The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York and on government facilities in Washington, DC, irreversibly altered the foundations of US national security policy. It also reshaped the imperatives that drive the work of the US Intelligence Community. On the eve of the second anniversary of that attack, the Center for the Study of Intelligence (CSI) assembled a group of approximately 85 experts at a conference in Charlottesville, Virginia, to think through the implications of this new world for our profession. CSI sponsorship was in keeping with the Center’s original mandate from DCI James Schlesinger-assemble the best minds and bring them to bear on the most critical challenges to the Agency and to the Intelligence Community.
Within the Community, far-reaching changes were well underway during the decade that preceded the 9/11 attacks. They stemmed from the collapse of the Soviet Union and the pressures for adaptation to the post-Cold War environment. As the bipolar confrontation receded and a more fluid, chaotic world of diverse threats emerged, intelligence programs were refocused and resources were realigned to a new set of priorities. In important respects, evolutionary and adaptive changes were indeed beginning to create a more flexible, agile, and responsive Intelligence Community. But the tidal wave generated by the shock of 9/11 soon overtook and broke over the Community in a way that has led many observers to question the adequacy of evolutionary changes. Existing organizational arrangements, legal authorities, institutional cultures, business practices, and support architectures are all being reexamined with a new intensity. The importance of timely intelligence is indisputable, and the consequences of failure are unthinkable.
The conference opened with a broad-ranging consideration of the evolution of the international security environment, the changing American role in it, and the best stratagems for ensuring that intelligence priorities and guidelines conform to the needs of policymakers. It also examined in detail the changing intelligence needs of specific user communities and the ability of intelligence to meet them. Most importantly, it considered possible procedural and institutional changes that might enhance the capabilities of the Intelligence Community in this new era.