How Intelligence Organizations Communicate Confidence (Unclearly)
Assessment and Communication of Uncertainty in Intelligence to Support Decision Making: Final Report of Research Task Group SAS-114. Brussels, Belgium: NATO Science and Technology Organization (2019)
19 Pages Posted: 26 Aug 2019
Date Written: June 1, 2019
In this chapter, we review a non-exhaustive collection of the analytic confidence standards compiled by members and affiliates of NATO’s SAS-114 Research Task Group on Assessment and Communication of Uncertainty in Intelligence to Support Decision-Making. These include standards used in intelligence production and other domains (e.g., climate science). We outline common problematic features that might compromise efforts to support decision making, while identifying avenues for future research and development. Ultimately, we argue that current confidence standards are poorly conceived, ambiguous, vague, and unclear, and may effectively augment the potential for miscommunication, which the IC seeks to mitigate. We recommend ways to improve confidence scales in their current form, but we also propose a more dramatic overhaul involving the use of numerical probabilities.
Keywords: intelligence analysis, confidence, uncertainty, communication
JEL Classification: Z18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation