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IntelligenceThe growing link between intelligence communities and academia

By Scott Firsing

Published 1 October 2015

The events of September 11 2001 were a catalyst for change in the intelligence profession.One noticeable change: The number of universities offering an intelligence studies-related degree has grown from  a handful to few dozen. Universities are starting to develop curricula that feature practical real-world exercises and structural analytical techniques. This is often happening in collaboration with the intelligence community. Like most businesses or agencies do, universities are starting to develop specific niches. This expansion is being led by the International Association for Intelligence Education (IAFIE), which was formed in June 2004. The field will only grow. It’s a necessary expansion to produce the professionals needed to ensure America’s national security and that of its allies for generations to come.

The idea of university professors or students working with the FBI or CIA probably makes you raise your eyebrows.

But then perhaps you’re picturing someone like the fictional Henry McCord in Madam Secretary. He’s a Georgetown theology professor who was asked to plant a bug for the National Security Agency (NSA) at the home of a scholar believed to be connected to a terrorist.

Such covert operations do happen. But mostly, professors will be called to deliver a guest lecture to agents or a university will be contracted to help with research. This is true for organizations in the United States like the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the NSA, and for their counterparts elsewhere in the world.

Such interactions make even academics wary. A tenured professor in the United States tends to be a liberal who is suspicious of the intelligence community’s (IC) methods and activities overseas.

But the tactics used by America’s current and potential future enemies are constantly changing. This volatility and diversity of threats means that the IC needs higher education’s help.

Intelligence post-9/11
The events of September 11 2001 were a catalyst for change in the intelligence profession. In the fourteen years since, the number of institutions associated with the field has grown so “large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work,” according to a two-year investigation published by the Washington Post in 2010.

The IC has transformed and greatly expanded to address the shortfalls that became evident after 9/11. One of its moves was to expand the CIA’s Sherman Kent’s School of Intelligence Analysis which opened in May 2000 and became part of the new CIA University founded in 2002. Mainstream academia also started to develop specialized degrees in intelligence, homeland security and national defence.

Those outside the IC may question why we need structures and organizations like the CIA, FBI and others.

In his 2014 book Scientific Methods of Inquiry for Intelligence Analysis, academic Professor Hank Prunckun explains that intelligence is important because it allows control to be exercised in a given situation – and control equals power.

Prunckun calls intelligence “an exact science based on sound qualitative and quantitative research methods.”