/* */

07 April 2007

The Academy and the Community

We have long written about the importance of the academic establishment to the success of the intelligence community, not only in producing the next generation of analysts and officers, but also pursuing the research and thinking about the profession that is a luxury all too often denied to those with day to day operational responsibilities.

We have also repeatedly expressed our frustration with the direction in which many of the prominent academic programs in the intelligence studies field have taken, particularly as programs grow, become entrenched, and breed reputations and attending issues of ego. The disconnect between the academic environment and the community has only been exacerbated by the Long War, especially as it is more than likely that even the most junior serving professional has experience with contemporary problems and players that far exceeds the majority of the retirees (and younger rear echelon types) which comprise the bulk of the academic staff in too many programs.

Even in the face of these disconnects, there is much that the academic world can contribute to the community – particularly in the areas of intelligence history, analytic methodology, emerging technologies, the body of intelligence literature, and of course the most critical mission of all: building the generation that will win the Long War.

To this end, we have noted with interest the DNI’s Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence program (IC CAE), which has in a short time dramatically expanded the number of schools now offering intelligence studies programs at the undergraduate level (many of which may be found linked in the sidebar). Most of these programs are exceedingly new, and face the not inconsiderable hurdles of any fledgling effort. We thus withhold judgment until further indicators of their effect develop in the due course of time – although we confess that we are by no means disinterested observers, as we unabashedly wish these programs all possible success.

However, we remain greatly troubled by the apparent lack of change in the institutional attitudes of many schools, despite their having sought and received substantial funding for such programs. The involvement of the intelligence community in university life at any level has been demonized by certain elements with distinct political agendas since the 1960’s, and this has been exceedingly unhelpful to those students seeking to pursue their chosen course of study (and eventual careers) in the spirit of academic freedom. Those students who have come through such civilian university programs know well the venom that have been directly at them from both other students and faculty. It is unsurprising then that the IC CAE programs should draw fire from those who see conspiracies of domestic control in even the most otherwise normal government actions.

In the farther left reaches of the blogsphere, we have regrettably found a lengthy and disturbing screed by an author who is apparently affiliated with a radical ethnicity-centered activist organization, which calls for “legal” action against IC CAE programs due to some supposed “misuse” of “intellectual property”, for “taking the history of a people” and “using it against them”. We shall not dignify the writer with any link traffic, if only out of the apparent need to protect the individual’s mental health privacy. The sentiment, however absurd, is driven by emotional and political themes which are not so easily dismissed (no matter how much the community would wish the debate to remain apolitical) – themes which are not only the domain of the acknowledged activist, but are found as readily in the faculty lounges in many of the institutions to which the community would court. (Indeed, even the aforementioned screed apparently originated as a public commentary to previously private faculty email exchanges cited by the activist author.)

We fear for the future of the academic study of the art and science of intelligence in the face of renewed activism to banish the national security establishment from the campus as much as we worry about the disconnects and the stagnation of those academic programs which do manage to continue to fight to exist.

If the mantle of responsibilities previously carried by the ivory tower has been cast aside, we wonder what then shall take its place? How best should the community seek to fulfill the needs which the academic world is no longer meeting? These are not idle nor rhetorical questions – question upon which we will no doubt reflect further in the coming days.

Labels: , ,