Intelligence in the Policy Process
The mission of the Intelligence Community is to create decision advantage for a wide array of intelligence customers—policymakers, military commanders, law enforcement and homeland security officials. (See www.dni.gov/Vision_2015.pdf). Intelligence plays a key role in each step of the policy process. Policy developers require intelligence on political, economic, social, proliferation, and military issues that affect national security to inform decisions on what policy to pursue and in the establishment of national security priorities. This requires close coordination within the Intelligence Community to provide accurate and comprehensive intelligence. A key organization, the National Intelligence Council provides strategic intelligence in the form of estimates to support and inform the policy process. Products range from brief analyses of current issues to "over the horizon" estimates of broader trends at work in the world. The most well known, National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs), are written judgments concerning national security issues that represent the coordinated views of the Intelligence Community regarding the likely course of future events. See also the National Intelligence Council's unclassified website.
Intelligence is vital to implementation and execution as well. In particular, intelligence is a necessary input to planning efforts and to the safety of U.S. personnel working around the world. Assessment processes also use intelligence products when analyzing policy effectiveness. For example, intelligence can be useful in verifying treaty compliance or analyzing strategic opportunities.
The process of creating reliable, accurate intelligence is dynamic and continuous. The intelligence cycle begins with questions, through planning and direction converts acquired information into intelligence, and makes this intelligence available to policymakers, implementers, analysts, and those executing policy. The five steps of the intelligence cycle are shown above.