81. Semiannual Intelligence Review Prepared by the Intelligence Community Staff1

[Omitted here are a title page and table of contents.]


Executive Order 11905, promulgated by the President on 18 February 1976, states that the National Security Council (NSC) shall provide guidance and direction to the development and formulation of national intelligence activities. The Executive Order further directs the NSC to conduct a semiannual review of intelligence, including among other aspects “the needs of users of intelligence and the timeliness and quality of intelligence products . . . .”

This report responds to a request in June 1976 by the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs2 that the Intelligence Community Staff (IC Staff), in consultation with the NSC Staff, assess on a continuous basis these user needs and the products of intelligence, and report the results of this program for review at each semiannual NSC meeting on intelligence matters.

The report has been prepared by the IC Staff assisted by an ad hoc task force composed of representatives from the Departments of State and Treasury, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the Energy, Research and Development Administration (ERDA). It has been developed through interviews with users and selected producers of intelligence, including those in the Departments of State, Treasury and Defense, the military services, the CIA, the Office of the Director of Central Intelligence, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and ERDA. Over 100 users of intelligence in the Executive Branch were formally interviewed. They ranged from the Vice President and the Secretary of the Treasury through senior staff and line policy officials in relevant departments and agencies. In preparing the report, IC Staff officers have analyzed the results of the consumer survey and also have drawn heavily upon documentary data, including the broad range of intelligence products over the past year or so and the observations on intelligence performance that have been made by: the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, the [Page 275] Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the Rockefeller Commission Report,3 the Lynn Report of December 1975 on Organization and Management of the Foreign Intelligence Community4 which led to Executive Order 11905, and independent studies of the IC Staff. Comments by the Intelligence Community on a draft of the report have been utilized in preparing the final report.

This report is an initial effort to provide regular evaluations of a very broad scope. It covers a wide spectrum of political, economic, military and technical matters of concern to users of intelligence. Yet, it is by no means exhaustive, with many key regions and topics omitted because of time limitations. This report tends to concentrate on the needs of intelligence users at the “national” level, that is, to support policymakers on issues that confront the National Security Council, its members and their senior staffs, and top leaders in national foreign economic policy. By contrast, much less attention is paid to many departmental needs. For example, this report does not give extensive attention to the vital intelligence needs of military commanders, some of which are to be met by national intelligence resources and products. Some, but not all, needs of agencies dealing with arms control are treated. In subsequent evaluations the IC Staff will cover areas omitted from the first report and analyze in greater depth issues of continuing national concern.

This report attempts to delineate the broad strengths and weaknesses of the Community. In addition to analyzing performance on specific regions and topics, it discusses several systemic problems of intelligence management and performance which affect, directly or indirectly, the satisfactory response to users’ needs. These systemic problems are addressed to develop a better understanding of reasons for identified intelligence strengths and weaknesses, and to help generate measures for improvement. Problems addressed in this report relate primarily to Community structure, process, and resources. Largely untreated are questions of recruiting and training appropriate analytical manpower.

The report is organized into two volumes. Volume I contains an Executive Summary, The Assessment, and an Annex which summarizes salient points from Volume II. The second volume contains a detailed review of the timeliness and quality of intelligence products concerning various regions and topics, organized as seven Annexes to The Assessment.

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An Assessment of National Foreign Intelligence Production


Findings on Intelligence Products

In the eyes of its users, the products of the Intelligence Community are uneven, a mixture of demonstrable strengths and significant deficiencies. This appraisal no doubt results in part from the large number of users, with diverse interests, concerns and responsibilities. But intelligence performance can be improved; indeed, it must be improved in many areas addressed in this review.

In summary, this review finds:

• An increasing diversity and sophistication in the demands of an expanding community of users.

• Inadequate Intelligence Community understanding of the needs of various sets of users and of priorities among these needs.

• General user satisfaction with current, short-term reporting on most topics and geographic regions, but a serious deficiency in anticipatory analysis which alerts policy components to possible problems in the relatively near future (one to three years).

• User desire for more multi-disciplinary analyses which integrate political, economic, technological and military factors to provide a broad appraisal of issues and events for developing US policies and programs.

• User discontent with NIEs and interagency products, especially regarding their utility, and relevance to policy issues.

• Problems in the Community’s ability for early recognition of impending crises; in integration of intelligence with information on US political and military actions; and in the definition of responsibilities of the DCI and other Government officials concerned with warning and crisis information.

• User concern about what they view as unnecessary compartmentation of many intelligence products.

Systemic Problems in Satisfying User Needs

The findings on intelligence products indicate an uneven record of performance. The causes are many, but the critical aspects appear to derive from some systemic problems of intelligence.

1. Demands and Resources

One problem concerns the demands on intelligence as compared with the fiscal and manpower resources available to meet those demands. The number of intelligence users is expanding and their needs are becoming more complex and sophisticated. Vital issues concerning [Page 277] international economic, political, social and technological developments are striving for recognition on an equal footing with more familiar national security issues. But the Community cannot easily move to support these new concerns within fixed resources. This is because questions regarding the traditional issues of Soviet and Chinese military capabilities and intentions are becoming both more resistant to collection and more complex as regards the information needed by the United States.

2. Determining What Users Really Need

The Community too often has a poor perception of users’ needs and cannot project future needs with confidence. But most users do not articulate their needs for intelligence particularly well and inadequately project their future needs. Thus, intelligence managers have difficulty in setting priorities for allocating intelligence resources. This difficulty is particularly apparent in dealing with user needs which are not well established or which cut across traditional intelligence topics or regions, e.g., information relating to nuclear proliferation.

The following actions are under way or will be explored by Community elements and the Intelligence Community Staff (IC Staff) to alleviate this problem:

• More consultation with users in planning intelligence research and production.

• User review of or participation in the development of general intelligence planning and requirements.

• More workshops, briefings and personnel exchange programs to familiarize users and Community personnel with one another’s problems, perspectives and constraints.

• Examination of possible ways to increase the collection, processing and production flexibility of the Community to respond rapidly to shifts in user needs.

• A concerted Community effort to analyze in depth the several markets and customers it services, as an aid to better anticipation of users’ needs.

3. Allocation of Resources to Various Aspects of the Intelligence Process

At present, it is very difficult to relate intelligence resources to the end uses of intelligence or to future production requirements. Current management information systems at the Community level do not provide senior managers with adequate understanding of the complex ways by which parts of the intelligence process relate to one another. Community budgets and manpower accounts are currently organized by inputs (e.g., the Consolidated Cryptologic Program, CIA Program, General Defense Intelligence Program); resource allocation decisions [Page 278] are not routinely made on the basis of their effect on outputs (the end products used by consumers). Needed are:

• Improved data bases to relate Community funds and manpower to intelligence products.

• Better measures of the utility of specific intelligence products, stated in terms of users’ needs.

• Analyses which explicitly relate collection, processing and production resources to intelligence products and users’ needs, to provide a better basis for decisions by the Committee on Foreign Intelligence (CFI).

Establishing the means for better intelligence resource management on the basis of outputs is a priority task for the Intelligence Community Staff and other Community elements.

4. Balance of Production Effort Among Data Bases, Current Intelligence and Analysis

Producers of intelligence tend to give priority to factual reporting on events and issues because it is necessary for their own operations and answers the first line demands of users for direct support. Most producers also want to undertake deeper analyses to improve users’ understanding of current situations and future developments bearing on policy and negotiating issues. But there are problems in moving from factual reporting to complex analyses. More comprehensive, detailed data and the best people are needed; analysis takes more time and closer supervision. This kind of product is in competition with the needs of both users and producers for factual reporting. But clearly both are needed.

In recent years it appears that the balance has tilted away from data base and analytic support of traditional national security concerns and in favor of current intelligence products to support new demands. For example, attention to detailed analysis of Soviet industry has given way to more effort on international trade. Steps which would redress this balance and permit a larger portion of in-depth analytic products include the following:

• Reduction in the amount of finished current intelligence products, consistent with the needs of departmental users.

• A reduction of self-initiated descriptive and factual memoranda, but the maintenance and improvement of solid data bases to support production of ad hoc analytic papers responding to the immediate needs of users.

• Joint user-producer procedures for establishing priorities for analytic reporting on regions, topics and areas of particular concern to users.

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• Planning Community analytic work to better dovetail with the large amount of analytic work that takes place within the policy areas of key Government departments and agencies.

5. The Degree of Proximity Between Policy and Intelligence

Should the coupling of users and intelligence be tight, to enhance the relevance of intelligence to policy, or loose, to assure the objectivity of intelligence products? Users desire and, in many cases, encourage a close relationship (e.g., through participation in policy review committees, study groups, NSSMs) in the belief that it leads to more responsive intelligence focused on priority user needs. Producers—perhaps more in CIA than in the departmental components of the Community—are apprehensive about mixing policy and intelligence. Intimate user-producer relationships may suppress objectivity. Nevertheless, much of the effective intelligence support noted in this review is the result of close contact between intelligence personnel and policymakers.

The Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), following the philosophy of his predecessors, has instructed the Community to be action-oriented and responsive to users’ needs. But he demands total objectivity in intelligence reporting and analysis, and professional judgments on developments, without coloration by policy considerations. Perhaps there should be a more comprehensive policy statement on participation of intelligence producers in policy activities, to define a responsive, yet proper, relationship. Lacking this, users and producers should maintain professional standards of performance and an appropriate degree of tension in their relationship to ensure the objectivity of intelligence.

Actions and Recommendations

1. Actions to be Taken by the DCI

• Assure the effective functioning of mechanisms for evaluation of major new user requests for national intelligence production, to ensure intelligence sources and methods are required and will contribute meaningfully to the issues involved.

• Examine the possibility of key users augmenting their own analytic resources to reduce the volume of requests for memoranda that are not primarily dependent on intelligence sources and methods.

• Work to establish through the IC Staff a base of tools and data for assessing the interplay of resources for collection, processing and production and their impact on the value of intelligence products.

• Direct producers of national intelligence to consider reductions in current intelligence and event reporting, while assuring that high- [Page 280] quality current intelligence support is provided as actually needed by users. Request departmental intelligence components to do the same.

• Direct national intelligence components to produce more broad, predictive, multi-disciplinary analyses to assess foreign developments which could have a major impact on US interests.

• Direct the National Intelligence Officers (NIOs) to be more active in soliciting users’ views in planning the production of National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) and other interagency papers.

2. Recommended NSC Actions

• Concur in the findings of this review and provide comments on the principal problems and issues.

• Consider improved ways for users to communicate to the Community their changing concerns and prospective intelligence needs.

• Express strong support of the DCI’s leadership in improving the quality and relevance of intelligence products and in determining the organizational and management arrangements within the Community that would enhance his authority to allocate resources toward that end.

• Endorse the continuing need for well-integrated national intelligence during a major crisis or war. Consider measures to assure a strong role for the DCI in providing this intelligence, while also assuring that his role is in consonance with the responsibilities of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

[Omitted here is the main body of the 35-page assessment, including sections on the Intelligence Community and its activities; findings on intelligence products; systemic problems in satisfying user needs; and the report’s final findings, actions, and recommendations.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Agency Files, Box 11, Intelligence Community—NSC Semiannual Review (1). Secret; Noforn. Prepared by the IC Staff on behalf of the DCI for the NSC. An attached note indicates that this paper was part of Cheney’s briefing book for the January 13, 1977, NSC meeting.
  2. Document 77.
  3. See Document 42.
  4. Document 62.