Download eBook for Free

FormatFile SizeNotes
PDF file 2.5 MB

Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 10 or higher for the best experience.


Purchase Print Copy

 Format Price
Add to Cart Paperback150 pages $36.00

Research Questions

  1. What are key lessons from past operations?
  2. What additional challenges will Air Force intelligence analysts face in the future?

This report describes steps the U.S. Air Force can take to help ensure that it has the capability needed to provide intelligence analysis support to a broad range of service and combatant commander needs, including support to ongoing irregular warfare operations, and to conventional warfare with a near-peer competitor. It describes lessons from past operations that have direct implications for Air Force intelligence analysis or that Air Force intelligence analysis could help to address. It also describes future challenges for Air Force intelligence analysis. It makes recommendations related to doctrine, training and career field development, analysis tools, and processes that can help to address the lessons from the past and prepare Air Force intelligence analysts for the challenges of the future.

Key Findings

The Team Identified Lessons About Building Analytic Foundations

  • Many processes, such as critical thinking, can be employed across different missions and levels of intelligence.
  • Knowledge required to provide context is lacking or limited to support Air Force missions other than irregular warfare.
  • Success in operations depends on analyses conducted across multiple timelines, organizations, and levels of war. They build on one another and require integration.
  • Roles and responsibilities for analysis activities to support phase 2/3 operations in air, space, and cyberspace are not well defined or practiced.

The Team Identified Lessons About Building Partnerships

  • Joint, national, and partner analytic capabilities and capacities are not sufficiently leveraged.
  • Guard and reserve contributions have been important but could be better utilized and are hindered by integration challenges.
  • Integration of general-purpose and special operations force capabilities has resulted in more successes for both forces.

The Team Identified Lessons About Developing and Employing Skills

  • The United States has repeatedly faced unplanned security challenges.
  • It has been difficult to balance development of analytic expertise with career progression milestones.

The Team Identified Future Challenges

  • The pace of future conflicts could stress needs for foundational intelligence and challenge readiness to conduct analysis during phase 2/3 operations.
  • Analysts might need more expertise with intelligence from and for the space and cyberspace domains because operations in those domains might be more prominent.
  • The volume of data and limitations on collection that anti-access and area-denial developments impose will challenge analysts.


  • Define the roles and responsibilities of analyst airmen: Form a committee to federate roles and responsibilities for analysts across the enterprise and use programs of analysis or similar to document them, and update doctrine to better reflect analysis for operations in addition to irregular warfare.
  • Train and develop analyst airmen: Create an intelligence analyst professional development program spanning multiple Air Force specialty codes; develop requirements for new mobile training team courses on cyber and space intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and an analysis refresher; modify the existing critical-thinking course; institutionalize mentorship and exchange of knowledge between analysts; and increase priority of select assignments within the joint and national communities.
  • Equip analyst airmen with tools: Fully support the intelligence community information technology enterprise; increase investments in single-intelligence tools; and foster user-driven analytics for multi-intelligence tools.
  • Invest in readiness of the analyst force: Expand the scope of existing or develop new exercises in order to practice analytic activities for operations other than irregular warfare.

Research conducted by

The research reported here was commissioned by Lt Gen Robert P. Otto, Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Headquarters USAF, and conducted by the Force Modernization and Employment Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

This document and trademark(s) contained herein are protected by law. This representation of RAND intellectual property is provided for noncommercial use only. Unauthorized posting of this publication online is prohibited; linking directly to this product page is encouraged. Permission is required from RAND to reproduce, or reuse in another form, any of its research documents for commercial purposes. For information on reprint and reuse permissions, please visit

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.