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Ambassador Gordon Sondland discusses “The Intelligence Customer: What Do They Want?” at IWP

On March 6, IWP hosted former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who delivered a synopsis on the working relationship between the Intelligence Community (IC) and Chiefs of Mission at U.S. embassies.

The lecture began with the following remarks by Amb. Sondland: “Most of what I received [in terms of intelligence] fell into the categories of ‘don’t really need to know, not relevant to me, or just not fast enough to make an impact.’ And that’s because the whole intelligence system seems to run on its own momentum, and often without taking the real-time needs of the people making policy decisions into consideration.”

Ambassador Sondland discussed the complexities of information sharing and described four main factors for an “overhaul” of this “fossilized system.” Ambassador Sondland emphasized the importance of providing Chiefs of Mission with what he referred to as the “full picture” from the IC. He made it clear that this was not a criticism of those in the field but rather a blueprint for winning future information wars before they begin. He noted that other pillars included the urgent need for real-time intelligence exchanges, Ambassadors ensuring that the IC is supported at the top levels by letting their intelligence counterparts know they “will go to bat” for them, and finally, the need for intelligence agencies to operate with Chiefs of Mission without political bias.

The Ambassador shared that during his most recent posting in Brussels, he felt that he and his team had made an significant difference to the U.S. geo-political landscape. Acknowledging that Ambassadors are just people and people make mistakes, he asserted that we as a nation must find a way to bridge the gap between policy and diplomacy to enable the next generation of ambassadors to have a more fruitful and impactful relationship with the IC agencies.

Amb. Aldona Wos with Amb. Gordon Sondland
IWP President Amb. Aldona Wos with Amb. Gordon Sondland