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The Customer Metaphor and the Defense Intelligence Agency

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Technical Report

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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It is common in the intelligence community for agencies to refer to the policymakers and war fighters who use intelligence as their customers. The Defense Intelligence Agency, which was founded in 1961 over the resistance of the armed services and the Joint Staff, adopted and extended this metaphor as part of its bureaucratic survival strategy. DIA looked to the business worlds customer orientation paradigm for ways to focus the agency on satisfying the needs of policymakers in order to justify independence and resources. Yet a comparison between business literature and intelligence theory shows that the customer metaphor is in many ways highly inappropriate for the profession of intelligence. The profit motive inherent in the term customer means that intelligence leaders who use it as a metaphor highlight the cynical aspects of bureaucratic politics, with negative consequences for the agencys credibility. Moreover, referring to intelligence users as customers connotes meanings that distort the subtle relationship between intelligence and policy. The mantra of customer orientation is to adopt the customers mindset as the businesss own, but the primary value of intelligence is the maintenance of an unbiased perspective independent of politics. Excising the word customer from the vernacular of DIA would be a simple but important step to improve the professionalism of the agencys analytic cadre.

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  • Military Intelligence

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