By James Green, Jr.
The world we live in today is far different from the one that existed when I began my intelligence career 44 years ago. Intelligence issues were much simpler then, and there was less data and information to analyze. Although the nation was engaged in a Cold War with the Soviet Union, our intelligence resources were sufficient to keep track of our adversary’s capabilities.
Today, analysts are dealing with multiple threats and a wider range of issues that impact our nation’s security. While numerous intelligence gathering components support our national security efforts, our analytical workforce is being inundated by the harvest. We’ve also witnessed the proliferation of the Internet and social media sites, as well as the evolution of high-tech electronic devices, including smartphones and tablets, none of which existed in 1970.
The common thread between these two vastly different eras is the fact that accurate, reliable and actionable intelligence for our President and senior policy makers, is as vital today as it was back then.
The Intelligence Community of Today
When it comes to dealing with our myriad of 21st century issues, intelligence is the critical component in the decision-making process. Aside from monitoring foreign military forces, intelligence assets are also used to track cyber threats, terrorism, and nuclear proliferation.
In addition, intelligence supports law enforcement and homeland security. Defending the homeland has become an even more daunting task, as terrorists and extremists develop new ways to infiltrate and attack our country. There has not been another major terrorist attack on the U.S. since 9/11, however, there have been several near misses.
Today’s homeland security intelligence partners are doing a better job at detecting and preventing such attacks, and are working better together. The Intelligence Community consists of 16 organizations managed by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), which was created in 2004 to minimize the bureaucratic barriers to information sharing.
The Homeland Security Act of 2002 created the Department of Homeland Security, which includes elements of 22 organizations. More than 240,000 people are involved in the counterterrorism effort. Their daily challenge is to help ensure we never experience another intelligence failure like 9/11. These dedicated intelligence professionals must be on top of their game every day, because the terrorists will wait patiently for us to let our guard down again.
Traits of an Intelligence Analyst
Homeland security intelligence is data that has been collected, analyzed and distilled down into reliable information that can assist federal, state, local and tribal decision makers in identifying and preventing threats to our nation. At times, the amount of data to sort through can be overwhelming for analysts or intelligence officers who lack sufficient training and tools. The feeling of not knowing where to start, or how to organize the data, can cause “analysis paralysis” for some analysts.
A successful analyst usually has some basic skills and traits that can form a solid foundation to build his or her analytical skills and expertise upon. Some traits that are essential for success in the field are:
- Critical thinking
- Attention to detail
- Ability to stay calm in stressful situations
- Abstract reasoning
- Problem solving
- Curiosity and a natural inquisitiveness
Other valuable attributes include an interest in international affairs as well as the ability to quickly adapt to changing circumstances.
Career opportunities associated with securing the homeland are wide-ranging, from analysts and intelligence officers to aviation and border security agents, and from emergency response and cyber security to onsite facility inspectors.
If you are considering a career in intelligence, start by visiting www.intelligence.gov to learn more about this diverse, exciting and ever-changing field.
About the Author: James Green, Jr., is the manager for Intelligence and National Security Relationships for American Military University. He joined AMU in 2010, after a 38-year career as an Intelligence Officer with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), a combat support agency under the Department of Defense. James is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO), the Central Intelligence Retirement Association (CIRA) and International Association for Intelligence Education (IAFIE). You can contact him at JGreen@apus.edu.