. His two bosses quit in response to State's gutting of R&A. Kent himself resigned in mid-1946. He was unable to accept the scattering of the research cadre to the various geographic policy bureaus, who went to work directly under the command of the assistant secretaries.6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kent's Doctrine: 1949

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One reason for the continued attention by academic specialists on intelligence to a book now over 40 years old is that little else of Kent's thoughts on the subject is readily available. Kent made a point of not talking or writing publicly about the "business," even after retirement.10 Those, including myself, who served under Kent and have access to others who worked with him during his 17 years with CIA have a handicap of their own. They have to take care to distinguish between the Kent of the book and the practicing Kent.

 

 

 

 

Kent arranged for an extension of his leave of absence from Yale, in order not to cut loose either from the Washington scene or from his concerns about the future of "strategic intelligence." First, he spent a semester teaching at the newly formed National War College. Then, with funds from a Guggenheim Fellowship and in an office at the War College, he proceeded to draft the book that, as he put it, "wild horses" could not keep him from turning out. If he had a priority goal, it was to preserve what he saw as the rapidly fraying

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the final chapter of Strategic Intelligence, Kent characterized the relationship between "producers and consumers of intelligence" as "one of utmost delicacy." The relationship did not establish itself but required "a great deal of conscious effort, and

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:48 AM
Last Updated: Aug 04, 2011 08:36 AM