Why is intelligence analysis so important? What would happen if a decision maker misread, or skipped, intelligence briefings altogether? If you were the president of the United States, skipping an intelligence briefing could mean missing out on early signs of COVID-19 or misunderstanding the nuclear capabilities of North Korea. However, efficient collection and organization of information can be utilized on smaller scales crises as well. Intelligence briefings and memos are meant to bring the most important information to the people who need it the most.
"Clear and concise information is vital for leadership teams who do not have the time needed to dig through source documents and pages of reports."
Intelligence analysis is a universal model that can be applied to almost any situation, whether that be to a business acquisition proposal, a government planning document, or a strategy for a military team. Traditionally, intelligence reports focus as much information possible into a short summary that is easy to read and understand even for those not involved in the situation. Military and government analysts bring their efficiency and organizational skills to play in business environments through their mastery of cost benefit analysis and supply chain management.
Although this line was a small point made in Agent Mendez's greater interview with Wired magazine, it struck Mei as encapsulating many issues they themselves have faced as a transgender and nonbinary member of the intelligence community (IC). Anyone who is aware of the transgender, drag, or greater queer community can immediately tell that none of those communities were properly represented in the CIA if a former director felt that 'turning a man into a woman' was "impossible."
For Mei, the fluidity of their gender identity and expression helps them better understand and relate to the cultural fluctuations they interact with and study as a intelligence analyst. Their work as both a diversity advocate and an intelligence analyst has given them the opportunity to blend their skill sets to better serve all the communities they are a part of. As a member of the trans and queer community, Mei can clearly see the value they bring to the IC as both a diverse and well educated individual.
In the future, Mei aims to build a bridge across the Pacific using diplomacy and communication. Below is an example of Mei's process for writing an intelligence memo, using their policy memo on the Dokdo/Takeshima islands crisis in July of 2019. You can see and download the original memo here.
Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF)
Typically constrained to one or two sentences, similar to a thesis statement. Readers should be able to understand the point and conclusions of the memo by reading this section.
This section is meant to give context to the problem at hand, but should be constrained to two paragraphs at the most. Important dates, figures, and players should be mentioned in this section, along with their involvement in the problem at hand.
The discussion section should lay out why the problem the memo is addressing is important. In no more than two paragraphs, the discussion should explain why decision makers should be addressing the issue at this time.
Conclusion and Recommendations
The recommendations section should give decision makers three options that range across different levels of response. This technique is similar to psychology's Goldilocks Principle, which helps decision makers understand the worst, best, and middle of the road situation. The conclusion section should only be a paragraph.
Option 1: Typically the first option given is an option that is obviously impossible, improbable, or even dangerous. For example, "bomb North Korea" is not a viable option for a military team, but it helps contextualize why other options are more practical or helpful in the long run.
Option 2: The second option given is a "perfect world" scenario, where all players have perfect information and cooperate with each other. Although just as impractical as the first option, this scenario is meant to help leadership understand what could happen if both parties properly communicate.
Option 3: The final scenario that is presented is the path that the analyst would recommend, and is meant to reflect the best strategy in response to the problem. With the context of the worst and best scenario, the final recommendation should help decision makers choose a measured response to the problem at hand.
Although leadership may not have time to go through source documentation, it is vital to have that information organized and on hand for any follow up questions. This can be added to the end of a document, or in a folder that can be sent to decision makers as needed.