Toward a Complex Adaptive Early Warning/Response Community

This post was inspired by Calvin Andrus’s “Toward a Complex Adaptive Intelligence Community: The Wiki and the Blog,” which recently published on the CIA website.

Just like my post on “Swarming Response” was adapted from an article geared towards early response to terrorism attacks, shares many important insights that our conflict early warning community should take note of. In particular, Andrus strongly promotes the extensive use of wikis and blogs to improve adaptability to a rapidly changing environment.

Below are some telling excerpts worth reading.

  • Information about a new development in Baghdad is known in Washington within minutes. Decisions about a response are made in Washington within minutes. These decisions are implemented in Baghdad within minutes. The total “intelligence-decision-implementation” cycle time can be as short as 15 minutes. While this is an extreme example, it highlights the tremendous compression of the response time required by all involved compared to previous generations.
  • This compression is not just a preferred work style within the US national security community. It is characteristic of the way the world works in the 21st century. Thus, not only do we respond more quickly, but also the circumstances to which we respond—in and of themselves— develop more quickly. These rapidly changing circumstances take on lives of their own, which are difficult or impossible to anticipate or predict.


  • The only way to meet the continuously unpredictable challenges ahead of us is to match them with continuously unpredictable changes of our own. We must transform the Intelligence Community into a community that dynamically reinvents itself by continuously learning and adapting as the national security environment changes.
  • Intelligence officers must be enabled to act more on their own. Just as people in a market are empowered to make their own purchases, individual ants in a colony can decide which task to perform, and military units are able to choose battlefield tactics in real-time, so, too, intelligence officers must be allowed to react—in independent, self-organized ways—to developments in the national security environment.
  • Intelligence officers must share much more information. Just as military units in the field must know where other units are located in geographic space, intelligence analysts must know where their colleagues across the Community are located in intellectual space. This knowledge results from sharing information. Information-sharing among individuals allows market niches to be filled, ants to fend off predator attacks, and plants to distribute themselves in the ecosystem. Increased information-sharing among intelligence officers will allow these officers to self-organize to respond in near-real-time to national security concerns.
  • To allow sharing and feedback, we need a space that is open not just to the Intelligence Community but also to non-intelligence national security elements. We need a space with a large critical mass of intelligence officers. We need a space that is neither organizationally nor geographically nor temporally bound. We need a secure space that can host a corporate knowledge repository. We need a flexible space that supports tools for self-organizing (wiki), information sharing (blog), searching, and feedback. We need a place in which tradecraft procedures can be implemented. In short, we need a space that is always on, ubiquitously distributed, and secure.
  • SIPRNet (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network) is managed by the Defense Information Systems Agency ( It is widely accessible by intelligence officers and other national security officers alike. It has been deployed to every embassy and every military command. It is a more attractive experimental sharing-space than the Top Secret Community Network (JWICS), because more intelligence officers access it, policy community officials access it, the tradecraft (security) rules are simpler, and it reaches more organizations and geographic locations. Moreover, SIPRNet is designed to host Internet-based tools such as wikis and blogs.

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