Past Events

Prof. Darlene Almont discusses how indications and warning intelligence shifted after Reagan’s Cold War success

On Tuesday, May 19, Professor Darlene Almont gave the Ninth Annual Ronald Reagan Intelligence Lecture on the topic of “Reagan’s Cold War: Indications and Warning Intelligence.” Professor Almont is an adjunct professor at IWP and is a former U.S. Air Force Major with over 30 years of experience in the intelligence community. She is an assistant professor at the Director of National Intelligence (DNI)/Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA) National Intelligence University (NIU), the U.S. government’s accredited master’s degree-granting institution, teaching Strategic Intelligence courses at the Top-Secret level.

Professor Almont began the lecture by discussing the Reagan era and administration. She pointed out that during Reagan’s presidency, his administration moved the U.S. from the reality of the Cold War to a new world construct. During that transition, the indications and warning community came to identify the identity crisis within the intelligence community. The identity crisis stemmed from the intelligence community being focused on indications and warning for militarized political nation-state scenarios. At the time, there existed a methodologically scientific data-based model for indications and warning analysis; however, it was understood that the national security threat to the United States was a nation-state versus nation-state threat. Yet, when the Cold War ended, the intelligence community began questioning whether that model remained effective. A surge in actions carried out by a nation’s populace led to a shift in the methodology of gathering intelligence for indications and warning analysis.

Professor Almont then discussed the nation-state monopoly on power and force by focusing on the populace as well as the nation-state. She said that the greatest national security threat to the United States at the time were threats posed by other nation-states. In the 1950s and 1960s, nation-states had such a monopoly on power that there was not great concern about bottom-up aggression and violence. However, with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the superpower bipolar construct, power became decentralized from the nation-state to the degree that lone wolf actors could affect national security in ways today that it could not have done in the pre-internet era. Reagan’s administration pushed the intelligence community into this paradigm shift. Professor Almont mentioned that non-state actors were able to gain power and resources to go up against nation-states by using underlying causes and drivers in society to push their propaganda and attract recruits.

Professor Almont stated that due to the rise of asymmetric complications, indicators and warning (I&W) intelligence officers no longer use the old-style indicator method and approach that was used during the Cold War. Asymmetric indications and warnings were difficult to integrate into I&W protocols. Thus, after 9/11, intelligence officers determined that underlying social drivers of violence were what terrorist groups would use to gain their power. Yet, due to the different schools of analysts and agencies, there existed discrepancies in their answers to non-state violence drivers.

Professor Almont then discussed her research and project that she posed to the Director of National Intelligence’s Exceptional Analyst Research Fellowship Program that examined the military-aged male and youth bulge in the Middle East Maghreb and majority Sunni Muslim world, excluding Indonesia. She wanted to determine how to analyze, forecast, and determine strategic analysis for such problems. Professor Almont was able to study macro-societal and macro-human violence on a nation-state impactful level. However, during her research, she encountered several theories, such as Casebeer’s and Thomas’s open systems theory and Gurr’s relative deprivation theory; such theories were also used in analyzing asymmetrical problems. Professor Almont produced her own theory and method to do analysis and societal forecasting for both strategic analysis capability and indications and warning capability.

Professor Almont believes that the new way forward for indication and warning analysis, which is used for macro-societal violence and aggression forecasting and analysis, needs to take into consideration different aspects of society. Due to the power that non-state actors have, it is vital that societies are understood. Understanding the drivers or indicators that are a predisposition for violence, due to society being at dis-ease, creates the ability to capture and monitor the indicators. Thus, by being able to determine the indicators, it is possible to isolate the root of the problems, allowing analysts to be able to monitor the reactions in order to determine a warning sign. Professor Almont was able to ground her theory through Maslow’s theory of motivation. She determined that deprivation is a negative motivator, thus creating dis-ease in a society. In addition, Professor Almont stated that no underlying cause should be treated in isolation; instead, it must be evaluated with all the other causes and variables that are concurrently present around them. Professor Almont applied and translated Maslow’s individual grouping into a societal level. She concluded that if you cannot translate the best outcome of the best situation of the societal wellbeing, then you must look at the inverse. She was able to ground her theory by translating the individual needs in Maslow’s hierarchy of societal needs, thus creating the possibility to collect quantitative data, as well as qualitative data, that can be aggregated to determine policy for different variables of societal needs.

Professor Almont concluded that, through the quantification of warning intelligence and indications, her model could be used to create case studies to determine civil unrest, such as the Arab Spring in 2010, which she modeled in 2009 using her method. Through her calculations, Professor Almont determined that if there is dis-ease in the lower levels of the modified Maslow’s hierarchy of need, every cell and every row above the lowest level will be degraded by a weighting factor. The degrading factor is largely due to the government and the society becoming so consumed with trying to address their basic physiological needs that they do not have time to work towards religious freedom or societal improvement. Thus, since 2010, Professor Almont has been working on creating a mathematical formula for the interrelation of her cells that can be used in any country.

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