Kent-Kendall debate of 1949   [open pdf - 2MB]

"Sherman Kent's Strategic Intelligence for American World Policy, published in 1949, is probably the most influential book ever written on US intelligence analysis. Indeed, Kent's carefully drafted blueprint for meeting the challenges facing intelligence in the post war world has regularly been cited by defenders and critics alike of the performance of the Central Intelligence Agency. Almost all experienced Agency analysts are generally familiar with Kent's themes, though probably more from informal discussions than from a careful reading. One of Kent's most finely honed doctrines addresses the relationship between producers and consumers of intelligence analysis. Effective ties, while manifestly essential for the well-being of both groups, were difficult to achieve. Kent's recommended fix: to warrant scholarly objectivity, provide analysts with institutional independence; to warrant relevance, urge them to strive to obtain 'guidance' from policy makers. Willmoore Kendall's 'The Function of Intelligence,' a 1949 review of Strategic Intelligence, agreed with Kent on the importance of getting right the relationship between experts and decision makers but on little else. Kendall's bold and prescient arguments deserve more attention from both students and practitioners of intelligence analysis. Kendall rejected what he depicted as Kent's ideal of bureaucratic scholars processing information to understand the outside world for the benefit of bureaucratic policy planners. The function of the intelligence as Kendall saw it was directly to help 'politically responsible' leaders achieve their foreign policy goals in large measure by identifying the elements of an issue that were susceptible to US influence. In addition, Kendall observed that if the intelligence mission were to illuminate decision making with the best expert knowledge can provide, Kent's aversions to taking account of domestic US politics and social science theory were self-defeating. This article first sets out the major lines of doctrinal disagreement between Kent and Kendall in the context of the late 1940's. It then sketches the impact of the opposing views on CIA doctrine and practice during the ensuing 0 years. Finally, it addresses requirements for effective producer-consumer relations in the 1990's, a period in which challenges to both policy makers and analysts are likely to increase even as recourses committed to national security become scarcer. If for no other reason, doctrinal choices require thoughtful examination at this juncture."

Public Domain
Retrieved From:
Center for the Study of Intelligence: https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/index.html
Media Type:
Studies in Intelligence (1992), v.36 no.5
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