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.
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.
About 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.