The Intelligence of Nations: Adam Smith Examines the Intelligence Economy

By Todd Brethauer


Editor’s Note: In this era of downsizing and budgetary constraints, the US Intelligence Community faces the familiar challenge of being asked to do more with fewer resources. In the following article, the author offers a novel, new economic arrangement between intelligence producers and consumers.

What should we do? Who should do it? How much should we pay? The answers to these questions will determine the future structure and operation of the US Intelligence Community. Public debate on reinventing intelligence to date has focused on organizational relationships and interactions. When intelligence was a cottage industry, this was an adequate approach. In dealing with today’s global intelligence enterprise, however, this anthropological perspective no longer suffices. If the goal of changing the Intelligence Community is improved efficiency, accountability, and responsiveness to the nation’s needs, the relationship between intelligence producers and consumers has to be redefined in economic terms—Adam Smith, not Margaret Mead.

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