Is Social Anthropology the New Intel Career Path

Posted by Rob Riggins

The current unrest in the Middle East is an example of the changing landscape for the Intel community and the evolution of skill sets and analytical needs for the future.

At yesterday’s discussion on Evolving Priorities and Threats for the U.S. Intelligence Community, Drs. Steve Cambone of QinetiQ and L. Roger Mason of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, discussed the growing importance of open source information in evaluating potential threats. Both panelists agreed that this shift in information will impact the required skill sets necessary for Intel work.

We all know the bad guys aren’t as structured as they used to be. Much of the information about trends and activities related to unrest is no longer found in the “safes of government officials.”

Socioeconomic issues such as demographic pressure (too many young males with no prospects for employment), water scarcity and poverty are driving popular movements. Those movements can have profound effects such as the Arab Spring.

Rise of Social Anthropology in Intel

Much of the information regarding these movements is open source information, available to anyone with a computer and some skills. But the analysis of this mountain of information puts a premium on the ability of the Intel community to develop social anthropology skills.

These skills are much more important than 5-10 years ago before the availability of the current deluge of open source information. Much of that open source information is found in social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. This social component is playing an increasingly larger role in threat prediction and analysis.

The speakers agreed that we won’t replace counting nukes, which will always be relevant. But there will need to be a “remixing” of intel analysis skill sets to take into account the social aspect.

Will we see a shift in intel hiring? Will there be a change in a bias toward top level vs. deep analysis because there are so many sources of information? Have you already seen this in action? Is this the rise of the social anthropologist?

This entry was posted on Thursday, September 20, 2012 9:05 am

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