NIC (National Intelligence Council)

NIC (National Intelligence Council)

The National Intelligence Council (NIC) oversees the estimative process of the United States intelligence community, and produces National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs). The NIC answers directly to the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) in his capacity as head of the intelligence community. In addition to producing NIEs, NIC generates other reports, and avails itself of knowledge provided by civilian experts through its Global Expertise Reserve Program (GERP).

Mission and organization. NIC is the principal intelligence community center for mid-term and long-term strategic analysis. Among its principal functions are supporting DCI as leader of the intelligence community; providing a tasking office whereby policymakers may present requests for information to members of the intelligence community; drawing on the expertise of non-government authorities in academia and the private sector, so as to broaden the intelligence community's perspective on issues of importance; and leading in the production of NIEs and other informational products.

NIC has several national intelligence officers (NIOs) focused on geographic areas or specific issues regarding national security and intelligence. As of 2003, it had NIOs devoted to Africa, conventional military issues, east Asia, economics and global issues, Europe, Latin America, the Near East and south Asia, Russia and Eurasia, science and technology, strategic and nuclear programs, and warnings. In addition, there was an at-large NIO.

NIOs have the responsibility of advising the DCI, supporting the needs of senior intelligence consumers, producing estimative intelligence, tapping the knowledge and insights of outside experts, helping to assess the capabilities of intelligence community analytic producers, promoting collaboration between producers of analysis within the intelligence community, and articulating priorities to guide future efforts in intelligence collection, evaluation, and procurement.

NIC products and programs. By far the most significant NIC product is the NIE, which dates back to the intelligence failures of the late 1940s—particularly the miscalculations of Chinese and North Korea intentions on the Korean peninsula that led to the surprise invasion of South Korea in 1950. Responding to these failures, General Walter Bedell Smith, upon becoming DCI in October, 1950, created the NIE as a means of drawing upon the expertise of the entire intelligence community. In addition to the NIE, NIC has produced studies and reports such as "Transformations in Defense Markets and Industries," issued in late summer 2001. The report noted two trends in national armament policies: on the one hand, governments were broadening the range of sources from which they purchased weapons, and on the other hand, national defense industries were competing to export arms to other nations. These trends were creating "a world characterized by the routine diffusion of weapons and technology."

In December, 2000, NIC issued an enormous report titled Global Trends 2015: A Dialogue About the Future with Nongovernment Experts. The report identified seven key factors that would shape the world over the next 15 years, and made specific predictions, for instance suggesting the strong possibility of international conflict over water rights and access to fresh water. Among the larger trends cited in the report were scientific and technological advances, changes in the nature of military power and conflict, globalization of markets, and increased conflict over oil and other energy sources.

GERP. Many of the NIC's products are a result of GERP, through which it has sought to expand the reach of the intelligence community by fostering dialogue between intelligence analysts and non-government experts. Reservists, as participants in GERP are called, come from academia, the corporate world, and private think tanks. They are typically U.S. citizens who have traveled widely, and who have closely followed a particular topic or geographic area of interest for at least 10 years. As NIC noted on its Web site in 2003, "In the past, topics covered by the Reserve have ranged from stability and conflict in subSaharan Africa, to the impact of organized crime in the Caribbean, to economic growth in Iran."

Participation in GERP, as NIC also noted, "is not about being 'James Bond'"; in other words, reservists serve purely in the role of consultants, and are not involved in the collection of intelligence, or in other covert activities. Nor are they called upon to take any action on behalf of the federal government. Rather, their role is simply to participate with NIC as consultants. All reservists are paid for their work, and some are placed on retainer, while others are consulted on a case-by-case basis. They are expected to maintain confidentiality as appropriate, but outside of restrictions relating to national security, they are free to publish.



Nye, Joseph S., Jr. "Peering into the Future." Foreign Affairs 73, no. 4 (July/August 1994): 82.

Postel, Sandra L., and Aaron T. Wolf. "Dehydrating Conflict." Foreign Policy no. 126 (September/October 2001): 60–67.

Wall, Robert. "New Arms Policies Seen Altering Warfare." Aviation Week & Space Technology 155, no. 10 (September 3, 2001): 100.

Zelikow, Philip. "The Global Infectious Disease Threat and Its Implications for the United States." Foreign Affairs 79, no. 4 (July/August 2000): 154–155.


Global Trends 2015: A Dialogue About the Future with Nongovernment Experts. Central Intelligence Agency. < > (March 17, 2003).

National Intelligence Council. < > (March 17, 2003).


DCI (Director of the Central Intelligence Agency)
Intelligence Community
Nongovernmental Global Intelligence and Security

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