US Intelligence Community

Why the US intelligence community needs innovation (and risk)

Intelligence services are arguably always in need of innovation in order to “create an agile and successful organization able to continuously adapt its business processes to the development of society and targets” (Nicander, 20111). Today, the challenges posed to intelligence services and their traditional tradecraft include the adaptation of technologies in fields such as biometrics, computer science and surveillance, the digital transformation of society in general and perhaps specifically cyber warfare (McLaughlin & Dorfman, 20192).

This is part of an outline for my thesis on Intrapreneurs as insider threats. Feedback is very welcome in the comments or via email!

In military technology development, the US has enjoyed a “scientific advantage upon which U.S. military dominance relies” since the end of the Cold War (Javorsek et al., 20153). This dominance might be eclipsed by China in the future, Javorsek et al. suggested.

Last year, the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s Subcommittee on Strategic Technologies and Advanced Research (STAR, 20204) stressed the importance of innovation exploitation in the intelligence community (USIC):

We must act now. Studies, reports and commissions have warned for decades about the risks to national security from the steady erosion in our innovative capacity. Those risks are no longer abstract or speculative. They are upon us and presenting us with ever more adversity and ever more limited policy options.

STAR, 2020

The report recognizes that the USIC’s innovative capacity is ”constrained by necessary secrecy, compartmentalization and rules”, and ”a culture that often punishes risk and cements the status quo” (STAR, 2020, p. 1). The report identifies intolerance of risk as ”the most unsettling [stated problems of USIC] from the standpoint of innovation”, stating that its effect can be lethal (STAR, 2020, p. 10).

Earlier the same year, the CIA launched a research and development initiative, ”CIA Labs”, to better address such challenges (CIA, 20205).

The USIC’s different branches are not only prolific and well funded but also, in comparison with other countries’ equivalents, relatively open to study and scrutiny. This makes Intellipedia, serving many intelligence services of the USIC (Lardinois, 20096), a good case to help illustrate questions around intrapreneurs as insider threats in the USIC.

Any thoughts? Please share in the comments, or via email!

  1. Nicander, L.D. (2011) “Understanding Intelligence Community Innovation in the Post-9/11 World”, International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, 24:3, 534-568, DOI
  2. McLaughlin, J. & Dorfman, Z. (2019) ”’Shattered’: Inside the secret battle to save America’s undercover spies in the digital age”, Yahoo News, December 30, 2019 (accessed November 16, 2020), URL
  3. Javorsek, D. II, Rose, J., Marshall, C. & Leitner, P. (2015) ”A Formal Risk-Effectiveness Analysis Proposal for the Compartmentalized Intelligence Security Structure”, International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, 28:4, 734-761, DOI
  4. STAR, U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s Subcommittee on Strategic Technologies and Advanced Research (2020), Rightly Scaled, Carefully Open, Infinitely Agile: Reconfiguring to Win the Innovation Race in the Intelligence Community, accessed December 5, 2020, URL
  5. CIA (2020), ”CIA Unveils Its First Ever Federal Lab” (press release), CIA News and Information, September 21, 2020 (accessed November 16, 2020), URL
  6. Lardinois, F. (2009) ”Intellipedia: Intelligence Agencies’ Wiki Suffers Midlife Crisis”, The New York Times (syndicated from ReadWriteWeb), published February 19, 2009, accessed December 10, 2020, URL

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