In Chapter 1, Thomas Fingar provides an overview of the structure, missions, and characteristics of the intelligence community (IC), and describes the role of analysis in reducing uncertainty, providing warning, and identifying opportunities for national security decision makers. Fingar argues that analysts’ primary mission is to provide timely information and insights that help decision makers understand developments with potentially consequential implications for American interests.
Fingar’s detailed description of what analysts do, in supporting both the general national security enterprise and specific missions, agencies, and decision makers, shows how intelligence analysts play critical roles that share properties with analysts in other organizations. He describes the intelligence analyst’s job as enhancing decision makers’ understanding of complex situations, often with scant and problematic information. Timely input is often more important than precise estimates, as long as analysts communicate clearly what they do and do not know, what assumptions they have made in closing information gaps, how confident they are in their sources and judgments, and which alternatives they have set aside as less likely.
Fingar also describes challenges in the current operating environment. Those challenges include a shift from threats against the nation to threats against individual Americans anywhere, any time; expansion of national security to include such threats as infectious disease and transnational crime; dramatic increases in demand for precision and “actionable” intelligence;
compression of timelines for collecting, evaluating, and interpreting intelligence on increasingly complex issues; and exponential increases in the amount of information of potential value.