174. Memorandum From the Director of Central Intelligence (Bush) to the Chairman of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (Cherne)1
- Recommendations of Team B—Soviet Strategic Objectives
1. I am forwarding to you the attached series of B Team recommendations on how national intelligence estimates should be produced, as we agreed in a previous discussion. We must, obviously, always examine suggestions such as these from experienced observers of the process with the aim of improving the process further. Few of this B Team’s observations are, however, entirely new to us, and the prob-lems they address are under scrutiny. The Team’s recommendations appear, moreover, insensitive to the costs and penalties of implementing them.
2. In considering the attached recommendations, it is useful for us to remember that the methods for producing national intelligence estimates have evolved over the past 25 years in response to the changing interests and styles of administrations, the organizational methods of a number of Directors of Central Intelligence, and the international situation itself. At present, national estimates on Soviet strategic programs and capabilities are produced by a method which centralizes the supervisory responsibilities in a National Intelligence Officer on the DCI’s staff, but decentralizes the analytical and drafting responsibilities to teams of analysts from the various intelligence agencies. This method is designed to ensure that significant analyses and judgments from all elements of the Intelligence Community are reflected at all stages in the process and that no single staff or agency determines the results. The process encourages the exposure of divergent views. NIO management is charged with ensuring that significant differences are illuminated and that consensus judgments due to bureaucratic pressures are avoided.
3. The present production method is consistent with certain principles which have guided the preparation of the NIEs throughout their history, regardless of organizational adjustments:[Page 830]
a. A national intelligence estimate is the DCI’s responsibility in accordance with his statutory duties. The main text represents his best judgment.
b. A national estimate involves the participation of the agencies of the Intelligence Community, whose representatives on the National Foreign Intelligence Board have the right and duty to introduce into the estimate abstentions or opinions which diverge substantially from those expressed in the main text.
c. A national estimate is designed to address major topics of concern to US planners and policymakers, and hence its content and its producers cannot be isolated from the process it is designed to support; at the same time, it is not a mechanism for critiquing or recommending policy.
4. The current method of producing drafts is only one of a number of methods which could be employed. Any change, however, should be consistent with the style and needs of a particular administration and a particular DCI, while preserving the principles above.
5. Turning to the specific points in the B Team’s recommendations, I believe a number of observations need to be recorded:
a. Mirror Imaging. The B Team’s charge that “soft” factors affecting Soviet motivation do not receive “thorough” analytical attention is simply not true. What is obviously true is that the B Team’s analysis of these “soft” factors differs from that of at least some in the Intelligence Community. For example, along with much evidence of the Soviet drive to acquire military preponderance, there is voluminous evidence that the Soviets have a high respect for the technical and industrial might behind US military programs. As for the need to perceive Soviet objectives in terms of Soviet concepts, an effort has been made to judge Soviet policy on the basis of a large number of factors and influences, of which doctrine is one. In this year’s NIE 11–3/8,2 partly stimulated by the competitive analysis experiment, a special effort was made to describe Soviet objectives and military doctrine in Soviet terms so as not to leave any impression that the USSR had been judged only in US terms. This practice should be continued, but not to the extent that every specific estimate need be prefaced by a long exposition of the Soviets’ doctrine and ultimate objectives.
b. Net Assessments. I agree that those net assessments which are the result of a quantitative analytical process should be so identified. In NIE 11–3/8–76, we have largely eliminated net assessments which are [Page 831] not a result of such a process, partly because new evidence has given rise to greater uncertainty and partly because the significance of operational factors was well illustrated by the B Team on Soviet air defense. The NIE calls attention to the fact that a full net assessment would be required to take adequate account of such factors and that the estimate is not such a net assessment.
i. While accepting the B Team’s recommendation, we would not agree that net judgments can never be delivered; some judgments in this complex world remain important and susceptible to experienced analysis. Most predictive analyses or interpretations of the policies and expectations of foreign leaders require an analytical model which includes US policies and forces among the influences affecting those leaders. Even estimates of the technical capabilities of a potential adversary’s weapon systems require an “interaction analysis,” one part of which is the US force which the foreign system was designed to engage.
ii. As for comprehensive net assessments, we have all recognized for some time that there is no national level organization responsible for such assessments on a regular basis. I hope my successor will encourage officials of the new administration to identify such an organization—perhaps at the NSC staff level—and pledge the Intelligence Community to cooperate by providing the intelligence data and insights necessary for its operation. For my part, I would object to assigning the responsibility for such full net assessments of the US–USSR strategic balance, or the balance in other situations involving US and foreign forces, to the Intelligence Community. Such an arrangement would give excessive responsibility to the Intelligence Community and would be unlikely to promote the cooperation of policymaking departments whose participation would be essential.
c. An Integrated View of Soviet Weapons and Force Developments. The packaging of national intelligence on Soviet military forces into several operational categories resulted initially from consumers’ requests in the 1960s to organize the presentation of intelligence according to the way the US plans its forces—strategic offensive, strategic defensive, and general purpose forces. The US defense planning process continues to require this type of presentation.
i. In 1974, the separate estimates of Soviet offensive and defense forces for intercontinental conflict were combined, with the concurrence of the Secretary of Defense, into a single estimate in response to consumer requirements for intelligence on the strategic nuclear balance—that is, the balance as the US measures it.
ii. Our present estimative program acknowledges the further requirement, suggested by other groups as well as the B Team, for national intelligence on overall Soviet military and foreign policy objec[Page 832]tives (as in NIE 11–4)3 and on overall trends in Soviet military forces and capabilities (as in an interagency intelligence memorandum issued in October 1976).4 These integrated assessments could not be done without the more detailed assessments of individual aspects of Soviet power and probably need not be done routinely on an annual basis. We will investigate with key users the advisability of further integration of NIEs. We would, however, strongly resist drawing the impractical conclusion from the B Team recommendation that one should never estimate about a part of the Soviet strategic effort unless one appraises the entire Soviet effort.
d. Policy Pressures and Considerations. I certainly would not quarrel with minimizing any possible policy pressure on NIE judgments and preventing the abdication by the intelligence apparatus of its responsibility to provide objective answers. I would note, however, that the estimative process, as carried out by the DCI under the principles cited at the beginning of these remarks, is designed to do just that. The NFIB participants bring to the estimating process differing experiences and professional backgrounds. If some representatives have convictions about US policy that correspond closely to the advocacy of the bureaucracies they represent, the variety of points of view introduces checks and balances into the system. The professional integrity of the participants, moreover, should not be lightly dismissed. In any case, the DCI, the National Intelligence Officers who support him in supervising the estimative process, and the CIA analysts who have a major role in the drafting process, do not represent any department of government involved in the policymaking process. Their independent bureaucratic positions minimize the susceptibility of the DCI, NIOs, and CIA analysts to policy pressures and allow them to serve as an important check on the objectivity of the process.
e. Disciplined Presentation of Conclusions. I have some difficulty grasping what Team B has in mind. I would not prescribe a format for the conclusions and key judgments in NIEs so rigorous that we could not adjust to the nature of the intelligence available and the needs of the policymakers being supported. I would, on the other hand, agree that consistency is desirable; that we should accurately convey uncertainty and alternatives; and that when important changes occur in the judgments of estimates, the fact of and the reasons for these changes should be called to the attention of readers. A periodic track record of key judgments in an NIE has occasionally been useful. Where and how [Page 833] often one is done should be a matter for intelligence managers and consumers to decide on the basis of practical considerations.
f. Procedures. This section contains a curious discussion of institutional bias. Many people imagine they understand the nature and sources of State’s and Defense’s biases; it would have been interesting if the report had discussed the nature and sources of the bias attributed to CIA. In its argument, Team B appears to adopt the following approach: all past errors are the fault of CIA, even when everyone else was in agreement; the reason for this is CIA’s major role in the preparation of estimates; therefore, take the estimates out of CIA’s, and possibly even out of the DCI’s, hands.
i. The possibility is raised of a chief estimative officer and staff within the Executive Office of the President. If this chief estimative officer were not the DCI, the arrangement would circumvent the statutory responsibilities of the DCI. If the officer the B Team has in mind is, in fact, the DCI, the question of the location of his estimative function and staff would have to be considered as part of the broader question of the role of CIA in the Community. My judgment is that physical and institutional separation of the DCI from CIA would sharply limit his ability to reach responsible judgments because it would cut him off from his independent analytical base.
ii. This organizational recommendation fails to take into account the checks and balances built into the system. The preparation of the NIE 11–3/8 estimates, for example, involves a program of production by analysts within the military services, CIA, and DIA, their various contractors, DCI Committees, and analytical teams drawn from the several agencies. This specific recommendation reveals naivete about the interactions of policy and intelligence that, in my opinion, tends to undercut the credibility of other observations.
iii. The recommendation is silent on all the big questions—how would the NIEs be drafted; how would the draft contributions be pulled into a single document; how would coordination be achieved; how would the rules of dissent and alternative statement be enforced; and how would final power of approval of the text be exercised? Would the B Team have us reintroduce a monopoly on the drafting of estimative intelligence, one of the weaknesses perceived in the former ONE staff system? And would not the location of the estimative process in the Executive Office of the President in fact subject that process to additional policy pressures without the checks and balances of the current national intelligence production mechanism?
iv. The B Team recommendation concerning the use of a panel of outside specialists to review NIEs is sensible. Such panels have been used at various times in the past. Some months ago, I approved in principle a plan to establish an Estimates Advisory Panel that would in[Page 834]clude a broad range of outside experts with a variety of viewpoints. Because of the impending change of administrations, however, I delayed the formation of this panel, but commend it to my successor.
v. The recommendation that adversarial procedures similar to the B Team experiment be continued, perhaps every other year, is one I oppose. It is not that the experiment was a total failure; to the contrary, the B Team on low altitude air defense made a particular contribution. Rather, it is that, when one sets out to establish an adversarial B Team, one sets in motion a process that lends itself to manipulation for purposes other than estimative accuracy. I am already, incidentally, getting recommendations that, should the process ever be repeated, a C Team of a persuasion opposed to the B Team should be established to review the estimate at the same time. I would prefer to convene panels of experts with a mix of views. Indeed, I would expect that my successor might very well wish to do so. Individual agencies and DCI Committees should also continue the practice of using panels of experts such as those convened by the CIA and the OSD to review technical analysis of Backfire performance and the panel of US experts in the field of directed energy convened by the DCI’s Scientific and Technical Intelligence Committee to review evidence of Soviet research applicable to particle beam weapons.
6. The essence of national intelligence production is that it marshals the full resources of the Intelligence Community to address the most important analytical and estimative problems, that it provides the base which allows the DCI to fulfill his mandate as an independent advisor to the President, and that it displays for policymakers such differing analyses as exist on important issues. The challenge is to produce these results; doing so depends first of all on the quantity and quality of the resources and talent devoted to it. Equally critical at this highest level of need is the willingness of policymakers to help the Intelligence Community concentrate on the issues of most concern and, then, to support the Community when it accomplishes its mission. Both these factors are far more important for the production of national intelligence than the changeable procedures that may be used.
- Source: Central Intelligence Agency, National Intelligence Council, Job 91M00696R: Subject Policy Files, Box 7, Competitive Analysis, 1977. Secret. Team A also later commented on Team B’s reports. Stoertz forwarded Team A’s comments to Acting DCI Knoche under a February 23 covering memorandum. (Ibid., Job 85B00134R, Box 2, Competitive Analysis, Part V (2), Commentary on the A Team B Team Experiment, Dec. 1976 through Completion)↩
- NIE 11–3/8–76 is the attachment to Document 170.↩
- A series of NIEs treating broad trends and issues in Soviet strategic policy. The series was published annually until 1968 and then irregularly until 1977, when it was again published annually. See the attachment to Document 173.↩
- IIM 76–039J, Trends in Soviet Military Programs, October 1976, was not found.↩
- Secret. Team B members—Richard Pipes (Team leader), William R. Van Cleave, General Daniel O. Graham, Paul Nitze, Seymour Weiss, and Paul Wolfowitz—forwarded the paper through Bush to Cherne under an undated covering memorandum, which reads as follows: “In our critique [see Document 171] of current and previous National Intelligence Estimates, we made a concerted effort to identify those aspects of methodology, procedure, and institutional structure which we believe have contributed to unsound estimative judgments. In the attached paper we proffer our recommendations to PFIAB concerning improvements in methodology, procedure and structure aimed at correcting the perceived deficiencies. Evidence for our conclusion that the cited shortcomings, do, in fact, exist in the NIEs is to be found in the main body of our report.” (Ibid.)↩
- What we mean by net assessment in this context is a judgment on the balance between U.S. and Soviet military capabilities based on the relevant static indicators extant or projected, or based on a dynamic analysis of the balance assuming that those capabilities actually are to be called into use. The latter type of net assessment assumes a scenario, but may or may not assume actual warfare. [Footnote in the original.]↩