The Q Prize

Funny what you think of in what passes for a traffic jam in these parts . . .

Ruminating about John’s recent post about tinkering with technology¬† and the mention of the X-Prize and DARPA Grand Challenges . . .

. . . remembering the post from the other day about how the explosion of available information¬† has not only overcome the government’s ability to categorize, search and make sense of it, the force of the wave is pushing efforts backwards . . .

. . . we have the CIA’s DNI’s Galileo Awards but that’s for insiders (no small font of great but untapped ideas btw): where is the parallel opportunity for outsiders and “amateurs ?” Where is the “Q Prize” for dealing with the IC’s information and technology problems? (1)

Many of the problems the IC faces WRT technology and information are identical to the ones facing large,
bureaucratic, information-centric institutions outside of the secret
world. The solutions that are turning around firms in industry – or
propelling start-ups beyond their more established competition – can
work on the inside. Large-scale contracting firms are full of competent
and talented people but projects like Virtual Case
File, Trailblazer and others are more indicative of what happens when large private
institutions try to help large public ones.


There will of course be reluctance to expose even a sliver of the inner workings to outsiders, but there are ways to anonymize and genericize details of problems and systems so that anyone can get involved without risk of exposing real secrets.

There will also be resistance from the traditional solution providers. The Q-Prize approach upsets the old RFP game and could put big firms at a disadvantage. Don’t underestimate the power of the bandits (what does SAIC spell backwards?).

More, better solutions have been put together by two dudes in a garage (or the big iron equivalent thereof) than have come out of a cross-functional, multi-domain corporate tiger-team. Maybe it is time to give the hungry, little, nimble guys a chance.

(1) I started with “I(ntelligence) Prize” but that didn’t sound right. The inspiration for “Q” should be self evident but it isn’t ideal because Q worked in the system, not outside of it. I mean, of all the things you can stick on a watch these days and Bond is still carrying around that stainless steel wrist-laser. Come on . . .

Office of Special Plans (Final Updates)

I expect this story to garner a lot of attention over the course of the next few days, and since I’ll be in and out of the net for a bit, wanted to plant a flag for future commentary.

Some of the Pentagon’s prewar intelligence work, including a
contention that the CIA underplayed the likelihood of al-Qaida
connections to Saddam Hussein, was inappropriate but not illegal, a
Defense Department investigation has concluded.

[SASC Chairman] Levin has asserted that President Bush took the country to war in Iraq
based in part on intelligence assessments – some shaped by Feith’s
office – that were off base and did not fully reflect the views of the
intelligence community.

In a telephone interview Thursday, Levin said the IG report is “very
damning” and shows a Pentagon policy shop trying to shape intelligence
to prove a link between al-Qaida and Saddam.

The good Senator might want to pay closer attention to the massive pool of Iraqi information (from the mouth of horses as it were) that documents just such a relationship.

Wait now, I’m confused, was the IC’s pre-war intelligence on Iraq correct now that it needs to be in order to make the OSP look bad, or is it just wrong when there aren’t indications that a “team b” demonstrated that an alternative analysis could have been right?

Anyone who says intel is politicized prior to dissemination doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

Updates: My colleagues in the frozen tundra weigh in…

Powerline: What will be lost in news accounts of the IG report and Levin’s
fulminations is that Feith’s group was right. We know now that there
were many connections between Saddam’s Iraq and al Qaeda, and that
Islamic groups of various stripes, including those labeled “secular” by
the CIA, are entirely capable of collaborating against their common

Captain Ed: One of the criticisms made by Bush administration critics is that the
White House relied on stovepiped intel analysis for the WMD question —
which came from the official CIA analysts and directed by George Tenet.

and others:

Hugh: Memo to our sources in Iraq …If you are close to the al Qaeda fanatics and have given us a tip from
time to time, well, let’s hope that level of detail didn’t make it into
the NIE.

It most likely will not, but even the 50,000′ view will serve as a useful tool for them to adjust their OPSEC.

Blackfive: The actions were autorized
and legal, but the IG somehow adds the category of innapropriate. If
the President wants it and it’s authorized and legal, it’s
appropriateness is determined right there.

IG Report slides and Executive Summary are up.

Post-war scrutiny of the IC reiterated what many have said before: The IC marginalizes (or worse) dissenting opinions and can cling dogmatically to flawed approaches and outlooks. The more and more diverse minds on problems of national security the better. Did OSP analysis stretch the comfortable boundaries of overly cautions IC mavens? Apparently in some cases they did, but that’s what analysis is all about. There is never enough much less enough solid information from which to make decisions, hence the need for human brains, not automatons to carry out intelligence work. The OSP’s findings didn’t jibe with the IC’s findings but that even the IC’s “consensus” had dissenters is conveniently not brought up. More to the point, material captured in Iraq indicates that the then-policymakers were right to cast a wary eye towards the conventional wisdom.

Final Update: Yeah, what he said!