83. Memorandum From Samuel Hoskinson of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Improving Political Intelligence

As you requested, Stan Turner has provided a status report on the measures being taken to improve political intelligence and analysis in response to your memorandum of January 14. (Tab A)2 Paul, Rosie3 and I have all reviewed it.


As background, you should be aware that your January 14 memorandum created quite a stir within CIA. It came, of course, at the nadir of the decline in morale brought on by the disruption of Turner’s internal reorganization, firings and insertion of inexperienced top management. To the working level in both the Clandestine Service and analytical corps it was an affirmation that someone “up there” was really taking their efforts seriously and was trying to help in a construc[Page 381]tive manner. In short, it had a therapeutic effect on the troops who know that your critique is right and, at least momentarily, shook up the entrenched bureaucrats who usually manage to stifle such thinking before it becomes a threat to their “proven” way of doing business.

The January 14 memo also somehow (mysteriously?) got to the State Department even though it had only been officially sent to the DCI.4 Among the more suspicious types at State it was viewed as an attempt by you to push CIA into the guarded preserves of the Department for political reporting. This is one of those old hoary interagency conflicts that never seem to die and has always plagued attempts to improve political reporting in the past. The hard fact, of course, is that there is more than enough complementary reporting for the CIA Stations and Embassy Political Sections to do and the good Ambassadors know it. The others must be prodded!

There is also Congressional awareness of your critique and talk in the Select Committees of their following up on your initiative. This will not be unhelpful if we are to sustain the momentum we have induced.


The status report addresses all of the major points in your critique, albeit a bit defensively. It is a model of good writing from a technical standpoint but, like so much of the Agency’s analytical products, it conveys no sense of enthusiasm.

It is clear to me that despite reorganizations and Bob Bowie, CIA’s analytical element is still infected with the “current intelligence” syndrome. While a lot of lip service is given to “breakthrough” analysis, “over-the-horizon assessments,” and “interdisciplinary estimating,” NFAC’s management still clings to the newspaper reporting approach of serving the policymaker. They hear you talking (and Kissinger, Schlesinger and others before you) but down deep refuse to make a full commitment to the new era of a more scholarly approach to foreign policymaking. Hence, the “new” improvement measures cited, while certainly in the right direction, in most instances amount to little more than tokenism and in fact have been talked about for many years.

If we are skeptical, it is only because we have seen the same senior management team say the same things before without anything really changing. I (Hoskinson) know them all personally and spent too many years in that deadening intellectual environment to believe that mere harassment from the White House will make a fundamental difference. Short of virtual elimination of the top echelon of NFAC management—[Page 382]much of which is superfluous—we can only hope for incremental and marginal improvement at best within the lifetime of this Administration.


The response to your critique of clandestine collection is almost pathetic.

—To your call for more clandestine collection about the political intentions and dynamics of key countries comes yet another promise of “clandestine collection plans” for 30 key countries (but only two have been completed since October!!) and assignment of [name not declassified] (the completely inexperienced Turner crony and some say inept new Deputy for Collection Tasking) to review all forms of collection for each of the 30 countries.

—To your questioning of the meager returns from the “hard target” effort against the Soviets comes the answer “you may be hoping for more than is likely to be possible” and, in any event, “the full dividends . . . may not have paid off yet.” But, alas, the PRC(I) consumers union (which Turner has totally neglected except when you prod him into a meeting) and [name not declassified] implementation of the National Intelligence Tasking Center (which virtually everyone but Turner [name not declassified] are highly skeptical about) will help, as will “relocation” of some dwindling clandestine assets.


We should continue to keep up the pressure on this problem wherever and whenever there are suitable opportunities. Something important has been started—especially at the working levels—and we can help encourage this enthusiasm to bubble up to the senior management level.

Turner has provided us with an ideal opportunity by offering in his status report briefing sessions for you with his “clandestine service people” and “key analytic leaders” to discuss “what they feel they can do with regard to your concerns on political analysis.” You should take him up on this as soon as possible.

Some members of the NSC Staff have established patterns of frequent consultation with both analysis and DDO officers on collection and analysis relating to their area of interest. We should not only encourage continuation of this practice but selectively broaden it. On key issues we should more frequently levy direct requirements for both clandestine collection and analysis on the Agency. It would also be useful to request specific assessments from Chiefs of Station. We believe you should bring these thoughts up at our weekly NSC Staff meeting.

Another exchange of memoranda with Turner will not have much effect because he is not close enough to these problems himself to [Page 383] appreciate what you are driving at and bristles at the very thought of your telling him how to run his ship. It would be useful for you to explain your concerns, however, to Frank Carlucci. The improvements which we want must be made at the upper working level—where there is most receptivity to what you are seeking. More dialogue, direct meetings and more frequent requests for specific information and analysis will establish habits of consultation and better understanding of what is needed. This approach will also enable us to avoid entanglement with the excessive layers of supervision and review—of which the [name not declassified] operation is the most striking example—which Turner has set up but which contributes virtually nothing to the production of better intelligence.

Finally, to help maintain momentum, and assure that pressure is kept on the process until substantive results are attained, you should tell Turner that you would propose a PRC(I) meeting in the near future to have the consumers constructively comment on his Attachment I5 “Improving the quality of analysis” from Bob Bowie. Turner suggests this will be done in his memo. Don’t let the opportunity fade away.6

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Box 97, Intelligence (Improvement Issues), 1978–1980. Secret. Sent for information. In the margin, Dodson wrote, “ZB: I spoke to a group (31) of mid-level CIA analysts. The first quesdtion was about how seriously did you take your memo, how much follow up was there going to be. Very enthusiastic. Incidentally, most of them had copies; I was the only one who had not seen it! Christine.”
  2. The status report was not found attached. For Brzezinski’s memorandum, see Document 75.
  3. Paul Henze and Robert Rosenberg.
  4. An unknown hand drew two lines next to this sentence in the left-hand margin. See Document 77.
  5. Reference to an attachment to the status report.
  6. Aaron wrote below this, “I agree. DA.” Inderfurth wrote underneath the final sentence, “Sam, ZB wants a memo based on this last paragraph to send to Turner. Full speed ahead. Rick.”