Security Studies Seminar

State INR and Its Role in the Intelligence Community

Thomas Fingar, Ph.D.

April 6, 2005

Dr. Fingar lectured on the role of intelligence in support of diplomacy. In response to a question, he cited INR's role in Secretary Powell's talk to the United Nations. He emphasized that intelligence is both information and insight. Data are everywhere. Therefore, insight is key. The role of intelligence is to support other government activities. To be useful, intelligence must be tailored to the mission of the consumer (military, State, Defense). In other words, "one size doesn't fit all."

He also argued that the quality of analysis is important. It is the role of the intelligence community to know what the consumer already knows and to inform the consumer of what he is missing. Accordingly, 80-85% of the INR's work is to ask those questions not previously considered.

Policymakers need both strategic and tactical intelligence support. The aim is to be objective. In this regard, the independence of INR is important. Dr. Fingar reports directly to the Secretary of State. Analysts aim to produce informed reports, especially as the information moves up the hierarchy. Some outsiders believe that the close contact between INR and policy breeds familiarity, which could influence policy. Dr. Fingar does not regard this as a problem, because INR has a strong culture of independence and analytic integrity.

He contended that information is perishable. The utility and the timing of information are crucial.

INR conducts all-source analysis; it does not collect information, except for conducting polls in about 80 nations. INR receives about 10,000 all-source reports per day; only about 2% of what is collected is disseminated, but the undisseminated information can be searched as appropriate.

Career tracks in the intelligence community must develop experts. For example, INR employees have an average of 13 years of experience. Furthermore roughly 120 of the INR's 300 employees hold Ph.D. and nearly all of its analysts have language skills. Promotions are based on expertise. There is no substitute for expertise and knowledge.

Dr. Thomas Fingar is Assistant Secretary of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR). He previously served as Acting Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research (2003-2004 and 2000-2001), Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (2001-2003), Deputy Assistant Secretary for Analysis (1994-2000), Director of the Office of Analysis for East Asia and the Pacific (1989-1994), and Chief of the China Division (1986-1989). He has published numerous articles and books on Chinese politics. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Stanford University .

Rapporteur: Kelly Grieco

back to seminar summaries, Spring 2005