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U.S Intelligence: An Introduction

Training must change. It is time to compel analysis that will meet the new threat picture. 

U.S. Intelligence: An Introduction provides a broad overview of the roles, functions, activities and current issues facing the U.S. Intelligence Community. This class is specifically designed to provide government, military, academic, and contractor professionals working with the Intelligence Community a firm basis for understanding the Community’s roles, needs, and culture and the issues that they are facing today as the Community deals with a new structure and new threats.

This class places special emphasis on the ongoing changes in U.S. Intelligence and the issues that these changes raise, and the changes that have been implemented since 2001 and how they are progressing. The 2-day course is comprised of the following core modules with associated learning objectives, each of which helps meet the needs noted above:

Legal Basis & Budgeting

The laws and executive orders that govern U.S. intelligence and the structure of the budget, including the makeup of the two main components, the National Intelligence Program (NIP) and the Military Intelligence Program (MIP).

The Learning Objectives include understanding the laws that govern U.S. intelligence structure and activities and understanding the basic composition of both parts of the intelligence budget, as well as major sub-components of the budget.

Structure & Missions

The key organizing and methodological principles that guide the structure and function of the Intelligence Community; the role and function of each of the main agencies and of the DNI; and the issues that continue to be problematic in managing U.S. intelligence.

The Learning Objectives include understanding the various types of functions carried out in U.S. intelligence (analysis, operational, acquisition) and the roles played by each of the major intelligence agencies, the inherent issue of coordination, and a sense of how the DNI is faring.

National Security Threats in the 21st Century

What are the main policy issues that drive U.S. intelligence; the role of the National Intelligence Priorities Framework (NIPF); the intelligence implications of the main policy issues (including terrorism, WMD, failed states; military deployments, et al.); and the role of opportunity analysis.

The Learning Objectives include understanding the key issues that currently concern policy makers and how these concerns are then translated into intelligence problem sets, many of which the students will be dealing with.


We review the strengths and weaknesses of each of the collection disciplines (HUMINT, GEOINT, SIGINT, MASINT, OSINT), the intelligence issues (as discussed in the previous module) for which they are each best suited, and Community collection management issues.

The Learning Objectives include understanding how the various INTs work, which agencies are responsible for them and the relative strengths and weaknesses of each INT.

Covert Action

Formally, “activities of the United States Government to influence political, economic, or military conditions abroad” is among the most controversial activities undertaken by the Intelligence Community. Covert action raises issues of legal authorities, roles, and missions, Congressional oversight, and ethical and moral standards. This module discusses these various issues as well as the types of activities usually conducted as covert action, with historic examples.

The Learning Objectives include understanding the legal basis and authorities for covert action; the concept of “plausible deniability;” and the types of activities that fall under the term “covert action.”

Intelligence Analysis

The key issues driving U.S. intelligence analysis, including policy maker focus, workforce issues, and the continuing legacy of 9/11 and Iraq WMD.

The Learning Objectives include achieving a better understanding of the stresses, strengths, and weaknesses inherent in intelligence analysis.

Congress & the Intelligence Community

What is the role of Congress in intelligence; how intelligence oversight has developed; key intelligence issues between Congress and the Executive branch.

The Learning Objectives emphasize a better appreciation of the legitimate role Congress plays in determining U.S. intelligence policy, as well as the political factors that come into play.

Cyber: An Introduction

Cyber has moved to the top of the national security agenda. This module offers an introduction to some of the historical, policy, legal, and intelligence issues related to cyber.

The Learning Objective is to give the students a better context in which to think about cyber issues, without the attendant hype, and how they might best be handled. We incorporate threat and collection exercises into the 2-day course. These are particularly useful in helping the students to begin applying their knowledge to real problems.



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Course Instructor

Mark M. Lowenthal is an author and adjunct professor at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C. He has written five books and over 90 articles or studies on intelligence and national security. His book Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy has become a standard undergraduate and graduate text. In 2005, Lowenthal retired from a prolific career working with the United States Intelligence Community and a recognized national security affairs expert. 

He is the former Assistant Director of Central Intelligence for Analysis and Production and former Vice Chairman for Evaluation on the National Intelligence Council. He has also served in the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), as both an office director and as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.

Class instructor Mark Lowenthal explains that the establishment of analysis standards that have become too rigid for today’s intelligence needs in "Intelligence Analysis Needs Course Change."

For more information, contact AFCEA Professional Development Center