Chapter 7: External Analysis


To enhance our analysis through collaboration with academia, industry, and nongovernmental organizations, to expand our knowledge base, share burdens, challenge assumptions, bring additional perspectives to bear, and encourage innovative thinking.


Desired Outcomes:

FY 2005

  • Routine interagency collaboration on external research plans, objectives, and events.
  • New external interaction policies and legislation focused on risk management.
  • IC skills clearinghouse, policies, and contracting vehicle to support an Intelligence reserve.
  • Convenient collaboration with external experts at both classified and unclassified levels.
  • Easy and routine use of alternative/competitive analysis in appropriate IC products.
  • IC-level strategy to set priorities for data mining and Internet exploitation.

FY 2010

  • Analytic, policy, and legislative culture that supports full exploitation and integration of external experts.
  • Intelligence reserve fully operational and part of IC planning and support.
  • Real-time collaboration from analytic desktop at multiple levels of security as appropriate.
  • Alternative/competitive analysis fully integrated into IC products as appropriate.
  • Increased level of effort to engage external expertise is tied to IC strategy to exploit the expanding realm of unclassified information.

[Top of page]


The Intelligence Community no longer has, if ever it did, the expert on every topic of potential national security interest.  We must systematically look to outside experts to help us exploit the open source environment more effectively, fill important information gaps, and stimulate innovative thinking and alternative viewpoints.  The range of outside expertise we can tap to do this is impressive and more readily accessible than ever before.  We must leverage this expertise and take advantage of the new information environment to produce the most authoritative analysis. 

[Top of page]


Leveraging External Research in a Changing Environment 

Over the past decade, the quantity of intelligence-relevant information available from open sources and outside experts has increased dramatically.  The globalization of the media (illustrated, for instance, by CNN’s coverage of the Gulf War in 1991), the rapid development of the Internet and new communications technologies, and the emergence of the global economy have all combined to provide an infusion of open and gray 1  information that has never before been so widely and readily available.  Much of this unclassified information has significant utility to the Intelligence Community and our customers.  Identifying, gaining access to, and evaluating that information, however, poses a significant challenge. 

As the volume of relevant information has grown, the number, diversity, and complexity of intelligence targets has increased.  Today’s  intelligence analysts face a multipolar world in which a growing number of state and nonstate actors pose a significant danger to the United States.  As a result, our analytic community is asked, and must be prepared, to respond on a broad range of topics.  Moreover, the Intelligence Community is frequently required to shift rapidly to new topics that were barely on the intelligence horizon yesterday but about which policymakers need sophisticated, in-depth assessments today. 

In this more interdependent world, customers are exposed to information and perspectives from sources outside the Intelligence Community, and they expect that we will be equally conversant.  Just keeping up with the vast amount of unclassified data available poses a major challenge for analysts.  Using external partners to help filter or analyze information can help focus our analysts and improve efficiency.

[Top of page]


Forging the Network 

The Intelligence Community already takes advantage of a wide variety of external expert  ise, including large research firms, independent contractors, academics, and leaders in business and industry, as well as military reservists and non-intelligence government organizations such as national laboratories.  These individuals, groups, and organizations provide information, ideas, expertise, analysis, and judgments.  For the analytic community, this results in the:

  • Provision of expert knowledge not resident in the Intelligence Community that fills knowledge gaps and allows us to enhance our coverage of intelligence areas and topics.
  • Creation of knowledge-gaining opportunities for analysts and the enrichment of their capabilities.
  • Augmentation of personnel when the number of inside analysts may not be sufficient.
  • Creation of part or all of selected intelligence products.
  • Vetting of alternative perspectives through red teaming and competitive analysis.
  • Development of new analytic methodologies.

Overall, the Intelligence Community has had significant success in bringing outside expertise to bear on topics of interest.  Although each organization approaches the problem somewhat differently, and generally independently, there is significant commonality in the type of out  reach activities conducted. 

  • The National Intelligence Council (NIC) has made outreach a central tenet of its efforts to improve the quality of its product.  The NIC relies primarily upon a network of individual outside experts to produce special papers, conduct seminars, review or con  tribute to selected National Intelligence Estimates, and provide longer-term consulting services.  The NIC also manages a number of panels and committees that tap out  side senior-level expertise.
  • CIA consults with several hundred individual experts from the academic and business communities, has an extensive set of analyt  ic contracts with some of the country’s leading institutions. 
  • DIA also contracts with many of the major commercial research firms, some government organizations such as the nuclear laboratories, and independent contractors. Nearly all of the DIA external analysis efforts are directed toward acquiring expertise or hosting seminars on military topics in the technical scientific and engineering fields. 
  • The Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence Research plays a prominent role in outreach.  INR organizes numerous seminars and conferences that enable State and the Intelligence Community to tap the expertise of outside experts.  INR also man  ages the Research and Training Program on Eastern Europe and the Independent States of the Former Soviet Union (Title VIII). This program builds and sustains expertise in the United States on Russia, Eurasia, and Eastern Europe through support for advanced graduate and language training and post-doctoral research.
  • The National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) has a long standing and highly suc  cessful program of hiring university faculty and integrating them into the staff.  
  • NSA sponsors target study seminars in which academics, private industry experts, military commanders, and government policymakers brief NSA analysts on key issues confronting the United States.  
  • The Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) has a particularly active program of outreach to the national laboratories, businesses, and academic experts.  Academics supplement the knowledge of ONI analysts or fill gaps where specialized expertise is required.  In addition to individual experts, ONI has special access to university experts and other world-class government engineers and scientists.

[Top of page]


Sharing External Expertise 

The information, analysis, and expertise obtained by the Intelligence Community from external sources is of maximum utility only when it is shared.  Many efforts are underway to increase cross-Community visibility and cooperation.  These efforts include networking to identify qualified external experts and organizations as well as joint sponsorship and shared access to external research conferences and events.  Joint conference sponsorships can involve shared funding and collaboration on special events or conferences. 

Many programs take great pains to disseminate information gained from their outreach efforts. For instance, reports typically will be sent to interested analysts, and videotapes of seminars or written summaries will be made available on classified websites.  Although these approaches do not provide all the benefit of seminar atten  dance, they do expand the potential audience for external commentary. 

[Top of page]


Investment Strategy: How to Leverage the Global Knowledge Base 

Despite current successes, a number of problems inhibit the utility of ongoing external research activities.  The Intelligence Community must:

  • Make contact easier and quicker.  The ability to contact outside partners through routine secure and nonsecure communications is critical to support routine and surge operations.
  • Share initiatives more effectively.  A comprehensive mechanism is needed to alert analysts at one agency to events involving external experts being conducted at another. This will increase cross-Community participation and benefit.
  • Recapture lost expertise through out sourcing some analysis.  The Intelligence  Community has an extremely limited ability to identify and track annuitants who have skills of continuing interest.  Ad hoc efforts exist, but there are no formal mechanisms at either the Community or individual agency levels to fill this gap.  Steps could be taken to create a database of interested retiring professionals.
  • Institute a policy framework to facilitate outreach.  A variety of policy and legislative problems inhibit the use of outside expertise, specifically for short periods or to comment on or participate fully in creating Community products. 
  • Establish a way to locate and tap outside experts quickly.  The Community currently  has no central mechanism or database for identifying appropriate external experts quickly.  This makes it hard to consult them in surge situations, when their utility may be greatest. 
  • Share information of common interest about external experts.  The Community has no clearinghouse or repository of external experts either on contract or known to  be available.

[Top of page]


To accomplish these strategic goals, the following initiatives are necessary:

1. Build an Intelligence Community Reserve.  An Intelligence reserve could be  used to augment the analytic cadre for both surge and normal coverage purposes.

Implementing Actions: 

  • Develop a Community-wide template for our agencies to incorporate in their transition programs that would encourage individuals leaving the Intelligence Community to apply for inclusion in an Intelligence reserve.
  • Develop appropriate contract mechanisms and work with Congress to create legal remedies to existing constraints on the hiring of former employees.  
  • Develop a strategy for alerting retirees to the possibility of joining the reserve.  Frame an approach that would allow those interested to retain appropriate security clearances.
  • Develop an Internet-based interface that would allow reservists to update their contact and skills information. 
  • Initiate a pilot program.  Review, adjust, and expand the program.

2. Improve interagency visibility of available  external research resources and activities.  The Community spends significant resources on external research activities.  Broadening knowledge and understanding of these activi  ties should ensure minimal duplication of efforts and promote more efficient IC exploita  tion of these assets.

Implementing Actions: 

  • Create an on-line clearinghouse for seminars and projects using external experts. This clearinghouse will keep analysts informed of upcoming events and convey the results of those efforts.  This site will also provide outreach program managers the capability to more easily exchange information among themselves.  
  • Create a database containing external research contract efforts.  The Intelligence Community currently has no simple mechanism to coordinate its efforts for external research.  While each agency has slightly different needs and different customers, sharing knowledge of these research efforts may allow efficiencies and cost savings not available today. 

3. Develop a strategy to embrace and exploit the emerging “information environment.”  External research can be considered a “value-added” hybrid somewhere between open source and human intelligence reporting. Numerous private companies are now providing both periodic and ad hoc informational products geared to the specific interests of their customers—some of which are agencies within the Intelligence Community.  These companies provide not only tailored information but analysis of that information and estimates of outcomes and implications as well.  For their input, such companies depend largely on open  source information.  Thus, apart from the value of their insights and analysis, these firms could help us mine the vast amount of open source information for the nuggets we both value.  The Community needs to develop a corporate strategy to use these external sources more effectively.  Welding together these efforts will be critical to maximizing use of our scarce resources. 

Implementing Actions: 

  • Catalogue and share awareness of current efforts to leverage commercially-available sources of external analysis.  Identify best practices.
  • Develop a strategy that recognizes the role, criteria for use, and capability of external partners to filter/analyze information. 
  • Building on these baseline efforts, develop a funding approach containing a list of options and their fiscal impact—including the possible establishment of a coordinating body to implement a Community-wide strategy for Internet exploitation and purchases from open source data companies.  

4. Improve communications with external  research partners.  Ease of communications— both open and secure—with external research partners is essential to fully integrate external research into the analytic process.  To that end, we will need an appropriate suite of digital communications tools, including audio, video, graphical, and textual mechanisms.

Implementing Actions: 

  • Initiate a requirements study, in cooperation with the IC Chief Information Officer, that will lead to development of effective capabilities to communicate with external partners.  Desired capabilities include web  based audio/video conferencing and white  boards to share graphical or textual information (either at the desktop, or using stand  alone equipment or facilities)—thus enabling analysts and others to participate remotely in external research seminars, and classified and unclassified “chat-rooms.”

5. Establish competitive and alternative  analysis as a standard approach on issues of  vital national significance.  Some subjects are so important that we must make sure we consider alternative perspectives through mechanisms like competitive analysis and red teaming.

Implementing Actions: 

  • Identify increased opportunities for competitive and alternative analysis.  
  • Work with the National Intelligence Council on a pilot establishing standards for competitive and alternative analysis to be included in the NIE process.

6.  Develop a Community-wide strategy for optimizing the benefits of our partnerships with industry, academia, and other government agencies while protecting our secrets  and equities.  The DCI identified a need to improve the policies and procedures governing our relationships with the outside world as a priority in his Strategic Intent.  Extensive regulations and legislation currently govern how the Community interacts with external research partners.  We need to review these policies, using security risk management and reasonable ethical standards as a guide.  We cannot make maximum use of outside resources without effective policies and legislation to facilitate the integration of external experts into our workflow. 

Implementing Action: 

  • Conduct an intensive Community review of  policies and legislation regarding external research over the next year and recommend revisions as appropriate.  This review should build upon the best practices extant in the Community today, with an eye toward making it easier to establish continuing relationships with academics and other outside experts, communicate actively through e-mail and the Internet, and exchange ideas in a collaborative environment. 

[Top of page]



 1.  Gray information is unclassified but proprietary or otherwise sensitive information to which public or outside access is  restricted.  As we enhance our outreach to external expertise, dealing with information that our outside partners deem to  be sensitive may require new policies and legal guidance.


Posted: Apr 24, 2007 11:06 AM
Last Updated: Jan 03, 2012 12:44 PM