It’s nice, after several years of what seems to be an endless string of posts describing the numerous and easily avoidable pitfalls plaguing our state and local intelligence efforts, to be able to pass along some happier tidings.
Recently, I was invited to participate in a pilot program created by the Sacramento Regional Office of Homeland Security. The program is titled Intermediate Intelligence Analysis Training and is primarily geared for those working in one of the many fusion centers dotting the nations. Now, post 9/11, everyone and their brother has been trying (and generally succeeding) in getting their turn at the federal trough by promising new and exciting ways to bring intelligence analysis to state and local agencies with their unique brands of snake oil. Sometimes it takes the form of someone with military or IC experience who comes in and tells war stories for a few hours. Sometimes it’s a software salesperson advertising how their product can create analysis out of thin air. Sometimes it’s just a poorly designed program.
This program is promising (I’m only just now completing the first of four ‘modules’ which I will explain later) for a couple of reasons:
- It’s geared towards ‘intermediate’ analysts. Most training is geared towards entry level analysts at which point their agencies then to release them into the wild and forget about any further training for them, somehow expecting that they will magically get better at their craft. That might not be too bad at larger agencies where new analysts could benefit from a good mentor (good luck finding an agency that encourages or -gasp- actually has a mentoring program) but many agencies have a small handful of analysts all of whom are groping in the dark.
- It contains a mix of instructional styles. The program tries to utilize the strengths of self-paced web based instruction and classroom work while mitigating the negatives of each. Additionally, the work is split between individual and team projects allowing for exposure to unique circumstances that surround both types of work.
- It keeps out the punters. In my experience, courses which offer the promise of time away from the office attract people hoping for a ‘gentleman’s course’ where they can show up on the first day, disappear for a few days and show up at the end of the class to pick up a certificate of completion. The makers of this course will be having none of that with a pre-test, required readings and assignments due at a steady clip.
The course has four modules:
- Course One: Terrorism Prevention and Analysis
- Course Two: Critical Thinking and Analytic Techniques
- Course Three: Communication Skills and Analytic Writing
- Course Four: Strategic Analysis and Oral Briefings
I’ll blog about these as I complete them. I’ll be finishing up with the first course this week so expect a review shortly after