Conflicts in intelligence analysis

There’s an analyst I know that I find myself disagreeing with frequently. Recently we remarked about it and I began thinking about why this is so. I’m confident we can reject personal animosity and (hopefully) destructive competitiveness but there’s clearly something going on. After some reflection I think it might be a matter of how we each think about problems and threats. In short, I suspect I’m an excluder while my compatriot is an includer. So, what do I mean by those terms? Let’s look at an example.

Assume we’re tasked with looking at the threat to position A from rotary wing aircraft (helicopters).

I tend to focus on the helicopter part of that equation and will look at who has helicopters with the range to attack position A. Of those, who has the (potential) intent to attack that same position. Then, I might begin to look at the capabilities of specific helicopter types based on who might attack. Additionally, I might look at the vulnerabilities at position A itself to the capabilities of those helicopters operated by the groups that are threatening to position A. To me, other types of threats are either someone else’s responsibility or have already been excluded from consideration. Now, if I happen to know of a particular threat that I suspect my overlords haven’t considered or placed (what I consider) sufficient weight to, I’d mention that (of course) but that would be secondary (and in addition to) the original tasking.

The other analyst appears to focus on the position A portion of the equation. For him, it’s (and perhaps I’m simplifying here) an explosion at a fuel depot (or a barracks or a bakery) is an explosion and it’s irrelevant what the source of that explosion is. Therefore, we should look at a wide range of possible threats that should include (but not be limited to) helicopters.

I obviously think the latter position is not just inefficient but deeply flawed as it can lead you to squander scarce resources answering questions that have never been asked. I am curious, however, about where those differences of perspective come from. I have not been able to get this analyst to take part in my Myers-Briggs analyst experiment but I expect there would be some interesting things to see there. Alas, that route appears to be closed to me so I must look elsewhere.

Are backgrounds are somewhat different since I come primarily from the public sector* (particularly in my early years in this field) while the other analyst came into the field via the private sector. Could there be some sort of private/public sector divide in how we look at threats and intelligence problems? Not sure.

*I’m including military service here.

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