Ten years from now the job of the intelligence analyst will have been transformed. Technological changes—both new technologies that can be used to conduct analysis and risks related to technologically based activities and communications around the world—are virtually inevitable. What is not inevitable is that the Intelligence Community (IC) will adapt to these changes in the most productive ways. Integrating the understanding of human beings and social processes that comes from social and behavioral science (SBS) research into the analyst’s work as it evolves in the coming decade will be critical. It is this knowledge base that will enable the IC to navigate the emergence of new technologies and challenges in productive ways: to develop technological supports that are both proactive and interactive and can effectively augment the capacities of human analysts and, more broadly, to respond effectively to the security threats of the coming decades. The opportunities described in this report offer the potential for
- stronger intelligence assessments;
- tools and technologies optimally designed for human use and human–machine interaction; and
- strengthened readiness to confront evolving security threats.
Intelligence analysts already rely on SBS research, just as they already synthesize large volumes of data and information about fast-breaking developments to produce reliable and accurate assessments that can support urgent and consequential decisions. However, the influence of SBS research on intelligence analysis has been ad hoc: despite the value of many ongoing
efforts, the IC has not found ways to systematically integrate research and perspectives from the academic SBS community into its work. Capitalizing on the power of research that integrates the insights from SBS research with what technology makes possible will require a fundamental commitment by the IC.
Recognizing the crucial role of SBS research in supporting intelligence analysis and the need for further and systematic integration, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which oversees and directs the work of the agencies and organizations responsible for foreign, military, and domestic intelligence for the United States, requested that the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine conduct a decadal survey of SBS research with applications to national security (see Box 1).
The Committee on a Decadal Survey of Social and Behavioral Sciences for Applications to National Security, made up of experts with decades of experience in intelligence, scholars in diverse SBS fields, and several individuals with extensive experience in both worlds, was appointed to conduct the study. The charge to the committee was to (1) develop understanding and direction regarding resources from SBS disciplines with the greatest potential to augment and support the intelligence analysis process and enhance national security, which the IC can use in determining its research priorities for the coming decade; and (2) identify lessons to be learned from the application of the decadal survey process in the national security context. The committee’s consensus report, A Decadal Survey of The Social and Behavioral Sciences: A Research Agenda for Advancing Intelligence Analysis, provides a detailed discussion of opportunities in SBS research
and important context for considering a 10-year research agenda.1 This digest version provides an overview of the main ideas in that report.
The essence of the task for the committee was to develop a process for understanding the needs of the IC analyst and culling SBS research that might be relevant to those challenges. Both aspects of this task were challenging. The IC, which is made up of 17 agencies, each with its own mission and resources, is varied (see Box 3). Much of its work is classified and not readily understood by outsiders. Similarly, the academic disciplines that are considered part of the SBS community are diverse and only connected by their shared focus on understanding the behavior and actions of people, organizations, and communities (see Box 2). Most researchers in these fields have no particular incentives to consider contributions their work could make to national security, or means of identifying possible opportunities to explore such applications.
1 The complete report is available for free download at https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25335/a-decadal-survey-of-the-social-and-behavioral-sciences-a.