Fall 2018 - 60745 - PA 388K – Advanced Topics in Public Policy | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin

Fall 2018 - 60745 - PA 388K – Advanced Topics in Public Policy

Intelligence and National Security

“Intelligence and Decision-making” seeks to develop an understanding of what intelligence is, how it succeeds and fails, the range of intelligence activities, the US organization for intelligence, and the relationship between intelligence and decision-making. 


Although the course includes discussion of the current activities and structure of the U.S. Intelligence Community, its primary objective is to develop a framework for thinking about the use and abuse of intelligence in pursuit of “decision advantage” in both policymaking and policy execution.  The course includes a heavy emphasis on intelligence analysis for policymakers, which is where “it all comes together,” in the intelligence function.  Students are also introduced to the various collection “INTS,” (HUMINT, SIGINT, IMINT, etc.), and to national-level management of intelligence.  Counterintelligence and covert action will be covered in some depth.  


Readings and presentations drawn from either historical cases or contemporary issues confronting decision-makers illuminate the methods, principles and challenges in the production and use of meaningful intelligence.  Moral and ethical dilemmas associated with espionage and covert activities are discussed, including, reconciling secrecy with democratic government and the legal underpinnings for intelligence activity.  Foreign intelligence services will be discussed briefly, primarily to contrast these systems to those of the United States.




Intelligence has been called “the hidden dimension” of statecraft.  Anyone interested in international affairs or security issues should possess a basic understanding of the role of intelligence and, as this course emphasizes, the value of intelligence is best measured by its contribution to wise decision-making.  Though intelligence is much less “hidden” today, the systematic requirement for an understanding of intelligence within policy and historical studies remains spotty.   This shortfall is compounded by the absence of systematic preparation of policy practitioners for wise and realistic consumption of intelligence after entering government. 


While US intelligence strives for “objectivity,” the line between intelligence and policy is sharp in some areas, but overlaps in others.  For example, beyond informing policy, the IC must align major intelligence programs with shifting policy priorities, while trying to avoid becoming political themselves.  The IC manages intelligence relationships and the sharing of secrets with other nations, which are often the most “special” components of larger bilateral or multi-lateral relationships (which is often resented by diplomats).   And, just as policymakers have important roles to play in any good intelligence system, agencies of the intelligence community are an extension of the policy community when tasked to execute covert action programs.


Interest in intelligence should not be confined to students of foreign, vs. domestic, policy.  While the IC’s focus on foreign entities and foreign threats was previously enshrined in law, this has changed in the last 15 years.  The line between international and domestic security overlaps most visibly in cyber security, counterterrorism and counter-narcotics, but also in areas like disaster recovery and border security.


An introduction to the written and oral communication techniques used by intelligence professionals in support of busy decision-makers who must make decisions benefits students in all disciplines.

SRH 3.312/3.360