Created: 4/1/1956

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A colieciion ol oriiclot on the hlstotical, operational, doctrinal, and theoretical aspects ot intelligence.

All statements of fact, opinion or analysts expressed in Studies in Intelligence are those of the authors Ihey do not necessarily reflect official positions or views of the Central Intelligence Agency or any other US Government entity, past or present Nothing in the contents should be construed as assertingmplying US Government endorsement of an article's factual statements and interpretations.


The writer of the following comment isof Intelligence, V. S. Air Force.

We In the Air Force totelhgence shop have for some time avoided using the words "capabilities" and "intentions" in any of our own work. We prefer to usecourses of action which can be undertaken ornd thendamage to oure consider "psychological strength" as being necessary to any course of action and that some measurement of psychological strength can be made in terms ofnd "pressures."

There Is much In Mr. Abbot Smith's article which coincides with our view.elieve our effort is unique In that it attempts to set up oil causative things as strengths and deals with the "net capabilities" problem in terms of "probableto our Interests."

Major General John A. Samford, United States Air Force


The writer of the following comment isRepresentative to the CentralAgency.

Away With Capabilities!*

AD references are to "Articles an CepabulUes" by Abbot K. Smith and Harold D. Krtim. Studiet tn laUXlioence..

The amount of bedevUment created by the use of. thecapability" in intelligence had led me to doubt whether it has

any value in this sphere. The following observations arc born of this doubt and they have brought'ine at least to the convic-tion that other terms would serve the purposes of intelligence far better. It Is notatter of word-splitting, forerm relates to the whole purpose of Intelligence, military or national, namely, the fining down of what the enemy can do, to what he is most likely to do.

Inh century England there lived the notedLancelot Brown, better known as "Capability" Brown. The grounds at Kew and at Blenheim Palace, by the way, were laid out by him. The epithet came of his habit of saying that the grounds which he was asked to lay out hadHe meant of course that, as we would say, they hadndeveloped, latent faculties or

m sure that "Capability" Smith had the other main connotation In mind, an existing quality of being "capable" of doing this or that, whichake it, the sense the U. S. military term Is meant to convey. The very term, however, offers scope for ambiguity which makes It unsuitable for use in national or military estimates. It carries with it the sense ofcapacity" or evenhat Is, ability regardless of Intention, reasonableness or desirability; It can equally well on the other hand be used toourse of action within so-and-so's powers,easonable intention. Much of the trouble with the word "capability" as used in intelligence seems to stem from an inherent imprecision and much heart- and mmd-searching would be spared If the word wereear. (After that time it would be found that there would be no need for It.)

In its place we could use several terms according to what was meant, and avoid confusion. First there is strength orhat which the enemy can muster or wield, always qualifiedone and space If it Is to be meaningful in relationiven* -

proMam. "

Next under the capability concept and In logical sequence there are courses of action (including inaction) which the en-


emy could adopt In the light of reason- The intelligence officer has to be trusted somewhere, and who is better equipped to give the range of reasonable courses open to the enemyhe Intelligence officer or branch, which for all its limitations of evidence Is professionally best equipped with knowledge of the enemy's strength, methods and habits?

Logically we next come to the heart of the "capability"the most difficult and the most important part of the whole task of intelligence, the selection of the course most likely to be adopted, which can be equated with the enemy's most probable intention. For intelligence to stop short of attempting tothe commander, the Chiefs of Staff or the Security Council as to the most probable enemy Intention would strike me as the gravest failure to carry the job to its responsible conclusion. Mr. Smith states (p.hat "the enumeration and description of enemy capabilities Is the ultimate, or at least thegoal of militaryould say that It can never be the ultimate goal and must always be no more than penultimate.

This naturally raises the argument that theknows what he commands and can logically beability to use his resources most effectively to countercourses of action which the enemy couldis therefore alone qualified to decide on theTnls argument seems excessively purist. Thewho has the operational responsibility, can iftellhat Intelligence Is useless, that heenemy and, at the risk of punching blind, can gobis operations. But that in no wayforward bis final judgment on the enemy'sIf the commander does not thin*to. he should sack him and get another inheair degree of faith, even though he doeshim

:The argument "that the "commander alone knows'his bwh forces and intentions and can therefore best select the course the enemy Is most likely to adopt presupposes, it seems, anofficer who is not up to snuff. The Intelligence offl-

cer shouldretty good Idea ol his own side's resources and dispositions, the basis of knowledge with which we should at least credit the. Thus equipped, and with bis professionally best available knowledge of the enemy'snd methods, is not the Intelligence officeretter position than the commander to select the enemy's most likely course, and Is it not his duty to tell him? There have been manywhen an experienced commander has disregarded, preferring his operational "hunch" as to the enemy's course, and has been shown triumphantly right This still does notrom putting forwardelection.

Colonel Eehm statesOur current doctrine probably goes too far in playing down intentions-analysis. Going all out the other way would certainly be worse. Ithe stress on measurable physical facts ishe last thing anyants is to be forced into the field of clairvoyance and make clear how far or how little distance his evidence takes him. Frequently he knows that his evidence can take himmall part of the way and in such cases excessive "stress on measurable physical facts" Is more likely to mislead the commander than is the exercise of judgmentust admit bis inability toirm opinion when he simply has no adequate basis for selection of the enemy Intention; but where hetrong enough basisreference, he should be honest andenough, while pointing out the other possibilities, to indicate that preference. He is there to aid his commander to the utmost, not to's reputation for infallibility.

If the commander is concerned with the most probable enemy reactionourse he intends to adopt, does he not stand to open his eyes more fully to the range of enemy reactions if be tellshat that course Is (In generalrut various plans ono see how he gauges the enemy's reaction? All this has' nothing to doncroaching on the .commander's prerogafive.'. It isuestion' of the commander's making the most efficient use of his staff. * )

Another type of confusion appears to come from tbe use of the terms gross capability and net capability. These appear to

be moat closely related to ability to carryiven course of action. What la "gross capability" other than "theoreticalnd "net capability" than "estimatedhe actual residue when all practical considerations of estimated reducing or opposing factors have been taken Into account?

Mr. Smith makes the point (p.hat "the policy-makers need, in short, to know about net capabilities, not merely about gross or rawndeed commanders, equally, need to know about net capabilities, and increasingly so since in the nuclear age persistence in ignoring nuclear weapons, for example,educing factor will lead intelligence intoa grotesquely unreal picture of what the enemy canould say the "gross capability" type of estimate has no place in finished intelligence and that it is no moreorking aid to arriving at what all good estimates shouldestimates.

Although for simplicity of argument the foregoing has used the exampleield commander and, it seems to meumber of years of concern both with operationalestimates and the national type of estimate that theare much the same with both; the differences are in complexity rather than Inave in mind the complexity of treatment and the process, rather than the end productational estimate looks deceptively simple (the consequences of error, however, areational scale and can be nationallyut when all the sifting of evidence on the enemy and the operational setting have been done and tha various courses of action weighed, the end result the summation and judgmentational estimateield situation estimate, should be simple and clear. Is not the task of intelligence just that the use of Judgment to bringand clarity out of the confused, the fragmentary, the unreliable, the sound, and the irrelevant? And the mostout of the possible? How about wiling "capabilities"he be-all and end-all of mtenigence? For they are not

Alan J. P. Crick

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