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Teamwork that Protects the Nation


*This article is part of IPS’ August focus on teambuilding and its impact on public safety.*

By Dr. Valerie Davis, Associate Professor, School of Security and Global Studies at American Public University

The ability of the intelligence community (IC) to protect the nation is largely the product of strong teamwork. Team decision-making improves the effectiveness of intelligence practices that depend on team members sharing information, brainstorming ideas, addressing conflict, and reaching a compromise as a unit.

While individuals can be trained as analysts to forecast events, team decision-making yields more accurate results than the work of individual forecasters, an outcome I can affirm based upon 30 years of intelligence experience.

Intel Analysts Teamwork

It is strategically important for members of the IC to focus on teamwork and develop ways to work together collaboratively. Each step in the intelligence cycle—converting raw data into refined intelligence that decision-makers need—depends upon teamwork. This cycle begins with identifying what specific information is needed. The process then continues on to collecting, processing, analyzing, and distributing information in written bulletins and daily reports that get passed to decision makers such as the attorney general and president.

Working with others is often how people learn new knowledge and skills that contribute to better work. In addition, teamwork also provides opportunities to gain experience with diverse perspectives and to learn how to advise, share, and delegate.

Bringing Agencies Together
The IC consists of 17 agencies and organizations, each with specific functions, whose team members work towards detecting, protecting, and defending this great nation:

  • Air Force Intelligence
  • Army Intelligence
  • Central Intelligence Agency
  • Coast Guard Intelligence
  • Defense Intelligence Agency
  • Department of Energy
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Department of State
  • Department of the Treasury
  • Drug Enforcement Administration
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Marine Corps Intelligence
  • National Geospatial Intelligence Agency
  • National Reconnaissance Office
  • National Security Agency
  • Naval Intelligence
  • Office of the Director of National Intelligence

These agencies all work together to help predict important worldwide incidents and circumstances that may affect the nation’s security.

In recent years there has been a greater focus on sharing information with state and local law enforcement agencies to further involve the nation’s emergency responder community in the fight against national threats. Overall, the use of teamwork benefits members within all organizations and contributes to fulfilling critical missions related to national security.

The Benefits and Necessity of Being a Team Player
Serving as an effective team member is important at any stage of your career and can even help further your career. Acquiring superior teamwork skills prepares you to assume leadership positions within the IC. In fact, there are no jobs within this community that values a person who works in isolation.

Effective teamwork depends upon collaborating with co-workers, which includes listening, networking, adapting, analyzing, and remaining flexible and open-minded. By being an effective team player, one is exposed to different ideas, considerations, and solutions that may not exist without the knowledge contributed by others.

Being a team player also helps build interpersonal skills. Working with co-workers to analyze data, meet inflexible timelines, and make decisions can strengthen relational interactions.

Teamwork can be regarded as an extension of research to improve the accuracy and effectiveness of intelligence analysis. The outcomes of intelligence activities and decisions are improved because they result from the unique skills and strengths of each team member.

Valerie Davis_capgown2_croppedAbout the Author: Dr. Valerie E. Davis is an associate professor in the School of Security and Global Studies at American Public University. She served as senior intelligence professional and educator in the U.S. Air Force for over 23 years until her retirement. Her assignments in the Intelligence Community encompass a variety of disciplines across the Intelligence Community, including Theater, Major Commands, wing and national levels.



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  1. Dr. V.E. Davis’ article is definitely spot-on. As it has been said, “It takes teamwork to make the dream work” especially Post 9-11 in the intelligence field. There are a lot of bad guys in the world that want to do us harm. As Dr. Davis has so clearly articulated, “The outcomes of intelligence activities and decisions are improved because they result from the unique skills and strengths of each team member.” I could not have said that better myself. As a result our Nation and our national interests around the world are protected–especially when all levels of city, state, national, and international intelligence teams come together to thwart out the bad guys.

    We need more substantive articles of this nature published. Way to go Dr. Davis!

    1. Dr. Springs,

      Teamwork makes the dream work, great point!
      In the current state of events, we must unite as a team to effectively get the job done!
      Thanks for the feedback!
      Dr. Davis

  2. Dr. Davis’ article could not be more relevant in our current Intelligence Community (IC). The attributes of effective teamwork among the IC are critical for effectively and accurately defending our country, as well as protecting U.S. military and Coalition forces against adversaries. The exchange of information among various agencies in the IC creates a more complete and accurate picture of any threat (existing or potential) for all who collaborate, and the teamwork improves the efficacy of the IC in both its individual and collective aspects. Furthermore, everyone involved in teaming wins by acquiring new analytical, strategic, and critical thinking skills and processes to use in future missions/assignments; in essence, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Kudos to Dr. Davis!

  3. Great article Dr. Davis! Team work is definitely the key to progression. Not only can members of the IC community feed off each other, information can be use within various organizations that you mention. I agree that team work helps build interpersonal skills; it allows small ideas to turn into world changing ideas, with a collaborative effort.

    1. Absolutely! – Turning small ideas into world changing ideas is the way to go, more collaboration means more ideas and different perspective. Thanks for your comment!

  4. Could not agree with the value of teamwork more, Dr. Davis. All industries, not just intelligence, are moving to more lateral (as opposed to hierarchical) business models that emphasize teamwork. (Consequently, even educators are emphasizing skills (problem-solving, communication, collaboration, etc.) to improvement teamwork in classrooms.) Teamwork creates employee buy-in and encourages responsibility, since everyone has a specific role in mission accomplishment. Furthermore, the staff is more motivated when their opinions and decisions are acknowledged and even valued, translating to greater productivity and improved quality of outcomes. The most innovative industries (for example, technology) promote teamwork among their professional staff, resulting in the flexibility that allows the company to adapt to and even anticipate changes that can profoundly affect how they process and deliver their product to consumers. No doubt that such a successful business model would enhance the quality of intelligence gathering, analysis, and dissemination as well.

    1. There is definitely success in teamwork! Promotion of teamwork within all organizations is a must! Great point on motivation of staff – feeling free to share ideas enhances the work environment and creates a team environment – a win-win for all! Thanks for your comment!

  5. I agree with Dr. Davis’ point that teamwork is required to fulfill the critical missions and requirements of national security. In these times of budget cuts and military reductions, it is even more important to partner with other intelligence agencies and teams to ensure the threats to our nation are observed and analyzed. An additional requirement is that leaders support the teams and prioritize the activities of teams – especially across agencies. There are still numerous issues that effect teamwork, but Dr. Davis clearly states the needs and benefits of being a team player!

    1. Excellent point Mr. Delaney! There are numerous issues that effect teamwork but a critical element is that leadership supports the team!

      Thanks for the comment!


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