United States Central Intelligence Agency

George Friedman criticizes the bureaucratic system followed at the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), due to its alleged preference of systematic organization over brilliance and courage. The “business processes” approach applied by George Tenet to the organization in 1996 is said to be inapplicable to the CIA, because such processes eliminate independent thinking, which is necessary in the kind of work that intelligence does.

(Friedman, 2005). Friedman’s claim on the inadequacies in procedure in the CIA is probably applicable to all intelligence agencies in the country, because they require information on similar things, which means their respective organizations would require the same kinds of solutions that will make them more efficient. Thus, Friedman’s criticisms can be studied, not only as applied to CIA, but to the entire Intelligence Community as a whole.

The Intelligence Community (IC) is a “federation of executive branch organizations that pursue intelligence activities necessary for the conduct of foreign relations and for ensuring the national security of the United States. ” While each member of the community has its own area of expertise, all of them seek the common threats of “conventional warfare, terrorism, chemical, biological and nuclear warfare, narcotics trafficking and information infrastructure attack. ” (IC Brochure). Friedman claims that in the CIA, analytic brilliance is treated as a liability instead of an asset.

Too much value is placed on an organizational structure that is built on hierarchy and compromise. Brilliant people are discouraged from expressing their ideas because of fear that they would not get the proper recognition or attention that they and their ideas deserve. However, Friedman noted that changes are beginning to happen, albeit the effects are yet to be seen. (Friedman, 2005). However, a look on the face of certain intelligence agencies in the United States government shows that proper emphasis is given to independent thought, contrary to Friedman’s claim.

For example, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), a member of the U. S. intelligence community, claims that it draws intelligence from all sources and it provides an independent analysis of events to the stakeholders. (Bureau of Intelligence and Research). Another example is the Defense intelligence Agency, which prides itself for the delivery of advantage to stakeholders, through the integration of “highly skilled intelligence professionals with leading edge technology. ” It also puts a premium on creativity and innovation, while appreciating the value of teamwork at the same time.

(This is DIA). While there are limitations to these sources of information in making the conclusion that Friedman was wrong in claiming that the bureaucracy prevents the meaningful contribution of brilliant people in the intelligence community because these are mere statements of policy rather than a report of actual practice in their respective organizations, the fact that the values of creativity, independence and innovation are included in their organizations’ vision says something about their respective goals and processes.

This means these organizations are not unaware of the importance of these values in the successful accomplishment of their functions. Finally, from the perspective of bureaucracy, there is nothing wrong in applying certain principles of business processes to intelligence agencies, such as command authority and methodical provisions. One of the major principles of bureaucracy is hierarchy of authority, which means that there is an installed “system of super- and subordination,” where there is an exercise of supervision by officers who occupy positions that are higher than the others. (Weber).

This principle is not necessarily antithetical to independent thought, because the rejection or acceptance of a unique idea can depend on many other factors, such as feasibility and reliability. Furthermore, a hierarchical system has its own advantages, such as systemic organization and accountability. Another good feature of the bureaucratic model consists of the “methodical provision” for efficient fulfillment of the corresponding duties of responsible officers or employees. This ensures regularity and continuity in work, which cannot be in any way detrimental to any organization.

In sum, while Friedman’s trust in the power of brilliance and courage in thinking independently is warranted, there are various features in the bureaucratic model that should be adopted by intelligence agencies because of the administrative advantages they can bring. Moreover, there are other factors that affect the limited influence of stray ideas in a bureaucracy, which means there are possible ways of reconciling both the principles of courageous independent thought and methodical organization in intelligence agencies.


Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Retrieved December 1, 2006, from     http://www. state. gov/s/inr/ Friedman, G. (2005). For Better Intel, Add Courage. New York Post Online. IC Brochure. Retrieved December 1, 2006, from http:// icbrochure/index. htm This Is DIA. Retrieved December 1, 2006, from http://www. dia. mil/thisisdia/mission. htm Weber, M. Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. Retrieved December 2, 2006, from     http://www2.pfeiffer.edu/~lridener/DSS/Weber/BUREAU.HTML