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29 June 2007

New trends in intelligence privatization

We have long held that the privatization of intelligence in its ultimate form will be driven not only by intelligence as a government function, but by non-state actors which require information and analysis about matters previously reserved only for the Westphalian powers. As corporate interests continue to expand beyond the relatively “normal” nature of competition to the issues of operations in hostile environments, and in the face of hostile actors intent on subverting their systems, privatized intelligence will continue to grow in importance and formalization, covering not only marketplace positioning and future business strategy, but to encompass classic political / military concerns of policy, corruption, security, and the whole gamut of transnational issues.

Arms Control Wonk brings us yet another interesting tidbit supporting this belief, from a quite unexpected angle, in which he describes the unit established by Germany’s Oerlikon in order to counter attempts at proliferation related acquisitions.

In many ways, this is a natural outgrowth of similar policies which led to the establishment of anti-money laundering units at major financial institutions, and the assignment of corporate funded analyst billets to homeland security operations centers. In 5th generation warfare of the 21st century, the side with the most networks wins. We are watching the first tentative steps in the development of these networks, in which players at the edge will likely prove equally important if not more vital than the traditional centralized and hierarchical entities which have driven the intelligence profession for generations.

We can anticipate today the clash of cultures that will result from these trends, and the very different kind of interdisciplinary and liaison skillets which will be required to make these new privatized functions work. We also eagerly await the unique contributions to the body of analytic and operational tradecraft that such new units may offer, and hope that their members will some day contribute to the intelligence literature their case studies, TTPs, and lessons learned. We hope too that the academic intelligence studies community will begin to consider how to prepare the next generation of analysts who may take assignments in such units, and their government and contractor counterparts who may wind up sitting across from them at the conference table or VTC screen.