Monday, October 29, 2007
- Joe Mazzafro

Last month I gave you my slant on the September Analytic Transformation Conference in Chicago, where the IC dignitary seemed to conclude that collaboration across the IC would indeed be transformational. A less convinced group of mostly retired IC practitioner now toiling in the private sector gathered at the NRO on 17-18 October for the AFCEA Fall Intelligence Symposium to hear from a cross section of speakers about “Information Sharing and Collaboration.” Seems to me that the IC and those who make money selling goods and services to the IC believe collaboration is the missing condition for returning the IC to its halcyon (though in my view undeserved) reputation of the Cold War days for protecting our national security.

Since collaboration is such an important and recurring topic of discussion at least some at the AFCEA Fall Symposium were wondering if collaboration was something that could actually be described or was it more akin to pornography as being something you know when you see it. During the first day’s panel on “’Responsibility To Provide’ Inside and Outside the Intelligence Community” Louis Andre, former DIA Senior Analyst and now with CACI, was asked to: provide a very brief description of the "Information Sharing End State" that you envision and whether you can cite any models, operational or proposed, that come close to illustrating your vision?" That Louis had a well thought out response made many of us realize that we would have struggled to answer this most basic of questions because collaboration in an IC context is something we can recognize but don’t actually understand. Since many request the text of Louis response here it is (emphasis is his)!

I envision an end state where the National Security Community, operating a system-of-systems, functions as an Enterprise that enables ubiquitous collaboration and precise exchange - of data, information, knowledge, and expertise -- based on and driven by mission need. As envisioned, the "National Security Community enterprise" comprises not just the IC (those who fall under the DNI) but also, at a minimum, organizations, systems, and individuals that fall under the purview of the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security and "exchange" includes intelligence, operations, law enforcement, and security data, information, knowledge, and expertise. Data access is based on "availability at its earliest point of consumability" wherein consumability is defined as the ability for an organization or individual to act on, add value to, or otherwise apply that data at that particular point in its life cycle (pre- or post- productization, for example). Some models I would cite are: 1.) The temporary constructs and authorities established for CONUS-based national security events such as the Atlanta Olympics where we were able to transcend jurisdictional boundaries and close the seams between law enforcement and intelligence, CONUS and OCONUS collection, foreign and domestic operational authorities, etc. 2.) Tactical intelligence centers in Iraq and Afghanistan where real "all-source" intelligence analysis, collection management, and problem-solving is occurring and 3.) the overarching (yet still unrealized) operating concepts for the NCTC.

Not being as smart as Louis and not having a better answer I am happy to accept this description of a workable collaborative end state for the IC. A strategic vision like this is important because if you don’t know were you are going any road will get you there. In a community as large and complex as the IC, for collaboration to be wide spread and effective there is a need for both governance and structure for programming and budgeting.

Last month I bemoaned that the IC has been procrastinating since the early 90s on becoming more collaborative. In a right brain/left brain way I don’t see why the practical side of the IC can’t experiment with collaborative tools and processes so more of us can recognize it when we see it and get the benefit of it, while the metaphysical/academic side of the IC works out what collaboration is and should do in the IC context so we can measure it.

Finally, there was one other seminal question (at least to me) asked at the Fall AFCEA Symposium that is worth pondering: "complete this sentence....Intelligence provided to our customers would be better if.... (fill in the blank)." So, what do you think?

Share Your Thoughts:


As an instructor in the joint warfighting department at the USAF Air Command and Staff College, I see your point very well. There is a plethora of good rationale for why we should collaborate across agencies and departments, but there is very little structure or agreed upon processes to start from that define what we should or shouldn't be collaborating about.

There are many avenues that must be explored and we need to collectively build the cognitive elements of the collaborative environment that allow us to operate more effectively and efficiently. That means we need to define some structures of the collaborative environment, some expectations and frameworks that will help us. I like to tell my students that we need to define the synapses that need to be connected and then find appropriate collaborative frameworks that help us to operate regularly acorss those synapses. That means we also define the processes better and add value to the collaboration process.

If we can start to identify and develop these synapses, we will go a long way to move collaboration from a good idea, nice to do it realm to a substantive capability that furthers ours goals and execution capabilities.

Joe, enabling increased collaboration across the enterprise addresses one of the major deficiencies of stovepipe functional intelligence organizations and hierarchical operational and policy structures - This is an important but insufficient improvement, Subject matter expertise and experience and analytical rigor (tradecraft) must also be improved through significant investment in professional development and education, coupled with supporting personnel management policies that incentivizes development and retention of analytical expertise.

The collaboration question as we're discussing it does not take in account sufficiently the issue of discriminating among the various kinds of intelligence with which the Community works. Discussion regarding collaboration and information sharing has been fueled by the challenges of terrorism and the difficulties associated integrating foreign intelligence and domestic law enforcement information. The need to detect and prevent terrorist actions and the imperative to give our warfighters a decisive information advantage - both are valid, but they should not tempt us to exclude longer-term views for which collaboration and information are also valuable. The Community is working today to reinvigorate intelligence research, detailed and insightful understanding of complex, dynamic, but enduring topics. Questions relating to China's long-term economic prospects (and implications for our country), WMD proliferation, the economic and political aspects of climate change, the dynamics fundamentalist influences & all require patient study, the accrual of intelligence and reasoned opinion, and the systematic building of analytic competence. Finding collaborative tools and environments that contribute to long-term understanding, to our ability to conduct intelligence research, is just as important a need a using collaboration and information to get inside an adversary's OODA loop.

If one accepts this view, one might also consider the extent to which intelligence research and collaboration should connect the Community's analysts and producers with its customers. Contemporary business enterprises have worked hard to connect producers, sellers, and consumers in a common value chain. Our best academic disciplines stress peer review among a wide range of practioners. So, what can we do to include warriors, diplomats, and policy-makers throughout the Government in a process of long-term collaboration and information sharing that both enriches our strategic understanding of enduring topics and builds a common community of ever-greater competence? To what extend must we let the divide between the Community's role in providing intelligence and the proscription to make policy diminish the value of the intelligence we make available to decision-makers at all levels? Can we - and should we - involve the Community more strongly understanding the policy implications of foreign developments and in weighing options, even as we respect the prohibition against Community "policy-making?" And, if we go down this path more strongly, what tools should we use? What safeguards need we employ?