All Source Intelligence and the Future of Conflict Analysis

An Essay by Drew Carter, Carter Concepts, Inc. (2014)

When faced by or engrossed in conflict, there are various voices and perspectives on who should advise the decision maker, including the data scientist, the information technologist, and the cast of analysts grouped under the name qualitative analysts. Members of the groups point to one another to state what their limitations are and then take the opportunity to declare their own superiority. I intend to break that model and create a new paradigm built upon the concept of cooperation and right thinking. The following are my thoughts.

Carter Concepts Inc
Carter Concepts Inc

Decision Makers

Decision makers are commonly the most intelligent and highly qualified person available to make important decisions, but each such decision-maker must be informed of the truth, wrestle with personal bias, and must decide which version of the facts are compelling and reliable to form the immediate decision, as well as to proceed along a reliable path to success, or victory in the military sense.

Each decision maker formulates their choices based on their life experiences, education, and influential mentors. Some are very engaged in the development of the products which they create and intend to guide their own actions as well as those of their superiors, and some are more distant from the process. These are leadership styles, and both may warrant an essay on their advantages and disadvantages, but each is a personal method of producing a decision that has elevated the decision maker to the position they hold.

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Analysts and Technicians

As both an analyst and a technician, this is an important and careful distinction which I present I am qualified to discuss. An analyst receives a problem to study and applies their personal experience, training, and education to learn about the problem through whatever means are available. These means are dependent upon the form of analysis, the qualifications of the analyst, and of course, the needs of the decision maker. A junior analyst often has little life experience that pertains to the problem leading to the need for methodology training and mentorship.

In the analytical sense, a technician is an expert in a task who is available to the analyst to ensure proper methodologies are applied and whose perspectives on both the problem set and on influencing decision makers through compelling presentations provide the capacity for growth and success to the organization and for the analyst. In my sense, the analyst became the technician, and knowledge of the journey provides insight and empathy to those along the way.

In the field of Intelligence Analysis, one which retains pertinence as its decision-makers face new challenges continuously, there are analysts that address data derived from sensors as well as from narrative reports. The disciplines have evolved from the original human signals, imagery, and measurements–based forms into numerous others, but all single source Intelligence disciplines remain reliant on what the senses can derive about a problem. Each of the single source disciplines presents its valuable findings and is rewarded when the decision maker incorporates these into a current decision or new policy.

Carter Concepts Inc
Carter Concepts Inc

The All Source Intelligence Analyst or Technician

In the US Army, the analyst that is tasked with integrating the perspectives of the various intelligence disciplines is the All Source Analyst or Technician. This is the task that I have held throughout my career in Intelligence and one which provides instructive insights. There is certain jealousy within the disciplines, and if it were not for the discomfort imposed on bad advice by the decision maker, there would likely be no All Source Analysts, as each discipline would tout its findings are the most significant in an unintelligible cacophony seeking influence and self-gratification.

The All Source Analyst or its mentor, the All Source Technician, develops a rapport with the decision maker through direct contact, reputation, or a selection process that is impacted by their professionalism, experiences, and training. The successful All Source Analyst or Technician is proficient in integrating findings from the various single source Intelligence disciplines into a comprehensive whole, as well as determining the pitfalls within each discipline and precluding over-reliance on any one discipline.

The All Source Analyst or Technician is, in my estimation, a uniquely positioned and, when fully experienced, a uniquely qualified expert. This analyst must apply the most stringent control on personal bias, group thinking, and the influence of superiors. This analyst exists at the crossroads of jealous peers and the self-interests of politicians. If the analyst has no personal integrity, they will be exposed, and if they have average intellect, they will fail.

The function of the All Source Analyst is sometimes referenced as wizardry or divination, although it is neither. It is rightly dividing the word, the words of the findings of each discipline, and the words of the people being studied. It is also about human behavior and the human condition. It is science in all its forms sifted through the humanity of a qualified and reliable person. This is a hard task, and this essay begins the discussion of how to improve our capabilities, develop our people, and attain success or victory in a future conflict.