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CIAs Kent School--Improving Training for New Analysts

CIAs Kent School--Improving Training for New Analysts



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Published by: Silendo on Jun 08, 2009
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CIA’s Kent School: Improving Trainingfor New Analysts
The Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA’s) Career Analyst Program (CAP)for new analysts seeks to increase their on-the-job effectiveness and abilityto produce more accurate analysis. The program is located within theSherman Kent School for Intelligence Analysis, which CIA’s seniormanagers created in 2000 to increase the expertise of officers within itsDirectorate of Intelligence (DI). The school provides analyst andmanagerial training for the DI, as well as housing the Kent Center whichacquires and disseminates information regarding analytic ‘best practices.’
According to an Agency press release, the CAP is CIA’s ‘‘firstcomprehensive training program for professional intelligence analysts,’’and is a noticeable improvement on prior training efforts.
The CAPprovides new analysts with the knowledge and skills that enable them tobe more effective in the production of finished intelligence, as well as intheir overall job performance. It also provides them with the means toproduce more accurate analysis by teaching them the causes of—andmeans to avoid—intelligence failure, and cognitive tools to assist them instructuring their analysis more along the lines of the scientific method.Whether the CAP will lead to an improvement in the quality of the CIA’sanalytic output will depend on whether analysts have the opportunity toapply their newly acquired expertise when back on the job after training.Ultimately, the institutional assessments of analytic production processeswill determine whether analytic training programs allow the CIA to
Stephen Marrin, a former Central Intelligence Agency analyst and contractor,is in the doctoral program at the University of Virginia, specializing inintelligence studies. An earlier version of this article was presented at theannual meetings of the Intelligence Studies Section of the International Studies Association, New Orleans, Louisiana, in March 2002.
International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, 16: 609–637, 2003Copyright
Taylor & Francis Inc.ISSN: 0885-0607 print/1521-0561 onlineDOI: 10.1080/08850600390198779
improve its production of accurate, timely, and tailored intelligence that fitsthe needs of the Agency’s national security policymaking customers.
Just as every reform is intended to be a solution to a particular problem, theCIA’s leaders created the Kent School as a way to address the Agency’sanalytic weaknesses. In May 1998, Director of Central Intelligence (DCI)George J. Tenet ‘‘gave a classified internal briefing on the CIA’s problemsand what he intends to do about them,’’ according to an article in
US News and World Report
In articulating his vision for the future of theCIA—a vision that became known as his ‘Strategic Direction’—Tenetemphasized the importance of changing past practices to improve theAgency’s contribution to national security policymaking. A year later, in18 October 1999, he told an audience at Georgetown University inWashington, D.C.:
[When] I launched a Strategic Direction plan for the CIA
. . .
I told ourpeople that we had to take charge of our destiny. That we would do allwithin our power to maintain our edge and our vibrancy. That we hadto streamline and realign ourselves and adopt business practices likethe best in the private sector. That we would think big and thinkdifferent. That we would work smarter and in new ways so that wewould have the agility and the resiliency to do what the President— this President or a future President—wants and the American peopleexpect.
One week after this speech, the CIA failed to warn American policymakersof India’s intention to test nuclear weapons. This failure highlighted theAgency’s limitations and likely accelerated the implementation of reformsstemming from Tenet’s Strategic Direction plan.
Post hoc analyses citedmany factors which may have contributed to the failure, but notable wasthe DI’s ‘‘lack of critical thinking and analytic rigor,’’ causing it to fail toadd together all indications of a possible nuclear test.
According to
TheWall Street Journal’ 
s Carla Anne Robbins, Admiral David Jeremiah—whoheaded the official investigation into the failure—‘‘recommended hiringmore analysts, improving their training and increasing contact with outsideexperts to challenge conventional wisdom.’’
She also reported that DCITenet said he would ‘‘make it my highest priority to implement [AdmiralJeremiah’s recommendations] as quickly as possible.’’
Tenet subsequently commissioned a number of task forces to implementhis Strategic Direction. The ‘‘Analytic Depth and Expertise Task Force,’’made up of eight DI officers, was given free rein to investigate ways to‘‘develop true world class experts’’ consistent with the Strategic Direction’sgoals, according to Kent School program director Denis Stadther.
officers met several times a week through the latter half of 1998,brainstorming ideas to increase the expertise of junior, mid-level, andsenior analysts. The task force ruled out a training course for mid-levelofficers because they believed that the broadening experience provided byrotational assignments, such as those overseas or to policymakinginstitutions, would provide greatest value to the Agency. The task forcealso ruled out training for senior analysts. It noted that the DI’s careerpaths provided greater advancement possibilities for senior analysts willingto switch to management, and as a result the more ambitious analystsbecame managers rather than continuing to use their knowledge in ananalytic capacity. Therefore, the task force proposed the creation of amore desirable career track in which senior analysts could continue to usetheir expertise rather than shift into management. Finally, the task forceconcluded that junior officers would be best served with a trainingprogram intended to ‘‘build a common foundation upon which analyticexpertise could be built.’’The task force submitted two recommendations to then-DDI John E.McLaughlin, who approved both, and subsequently attributed theirimplementation to DCI Tenet’s support and tenure that ‘‘lasted longerthan the ‘task force phase,’’’ according to Vernon Loeb of the
In 2000, the career track allowing ‘‘analysts to rise to very seniorrank without branching out into management’’ took form as the SeniorAnalytic Service.
Also that year, the improved new analyst programbegan operating through the newly created Sherman Kent school. Theschool was named for Kent, chairman of the CIA’s Board of NationalEstimates from 1952 to 1967, and considered ‘‘a leader in developing theprofession of intelligence analysis.’’
At the dedication of the Kent Schoolin May 2000, Tenet praised Kent as a ‘‘brilliant teacher to generations of analysts,’’ and expressed his wish that ‘‘this school
. . .
[will] always produceanalysts of whom he would be proud.’’
The Kent School was created to improve CIA’s analytic quality, in part byincreasing the expertise of its analysts. At the opening ceremonies, Tenetstated that the Kent School ‘‘will prepare generations of men and womenfor the
. . .
profession of intelligence analysis in the 21st Century
. . .
[byteaching] the best of what we as an Agency have learned about the craft of analysis.’’
According to Martin Petersen, director of the CIA’s humanresources department, the Kent School’s creation ‘‘sends a very, verypowerful message about what you value, and the value here
. . .
is analyticexpertise.’’
The Kent School improves the CIA’s analytic production by

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