Improving Intelligence Practices: Research Contributions to UK Joint Intelligence Doctrines

Submitting Institution

Brunel University

Unit of Assessment

Politics and International Studies

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration, Political Science

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Summary of the impact

Approached by the Ministry of Defence's (MoD) Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC) to participate in the writing of two new UK Joint Intelligence Doctrines in 2010-11, research carried out by Davies and Gustafson has contributed to substantial changes in the conception and application of intelligence practices in peace and war.

Joint Intelligence Doctrines have significant impact on common concepts, professional standards and working practices in operational and tactical intelligence in the UK's armed services, including 227,160 uniformed personnel, as well as MoD civilian intelligence staff. They are the basis of military practice and are literally defined as "that which is taught." The reach of the impact extends also to professional practice in intelligence of other states (USA, Afghanistan and NATO member states) through intelligence collaboration and mentoring and also the European Union's External Action Service via training.

Underpinning research

Research on intelligence institutions and operations has significant value to intelligence practitioners and policy-makers in government because it provides intellectual tools to improve the management and conduct of intelligence.

Until recently the analysis of intelligence organizations and practices formed a gap in academic research because UK scholarship was principally focused on historical matters and approaches. Brunel Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies (BCISS) scholars Davies (Senior Lecturer and Director of BCISS; now Professor) and Gustafson (Lecturer) have addressed this gap by applying theories of order, organisation and institution-building from sociology, political science, management and business studies to the study of intelligence institutions and processes during the 20th and 21st centuries.

This approach was pioneered by Davies in his doctoral work (Ref.1) and further developed in a research project on the comparative analysis of national intelligence in the UK and USA, funded by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship in 2004-5 resulting in Refs. 2, 3& 4) Gustafson joined BCISS in 2007. His article on horizon scanning (Ref. 5) was the result of a secondment with the UK Cabinet Office Horizon Scanning Unit in 2009. During that secondment the Cabinet Office requested research be undertaken on the organisation and role of horizon scanning (the systematic examination of potential threats, opportunities and likely future developments) within Her Majesty's Government. He subsequently received a two-year British Academy Small Grant which further developed the analysis of interagency intelligence management [Ref. 6].

Key findings (KFs) from their research underlying the Doctrine project include:

KF1: The conduct and organisation of intelligence operations are fundamentally shaped by basic concepts of what intelligence is that vary between states and—within states—between civilians and armed services, and can create problems for international and inter-agency collaboration and communication. (Refs 1, 3, 5)

KF2: Horizon scanning methodologies and structured analytical techniques can contribute towards harmonizing the understanding of intelligence across governments and in inter-agency contexts by providing a common language for cooperation. (Ref 5)

KF3: Practitioner perceptions of how intelligence institutions operate are deeply conditioned by corporate orthodoxies and conventions which do not always match reality. Social and organizational theory can help practitioners understand how their own agencies work, a KF that proved central to reformation of the "intelligence cycle". (Refs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

KF4: Intelligence organisations are more akin to high-tech firms than state bureaucracies in terms of their environments and internal operation, with the implication that reform and refinement of professional practice needs to reflect this (Refs 1, 3, 4).

KF5: Intelligence institutions have organisational cultures that are amalgams of wider organisational and political cultures where intelligence collection and analysis often clash with embedded cultures, conventions and preferences of their policy and political counterparts in government. (Refs 1, 3, 5)

KF6: Intelligence institutions and processes need to be understood realistically in terms of wider, underlying sociological/social-theoretical concepts of order, institutionalisation and conduct. This provides a basis for the concept of "Understanding" incorporated in the doctrine.(Refs 1, 2, 5, 6)

References to the research

1. Davies, Philip H.J MI6 and the Machinery of Spying (London: Taylor and Francis, 2004)

2. Davies, Philip H.J. Intelligence Culture and Intelligence Failure in Britain and the United States. Cambridge Review of International Affairs 17: 3 (October 2004), pp. 496-520.


3. Davies, Philip H.J. Intelligence and the Machinery of Government: Conceptualising the Intelligence Community. Public Policy and Administration 25:1 (January 2010) pp.29-46.


4. Davies, Philip H.J. Imagery in the UK: Britain's Troubled Imagery Intelligence Architecture. Review of International Studies 35:4 (Autumn 2009) pp.957-969.


5. Gustafson, Kristian C. Strategic Horizons: Futures Forecasting and the British Intelligence Community. Intelligence and National Security, 25:5 (December 2010), pp. 589-610.


6. Gustafson, Kristian C. Early stages in the evolution of covert action governance in the United States, 1951-1961, Public Policy and Administration, 28:2 (2013), pp. 144- 160.


Details of the impact

The substantive content of their research products and collaborative relationships with public and private end users led to DCDC offering a consultancy contract for assistance in the drafting of a new UK Joint Intelligence Doctrine. Davies and Gustafson were members of the principal intelligence doctrine drafting team and the executive-level Steering Committee on Intelligence Doctrine, informing the doctrine with their research on intelligence organizations and practices, and providing critical and analytical approaches to the doctrine formulation and writing processes.

Impacts on UK Professional Practices

1. Improved leadership: Davies' and Gustafson's research prompted the creation of a new higher-level "capstone" doctrine — the JDP 04 Understanding. JPD 04 Understanding is directed towards operational commanders and leaders across government and articulates how intelligence and other sources of information feed into a leader's understanding of allies, adversaries, neutral partners, non-governmental organisations and others in an operational environment. The doctrine defines "understanding" as "the ability to place knowledge in its wider context to provide us with options for decision-making." (Key Findings [KFs] 1, 2, 4; Corroborating Sources [CS] 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

2. Enhanced communication: The Intelligence process was historically articulated through the `intelligence cycle' model that was often seen by practitioners as a rigid process. Following recommendations by Davies and Gustafson the doctrine team reformulated the intelligence process as a network called `the core functions of intelligence'. This approach has brought the schema more closely into line with real-world intelligence practice and is a fundamental change in how intelligence is understood, practiced and taught amongst practitioners. (KF 5; CS 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

3. Improved understanding of the human factors affecting enemy behaviour: Experience in Iraq and Afghanistan showed HMG the importance of understanding local cultures, politics, economics, legal structures and the environment, but this was not incorporated into doctrine in a systematic way. To reflect these ideas the team mapped core concepts of sociological theory into doctrinal terms as a scheme called the `human domain framework' which became the central concept in the doctrine on `understanding.' (KF 3, 4, 5, 6; CS 1, 2, 3, 5)

4: The UK MoD defines doctrine as "that which is taught". Accordingly, Intelligence personnel training and orientation programmes across government have changed to incorporate both the new intelligence and understanding doctrines, showing influence on professional standards and guidelines for training. The curriculum at the Defence Intelligence and Security Centre at Chicksands has been revised to employ these doctrines, and DISC is the principal cross-government as well as MoD training centre for intelligence practitioners.(CS 5)

5: The concepts of `understanding' and the `human domain framework' are doctrinal expressions of core concepts from sociological theory that have led to professional bodies such as the Defence Geographic Centre in Feltham incorporating the concepts via new mapping products detailing "human domain" issues graphically, enhancing their "ability to present the case for developing human geography, as it demonstrated the need to consider the interrelationships between dimensions and disciplines that are all too often worked in isolation." (KF 3, 4, 5, 6; CS 7).

6: Practitioner internal debate was further informed by BCISS organisational work through an ESRC Seminar Series on `Intelligence and Government in the 21st Century' in 2008-9 that included former heads of the Government Communications Headquarters and over twenty other intelligence and policy analysts from throughout HMG. Amongst the outputs of the ESRC series was a special issue of the journal Public Policy and Administration on `Intelligence and Public Management' to which two GCHQ heads as well as Davies (Ref. 3) contributed. This series contributed to practitioner awareness of BCISS research and to the Doctrine consultancy.

International Impacts on Practices and Debates

7. This research has informed international practitioner debates as both the "Intelligence" and "Understanding" doctrine have "exercised significant... influence over our [US/Can/Aus/NZ] partners." The new UK intelligence doctrine is also to be used as a point of departure for a new, revised NATO intelligence doctrine.(CS 5, 7)

8: The use of these two doctrines by British forces engaged in `mentoring' allied defence communities in countries such as Afghanistan has changed practice for specific groups (the Afghan MoI), and influenced professional standards. To this end Gustafson served as intelligence advisor and mentor to the Afghan Ministry of Interior between September 2012 and May 2013, where "application of JDP 2-00 concepts specifically on the intelligence cycle had a marked positive effect on the function of the Afghan MoI police intelligence apparatus."(CS 5)

9: Subsequent impact includes changed professional practices in the US, as the US Military Intelligence doctrine will adopt components of the `human domain framework' (see Impact 3) from UK doctrine.(CS 5)

10: The work has influenced professional guidance and training at the European Union External Actions Services Intelligence Centre where in December 2012 Davies provided a training package, `the Intelligence Analysis', which partly used as its basis JDP 2-00 and JDP 04 and drew directly on BCISS research and the KFs discussed above. The training was "considered compulsory for staff" and included students from IntCen, EU Military Staff Intelligence Directorate and the EU Satellite Centre. (KF 1, 2, 3, 5; CS 6)

Sources to corroborate the impact

N.B. Corroboration Sources are referenced above as CS.


  1. DCDC. Joint Doctrine Note JDN 1/10 Intelligence and Understanding. Shrivenham: DCDC, 2010. (Attributes changes to the `intelligence cycle' to the Brunel team. See Impact 3)
  2. DCDC. Joint Doctrine Publication JDP 2-00 Understanding and Intelligence Support to Joint Operations.Shrivenham: DCDC, 2011. (P.2-8 block-quotes Davies and Gustafson. See KF1 & KF2; pp. 3-4 - 3-6 Final version of the `intelligence cycle' is attributed to Davies & Gustafson).
  3. DCDC. Joint Doctrine Publication JDP 04 Understanding.Shrivenham: DCDC, 2011. (Preface singles out Davies & Gustafson contribution to the Human Domain Framework)
  4. Philip H.J. Davies, Kristian Gustafson and Ian Rigden `The Intelligence Cycle is Dead, Long Live the Intelligence Cycle: Rethinking Intelligence Fundamentals for a New Intelligence Doctrine' in Mark Phythian ed. Understanding the Intelligence Cycle (London: Routledge, 2013).


  1. Letter received from the Assistant Head of Thematic Doctrine, Ministry of Defence: The contact confirmed the research impact on the development of 2 key joint doctrines developed by the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC) in the Ministry of Defence.
  2. Letter received from the Director of European Union Intelligence Analysis Centre, Brussels: The contact can corroborate the impact of the Intelligence Analysis training developed from the research; the training was considered compulsory for some staff in the EU Intelligence Analysis Centre.
  3. Letter received from the Assistant Director for Research, Defence Geographic Centre: The contact confirmed how the research helped the understanding of doctrinal expressions of core concepts, which led the Defence Geographic Centre incorporating them fully via new mapping products.