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What is Intelligence Analysis?

Intelligence analysis is a process of collecting and generating intelligence from multiple sources such as data and information. The process usually involves accumulating information about a variety of circumstances and individuals who have knowledge in areas that include strategy, operations, or tactical intelligence. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, “Intelligence analysis is the application of individual and collective cognitive methods to weigh data and test hypotheses within a secret socio-cultural context.”

Penn State University reported that the intelligence analytic cycle usually includes three forms of analysis:

  • All-source analysis
  • Single discipline analysis including GEOINT
  • Technical processing as a form of analysis

Information analysis is gathered by an intelligence analyst. The United States Army defined an intelligence analyst as someone who “is primarily responsible for the analysis, processing and distribution of strategic and tactical intelligence. They are integral to provided Army personnel with information about enemy forces and potential battle areas.”

An analyst will collect information from a wide-range of individuals and connect the similarities of their knowledge, which will create a shared truth. Although the security industry relies on intelligence analysis as a form of collecting information, there are many organizations who use intelligence analysts to gather and produce information.

When information is not accurate, it is called intelligence errors. The CIA described intelligence errors as, “factual inaccuracies in analysis resulting from poor or missing data; intelligence failure is systemic organizational surprise resulting from incorrect, missing, discarded, or inadequate hypotheses.” Intelligence errors could be the result of an intelligence analyst misunderstanding the intention of the enemy, which does not occur because the analyst misinterpreted the information that was present, but he or she misjudged the opponent’s intention due to information that was not present.

Why is Intelligence Analysis Important?

Accurate intelligence analysis, which is vital for the security industry, is important because it protects the nation from potential threats. Intelligence analysts have to produce accurate information to keep possible threats from arising. Government Training LLC reported that “The capacity to develop timely, well-formulated strategic intelligence is vital.”

What is the Process of Intelligence Analysis?

In order for intelligence analysis to be accurate, there must be a process that ensures the data produced is valid. The majority of intelligence analysis is successfully collected through an intelligence process, which is usually five steps and two phases.

According to Penn State University, the steps in the intelligence analysis process include:

  • Requirements
    Requirements involve defining questions that identify what data or information is expected to be gathered, and it can also mean a detailed assembly of certain types of intelligence.
  • Collection
    When the requirements are established, the process of collecting a variety of information takes place. There are some requirements that are specific and involve a number of different forms of data, which is determined by how each requirement should be met.
  • Processing and Exploitation
    After the collection step is completed, the information must go through processing and exploitation before it can be considered intelligence information. Conversion is an important part of this step and can include translations, decryption, and interpretation.
  • Analysis and Production
    Analysis and production is a crucial step in the intelligence analysis process. This step includes the evaluation, integration, and analysis of all the intelligence data, which can consist of detailed reports as well as single-source and all-source studies. All-source intelligence analysis is solely performed by the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and research, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
  • Dissemination and Consumption
    Dissemination is transferring information from producers to consumers. Consumption refers to how consumers interpret the information.
  • Feedback
    Feedback is the dialog that takes place between the intelligence producers and consumers, which starts and continues after the information is received. An intelligence analyst should have an idea of how his or her intelligence requirements are met and be ready to make any adjustments based on feedback.

Careers in Intelligence Analysis

Intelligence analyst are experts, which are usually employed in the security field, who possess analytical skills that allow them to efficiently gather information. In order to be a successful intelligence analyst, an individual must be able to perform in-depth research. There are an abundance of opportunities for intelligence analysts in the security field. The National Security Agency depends on intelligence analysts to gather critical information about the security issues.

If an individual is interested in becoming an intelligence analyst, then they can pursue a degree from a college or university. There are many colleges and universities that offer degrees in intelligence analysis which include James Madison University, Notre Dame College, and Henley-Putman University. Penn State University offers a degree in security and risk analysis.

The United States Army offers job training for potential intelligence analysts that include 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training as well as 13 weeks of Advanced Individual Training. When an individual participates in job training he or she will learn skills, which include:

  • How to read military symbols
  • How to use computer systems
  • Critical thinking
  • Preparing maps
  • Interpreting charts and intelligence reports

When job training is complete, an intelligence analyst for the United States Army will “establish and maintain systematic, cross reference intelligence records and files, access the significance and reliability of incoming information with current intelligence, and proper all-source intelligence products to support the combat commander.”

Intelligence analysts must have well-developed problem-solving skills. Intelligence analysts can start observing a potential problem in an early and unclear stage and be able to determine motives that are present.

Efficient intelligence analysts must be able to write well because their reports will be read by individuals who will use their information to make critical decisions. There are some intelligence analyst positions that require other skills, which include a knowledge in biology, computer science, chemistry, and physics. These intelligence analysts are usually in the security field and can help protect the United States against threats that can arise.

When an intelligence analyst wants to work in the security industry, it is important he or she is able to receive a security clearance. A security clearance gives an individual access to classified information. In order to receive a security clearance, an individual must successfully pass a background investigation.



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Find Your School is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.