Canada Needs a National Security Intelligence Policy
Mar 15, 2004

Deputy Prime Minister and Public Safety Minister, Anne McLellan, has announced the government’s intention to develop a comprehensive, integrated national security policy. The recent report of the Auditor General revealed a number of national security inefficiencies that should be addressed by such a policy. Both Deputy Prime Minister McLellan and the Auditor General properly describe intelligence as an important aspect of national security policy, but the Deputy Prime Minister has yet to offer sufficient detail as to how Canada’s intelligence programme will be improved. In failing to do so, she continues the government’s failure to recognize intelligence as a primary tool of national power that must be given a higher profile in security and defence affairs. In fact, Canada needs a National Security Intelligence Policy (NSIP), as an important adjunct to any over-arching national security policy. Without an NSIP, any national security programme will be incomplete and ­inadequate.

Intelligence effectiveness cannot ­simply be mandated or generated by a rearrangement of departments and agencies, as happened when the new Martin Gov­ern­ment took over on December 12, 2003. A truly effective intelligence programme must be propelled and nurtured by robust leadership, which has so far been lacking.

The NSIP is urgently required because we have a burgeoning kaleidoscope of government elements who claim some degree of intelligence responsibility and many of them are not ready for such work. Apart from the possible exceptions of operational elements (DND, the RCMP and CSIS) and the PCO, there is no embedded professional intelligence culture at any level. There is little or no understanding of what a true intelligence function is or does. The entire community lacks a guiding vision, strategy, architecture and synergy.

The five theoretical components of the intelligence function – product, people, process, organization and support to relevant decision-making – should form the essential framework of the NSIP. Intelligence is too often assumed to be an entirely organizationally-based, technology-oriented function, when it is more appropriately viewed as a human-cognitive based process. Understanding how humans learn is essential because any intelligence architecture is fundamentally man’s attempt to replicate human learning, within an organization. It is based on people. People drive the requirement; people generate the product; people conduct the process; people run the organization and people make the decisions.

The NSIP should spell out the general nature of the intelligence products to be provided from each department or agency with an intelligence role. It should also devote significant attention to people issues. Only DND and CSIS have professional intelligence schools. Along with the RMCP, they are the only organizations that have a formal, professional intelligence training and education curriculum. Virtually none of the remaining so-called intelligence personnel in other departments or agencies have had formal intelligence training. The NSIP will have to address the requirement for an intelligence professional career profile, training and education standards and institutions, inter-departmental exchanges and intelligence doctrine development.

Given the extended collection of federal staffs with an intelligence role, the NSIP will have to describe, in broad terms, the intelligence processes to be followed, so that all elements can contribute to the effective synergy required to detect and counter the myriad of modern threats. This section should include direction on the continuous review of the intelligence process, which incorporates a lessons-learned activity and continuous review to ensure decision-makers are receiving the intelligence they need. The NSIP should also take stock of intelligence organizations in a more holistic way than is now the case. The broad responsibilities of all government organizations having an intelligence role will have to be decided and codified.

The fifth component of intelligence – the provision of support to relevant decision making – is the component in most need of attention from an NSIP.

A major shortcoming in Canada’s national intelligence effort is the lack of any mature intelligence culture within the Government and Parliament. Until recently, neither body has shown responsible interest, or even inclination, to use the formal intelligence process as it should. The exercise of developing a modern, purposeful NSIP would serve as the vehicle to educate, motivate and mobilize a non-partisan groundswell of welcome support for a revitalized and internationally respected Canadian intelligence programme.

Intelligence does not exist in a vacuum. Its effectiveness cannot be simply mandated, nor can interdepartmental cooperation be generated by reorganizing a few agencies. A truly effective intelligence effort must be propelled and nurtured by robust leadership with the necessary breadth of vision. The promulgation of a non-partisan National Security Intelligence Policy is a necessary and urgent step, essential to Canada’s national security. It was needed yesterday.

BGen (ret) Jim Cox ran the intelligence staff under General Wesley Clark at SHAPE, in Mons, Belgium from 1998-2001. He has since pursued graduate level advanced intelligence studies with the Royal Military College of Canada and hopes to continue with Doctoral studies in the field this summer. He also serves as the Executive Secretary of the Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Studies.
© FrontLine Defence 2004