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05 June 2007

Exploring the vast reaches of the disconnected professionals

We often take for granted that intelligence professionals are part of a larger intelligence community, and often part of multiple overlapping communities of professional interest. It is thus with occasional surprise we are reminded of the vast legion of those who toil in the obscurity of offices entirely disconnected from their counterparts elsewhere in the field.

These may be the backwaters of the state and local law enforcement community, the culturally and organizationally distinct operational environments of watch offices (where intelligence officers are only one among many types of watch-standers), or the small and boutique level private sector consulting functions (who lack the staff-like access of their larger counterparts.) Then of course there is the entire business / competitive intelligence field, where one is as likely to encounter individuals whose cultural affinity and mindset ties them to the librarians as to the intelligence world.

In these quieter eddies of the currents in our profession we are sure there lurks unique value, perspectives, and insights into some of the most pressing problems of the day. We are convinced that the range of customers these less well known functions serve, and the variety of situated products and processes that these (often very innovative and quite successful) professionals have created among themselves can offer new options for the larger body of analytic tradecraft.

We are however often perplexed at how to reach these disconnected professionals. Most do not participate in the major intelligence professional associations, nor are they interested in many cases in the conferences that they (often all too rightly) perceive as marketing forums for other vendors, and small worlds political networks from which they are too often excluded based on their position or firm.

In the hierarchies of intelligence accomplishments, it is those that are on the front lines that interest us most – especially as it is those individuals that are best positioned to evaluate and critique existing theory and literature, and to contribute new works to the growing corpus from a perspective that may never have been considered.

It takes effort to build and sustain a community. It takes outreach to extend that community’s ideas to the boundaries of its members. But the contributions those at the edge of the profession have to offer will most certainly make such efforts worthwhile. The only question is how best can such a task be accomplished?

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