After the attacks of 9/11, the Department of Defense was forced to become more proficient in intelligence analysis. As new technologies were developed to help combat terrorism and fight two insurgencies, the way military intelligence analysts conducted analysis also developed. The evolution of the military intelligence analyst grew from tracking tanks and enemy movement on a sand table to combining intelligence from the nation’s most sensitive technical collection platforms with information collected on the ground. This type of intelligence analysis, now being done at the lowest military echelons, was something that had never been done with such proficiency.
The military can take credit for doing several things well with regard to analyzing terrorists and insurgents. First – and not as apparent in 2001 as it is in 2013 – is data sharing. The access an entry-level DoD analyst has to sensitive intelligence is unparalleled compared to other organizations. A 19-year old E1 in the Army can ostensibly view highly classified intelligence at the Battalion or sometimes Company level. In addition, the military has advanced analytical tools at their disposal that did not exist in the pre 9/11 eras. Advances in analytic software, combined with an explosion in defense budgets created a synergy allowing analysts to connect desperate data sources and manage collection assets on a level unlike any other government entity, including our nation’s law enforcement organizations.
Much like the DoD after 9/11, the law enforcement community has also evolved. In an effort to coordinate law enforcement across disparate organizations, the US Government created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Before creating the DHS, some federal policing on the home front was a bit disorganized. To provide more structure, the DHS restructured the U.S. Customs Service and Immigration and Naturalization Service to create the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Although the Department of Homeland Security has evolved, it has moved much more slowly than the DoD. In order to boost its effectiveness, the DHS could learn from the lessons of the DoD and enhance their analytic capabilities by reforming the way their analysts absorb and process relevant intelligence.
Unlike DoD analysts, a typical DHS analyst has very compartmentalized access to intelligence, which makes some sense in an organization that is almost strictly reliant on its agents on the ground. However, even a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agent has limited access to some intelligence relevant to his or her job. Although, law enforcement intelligence has inherent restrictions because it must be admissible in a court of law, to effectively protect the United States, qualified DHS analysts and agents should have streamlined access to all the information necessary for issue-relevant intelligence analysis. In addition to the potential delays or missed information this limited access causes, it also slows the development of the DHS analyst. Whereas a DoD analyst consistently learns how to best utilize new pieces on intelligence, the DHS is somewhat limited in this regard, causing a delay in the development of analytical skills.
The Department of Homeland Security’s databases and intelligence practices are not as agile or effective as those in the military space. The way the department stores its data is antiquated and, until recently, was very difficult to collaboratively access. Although the types of data each organization can access differs substantially, the DHS can learn a lot from the DoD in terms of streamlining data sharing by using similar advanced analytic software.
The experience from the Departments of Defense in the post 9/11 era contains valuable lessons for other areas of our government. The Department of Homeland Security, in order to effectively and sustainably operate in a climate of constrained budgets, should try to learn some of the best practices from the military. The ability to quickly and effectively ingest and analyze intelligence in a secure collaborative environment is a hallmark of successful intelligence operation. Advanced analytic software can help DHS obtain this ability and improve the way it contributes to the overall intelligence community.