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24 September 2007

Schooling intelligence

Monsieur Tanji’s posts at Haft of the Spear and SPOT Report - commenting on the merits, and alternatives, to the creation of a national intelligence school - have caught our eye, and are deserving of remark.

For many of the reasons that the learned gentleman points out, we do not foresee the creation of a single “service academy” style intelligence institution anytime in the future. However, in the uniquely American tradition of the federated university system – such as the UC schools – we do see the DNI’s National Intelligence University growing to encompass a wide variety of both traditional and non-traditional educational approaches for intelligence studies.

Among these options we see the major institutions of Kent School and JMIC / (new) NDIC holding primacy, leading doctrine and research in innovative directions closely tied to the community. We see the larger and more established civilian university programs, such as Mercyhurst, UMD, Hopkins, and James Madison providing an important augmenting research capability, as well as a pool of trained students at both entry and (eventually) mid-career levels. And lastly, we see the IC CAE schools and the host of other new programs to follow as broadening that pool with a more diverse set of candidates, and providing opportunities for those outside of traditional pathways to enter to community.

We have expressed our concern that the academic intelligence studies programs continue to prepare their students to face the real challenges of the IC, and to compete effectively for positions in the face of new entrants and changing hiring needs and standards. But that is not necessarily due to the belief we will face a glut of analysts – new types of positions continue to open routinely, from the ever-growing requirements of Homeland Security watch desks and state/local fusion centers to the new importance of the intelligence role in the private business sector. Rather, our concern stems from the ever widening divergence between the research and teaching output of the civilian schools and the real IC’s identified critical needs and gaps – and the immense difficulty that seems to be developing in orienting certain academics to the vitally needed tasks, especially those disconnected by geography and personality.

We recall however that the American way of intelligence is very nearly quite entirely unique in history, and that there are many fine national intelligence institutions whose activities remain cloaked in shadow – and in many cases, almost lost from the pages of even otherwise well known history. (Continuing the shame of the historians and chroniclers, who all too often dismiss matters of the cloak and dagger as irrelevant to the affairs of great men and grand powers.)

Thankfully, we have had occasion to pick up a most excellent work that seeks in part to remedy such shortfalls by examining the unique Nakano intelligence school of Imperial Japan. Authored by former CIA Asia hand (and frequent journal contributor) Stephen Mercado, it is a work that will change one’s understanding of special operations, covert action, unconventional warfare, and intelligence collection in the Pacific Campaign. It is also of profound value to those who teach comparative intelligence traditions, or wish to help their students avoid mirror imaging and other cognitive bias problems.

We are glad, however, that US intelligence schools do not place the same emphasis on their school song as did the 1930’s Japanese establishment. We would hate to hear anything approaching music so badly butchered as we know ourselves, and most of our contemporaries, would mangle the tune.

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