Created: 4/1/1961

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TITLE: Priority National Intelligence Objectives



AUTHOR: Ludwell L.




A cc4lection ol nrlictos on lhe historical, operational, doctflnot. and theorelical aspects ol Intelligence.

All lUtemenu of fact, opinion or analysis expiessed in Studies in Intelligence are those of

the authors They 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 asserting or implying US Government endorsement of an article's factual statements and interpretations.

Evolution and role of "the most broadly controlling document in the field of requirements."


ClydeIn Uw^%rcaff*BKk at Collectionwhich he takesecent Issue of theotes the "conspicuous hiatus" between such high-level guidance documents as Director ol Central Intelligence, Priority National Intelligence Objectives, and the collection requirements actually produced at the working level,with respect to the question of determining relative priorities among such requirements. He invites discussion of the problem of "how to formulate needs and priorities inay as to facilitate the satisfaction of needs in aroughly proportionate to their priorities, through the most effective use of the collection means available."

In the nature of the case, collectors are likely to be more keenly aware of this problem than people working in other phases of the intelligence process, but its existence and gravity should be of concern to researchers and estimators as well, for it is their work that ultimately suffers from any diffusion and misdirection of the collection effort. The hiatusgeneral guidelines and practical requirements that Mr. Hefftcr points out is real, and Its consequences are serious. He has considered it from the collectors' viewpoint. Theof this article Is to complement his analysis with anfrom the other side of the gap- -specifically, tothe development of the PNIO concept and to review what the PNIO's are and are not intended to be. Conclusions as to what is wanting for the determination of practicalare substantially the same from either point of view. Evolution of the PNIO's

Prom the outset it was understood that the responsibility of the Director of Central Intelligence for the coordination of



V. -csji*--

U.S. foreign intelligence activitiesesponsibilityauthoritative guidance for Intelligenceational (as distinguished frompoint of view. To this end. National SecurityIntelligence Directivedopted by the NSC inprescribed two specificTo prepareomprehensive outline of national * objectives (generally] applicable to foreign countries

To select,urrent basis, the sections and items of

this outline having priority Interest.

By "comprehensive outline" the drafters of NSCTD 4Integration of such then existing departmentalas the Army's Index Guide and the Navy'sWhat they had In mind has actually beenby the preparation of the National Intelligence{NIS Standard Instructions,ublication ofasnecessary to meet the formal requirementcom-outline" of national intelligence

7 directive had the fault ofethod ratherission. Manifestly, national intelligencehave never been determined by the selection ofand items"comprehensivehey are no longer required to be in NSCIDfhose subparagraphs the present-day survivor of the original NSCTD 4.

The fact Is that no priority national intelligence objectives were formulatednd that their provenance then was unrelated to NSCTDn0 the JointCommittee produced. "Critical Intelligence Objectives of the Department of Defense with Respect to the USSR" This document identified as critical Intelligencefive generalized aspects of Soviet military capabilities. In September its text, with the addition of two highlyreferences to political warfare, was adopted as, "Priority National Intelligencen2 this DCTD was amended to cover explicitly not only the USSR but also "Its Satellites (Including Communist China)."

The preoccupation ofith Sovietatural consequence of lis origin and of theof the time, the shooting war then inKorea. Inowever, an armisticesigned, the adequacy of the DCID as prioritya national intelligence effort was questioned. The Board of

National Estimates was directed to study the problem and touitable revision. Its study, in consultation with

of lnter-agency coordination.

It was represented to the Board that the almost exclusively military character ofesulted In claims of priority for the collection of any desired Item of military information over any other information, no matter how significant the latter might be In relation to the national security. Such claims were plainly out of consonance with thehat, for the near term at least, the Kremlin would probably avoid military action withBloc forces, that the active threat. security was likely toigorous Communist political warfare campaign designed to undermine the Western power position, and that there was dangereakening of the unity of the Free World. They were also plainly out of consonance with. Basic National Security Policy. whicheed for Intelligence on the capabilities andof friendly and neutral states as well as of the Soviet Bloc.

The Board concluded that the list of priority nationalobjectives must be expanded to cover at least the most significant of these non-military concerns, and that there must also be some discrimination between militaryof greater and of lesser consequence. This expansion of the list and need for discrimination within it led to theof three general categories of priority within theingle list in absolute order of priority wasInfeasible and also undesirable, as likely to Introduce self-defeating rigidity Into the system.

The revised DCID proposed by the Board of Nationaland adopted by the Director of Central Intelligence with the concurrence of the Intelligence Advisory Committee


,as the prototype of the present4. The differences between the two represent only those adjustments normally to beesponsive to developments Ln the situation.

Criteria for PNIO Selection

The DCID has an annex that sets forth certain criteria to govern the selection of priority national Intelligence loss on these criteria la ln orderat this point, (

la ted to the Intelligence required ln the formulation andof national security policy. Through Its role In the preparation ot national intelligence estimates, the Board of National Estimates Is cognizant of the Intelligenceof the NSC and its subordinate policy boards. It li also cognizant of the most critical problems inherent in the estimates required to meet their needs. Its Identification of these substantive problems as priority national Intelligence objectives canasis for Identifying priority research and collection requirements, but of course does not in Itself define such requirements.

Second, since the bulk of the intelligence required in the formulation and execution of national security policy will be the product of routine Intelligence collection and research, the PNIO's should be limited to the critical problems which require special attention and effort. This principle should be axiomatic. There Is, however, constant pressure to make the listing more inclusive,onsequent danger of itsso nearly all-inclusive as to deprive the word "priority" of meaning. This pressure, which apparently springs from ato get everyone's favorite topic listedriorityin order to Insure that It will not be neglected, has lo be resisted.

Third, in order totable basis for IntelUgence planning, the DCID should be designed to remain valid over an extended period. This consideration requires the exclusion of topics of momentarily urgent, but transitory, interest, which will require and receive ad hoc treatment in any case The present practice Is to review and revise the DCTDthe process sometimes extending the period betweento as much as eighteen months.

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Fourth, since broad generalities are of little practicalPNIO's should be specific enough to providefor the allocation of research and collectionbut not so specific as to constitute in themselvesand collection requirements. The application ofpresents the greatest difficult; In the formulationand Is the source ot complaints from thosewho refuse to accept them, with Mr. Heftier, aswhichlaws and courts toone hand to rule" out

the kind of generality found in, and on the other to keep the PNIO hi rather broad terms, especially In comparison with specific collectionIs, j to maintain Its character as the statementriticalintelligence problem rather than an itemizing of the '. essential elements of information needed for Its solution.

Role o] the PNIO's in Guiding Research and Collection

The function of the PNIO's as stated In the DCID, is to serveuide for the coordination of intelligence collection and production. They are intended to be only the first steprocess beginningeed for information felt at the national policy planning level and extending to the servicing I of specific collection requirements In the field.

In this first step, the Board of National Estimates, with the advice of other Agency offices and in coordination with USIB representatives, identifies the critical substantiveinherent in the general body of intelligence required for purposes of national security policy. This is as far ascan properly go in relation to the total problem. The Identification and formulation of collection requirementsto these priority national Intelligence objectives requires analysis by research personnel to determine the elements of Information essentialolution of the problem, thealready available or readily obtainable throughthe additional information obtainable through routine collection and the residual information of such criticalas toriority collection effort.


therefore necessary that research personnel exerciseand restraint In formulating collection requirements, claiming priority for only those aspectsrioritythat actually doriority collection effort. As Mr. Befltcr has pointed out, the criterion here is not aIncidental relationship of the collection requirementNIO, but the Importance (the essentiality) of the desired informationolution of the critical problem designated

tion, citing some not cogent relationshipNIO. collectors must exercise their own Judgment and authority In rejecting them.

articular system of Intelligence coUectlorTls unable to satisfy ail of the legitimate requirements levied upon it. determinations have to be made as to which requirements will be accorded priority. In this operational context,priority can never be determined solely by reference to the PNIO's. One requirement relatedNIOesponsible research agency toeally essential clement of Information, being well suited to the particular mode of collection, may consequently be accorded the desired priority. Another such requirement may be totally unsuited to that mode of collection and therefore unworthy of anywhatever, no matter what the PNIO to which it is related. All sorts of gradations are possible between these two extremes. In these circumstances collection officers must assume the responsibility for deciding between theclaimants for their services. Their decisions may be informed and guided by the PNIO's and other Instruments that Mr. Hefner cites, but they must be made primarily In terms of the collector's expert professional knowledge.

Problems such as these are inherent In the administration of Intelligence research and collection. No reformulation of the PNIO's could obviateindeed, the PNIO's were to be transformedommunity-wide listing ofcollection requirements in an absolute order ofEven if this were done, something like the present PNIO's would then have to be reinvented to guide theof collection requirements. The problem lies, not in the PNIO's, however imperfect they may be. but in the gap

between them and the scramble to obtain priority forcollection requirements.

What Can Be Done About It?

4 the Board of National Estimates was keenly aware that the formulation of PNIO's wasmall part of the total problem. It recommended that the then Specialto the Director for Planning and Coordination be directed

and to propose improvements. The Special Assistant madetudy and concluded that no action was advisable. Like Mr. Heffter, he consideredingle comm unl ly-wide mechanism for coordinating collection requirements,priorities to them, and allocating particular collectionto their service wouldube Goldberg contrap-j lion,indranceelp. The Board or National Estimates would heartily agree. It had not meant to propose l the Invention ofachine, but It had hoped that serf-i ous study of the subject might bear such fruitoreunderstanding of mutual responsibilities and moreprocedures for cooperation in the common cause.

For six years, however, the gap has remained, andas well as estimators evidently find It to behing. And now Mr. Heffter comes forward with somesuggestionselcome invitation todiscussion of the problem. Reject inn as impractical the Ideaommunity-wide coordination of collectionIn priority order, he suggests that the situation could be alleviated If more systematic use were made of theof the several USD3 subcommittees under their assigned authority, in their respective fields. *'toobjectives within the over-all national intelligenceestablish relative priorities on substantive needs,the scope and effectiveness of collection and production efforts to meet these objectives, and make the necessaryrecommendations to the departments and agencieshis would be precisely the kind ofof the PNIO's which the Board of National Estimates has adihcated for many years.

More Important than any procedural proposals, however, is Mr. Hefner's recognition of the fundamental needruly professional doctrine and discipline In relation to this subject. The professional discussion which he seeks to stimulateecessary step toward the satisfaction of that need.

It is now time for someone to join the discussion from the viewpoint of the research components of the community.

Original document.

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