DNI Tells Analysts to Establish Broader Outside Ties

07.30.08 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

In a new directive that challenges the insular culture of U.S. intelligence agencies, Director of National Intelligence J. Michael McConnell has ordered analysts to cultivate relationships with outside experts “whenever possible” in order to improve the quality of intelligence analysis.

The DNI’s July 16 directive on “Analytic Outreach” (pdf) establishes procedures for implementing such outreach, including incentives and rewards for successful performance.

“Analytic outreach is the open, overt, and deliberate act of an IC [intelligence community] analyst engaging with an individual outside the IC to explore ideas and alternate perspectives, gain new insights, generate new knowledge, or obtain new information,” the directive states.

“Elements of the IC should use outside experts whenever possible to contribute to, critique, and challenge internal products and analysis….”

“Sound intelligence analysis requires that analysts… develop trusted relationships” with “experts in academia; think tanks; industry; non-governmental organizations; the scientific world; …and elsewhere.”

There are, however, significant limits to any such relationships.

“Analysts in the IC shall never discuss classified or sensitive information with outside experts who are not appropriately cleared,” the directive warns.

But since almost everything in intelligence is considered classified or at least sensitive, that does not leave much room for analysts to “engage” and share information with outside experts who are not interested in a cleared contractual relationship with an intelligence agency.

The Central Intelligence Agency, for example, insists that even unclassified, non-copyrighted publications of its Open Source Center should be “treated as copyrighted” and “must not be disseminated to the public.”

Under such circumstances and without a modicum of reciprocity between analysts and outside experts there can be no “trusted relationships.”

The directive seems to recognize the problem. “Unnecessary or unreasonable restrictions that discourage collaboration with outside experts may increase the likelihood that alternate perspectives will not be considered and debatable judgments will remain unchallenged.”

See Intelligence Community Directive 205, “Analytic Outreach,” July 16, 2008. Other Intelligence Community Directives are available here.

See all publications
Nuclear Weapons
New Voices on Nuclear Weapons Fellowship: Creative Perspectives on Rethinking Nuclear Deterrence 

To empower new voices to start their career in nuclear weapons studies, the Federation of American Scientists launched the New Voices on Nuclear Weapons Fellowship. Here’s what our inaugural cohort accomplished.

11.28.23 | 3 min read
read more
Science Policy
Expected Utility Forecasting for Science Funding

Common frameworks for evaluating proposals leave this utility function implicit, often evaluating aspects of risk, uncertainty, and potential value independently and qualitatively.

11.20.23 | 11 min read
read more
Nuclear Weapons
Nuclear Notebook: Nuclear Weapons Sharing, 2023

The FAS Nuclear Notebook is one of the most widely sourced reference materials worldwide for reliable information about the status of nuclear weapons and has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987. The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by the staff of the Federation of American Scientists’ Nuclear Information Project: Director Hans […]

11.17.23 | 1 min read
read more
Social Innovation
Community School Approach Reaches High of 60%, Reports Latest Pulse Panel

According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ August 2023 pulse panel, 60% of public schools were utilizing a “community school” or “wraparound services model” at the start of this school year—up from 45% last year.

11.17.23 | 4 min read
read more