By Eric W. Adams
Master’s Student, Intelligence Studies, American Military University
Note: This article was originally published on In Public Safety.
Being able to directly apply academic principles to my professional life has been one of the greatest benefits of pursuing a higher education. I’m currently earning a master’s degree in Intelligence Studies from American Military University (AMU) and what I’ve learned in the classroom has spurred new approaches, new ideas, and creative ways of thinking about my role as an intelligence practitioner.
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As a geospatial intelligence analyst, I collect spatial data, manipulate the data to discover patterns, and assess the relationships of those patterns in the context of real-world events. My work requires in-depth knowledge of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and proficiency in analyzing geographic data using a myriad of methodologies.
Prior to pursuing my Intelligence degree, many people told me that there would be a disconnect between what I learned in the classroom and what I did in the field. But that hasn’t been my experience at all. I have been able to apply much of the information and theories from school directly (and often immediately) to my professional daily activities.
For example, geospatial analysis does not often employ intelligence analytical methodologies that can aid in better understanding possible courses of actions related to an intelligence problem. These methodologies include four basic types of reasoning: induction, deduction, abduction, and the scientific method. Additionally, these methodologies include hypothesis generation and efforts to remove biases that are held by almost all intelligence analysts. By applying the methodologies I learned in school to my work in geospatial analysis, I’m able to not only spatially show events on maps and other geographic products, but also connect those events with other intelligence evidence in order to generate a stronger assessment of the situation.
My studies in Intelligence Operations have driven me to think and analyze things differently and take a more creative approach to problem solving. This is due in large part to the professional experience of the faculty. All my professors are experts in their fields with considerable work experience that directly influences the courses they teach. They have been able to present academic theory through the lens of a professional, which has led to excellent and informative discussion forums, reading assignments, feedback on papers, and more.
Applying My Intelligence Research on Russia to My Professional Work
In one of my early graduate classes, INTL501 Strategic Intelligence, the professor focused on strategic intelligence analysis and assessments of nation states around the world. Since I was professionally interested in Russia, I became focused on learning about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s focus on increasing and sustaining Russian ideals by resurrecting the nation’s past efforts and visions of Russian prowess, and repairing damage done after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The hypothesis for my research was that modern-day Russia does rely on some military action to realize its potential as a nation, but its leadership and people do not want to become the Soviet Union again either. Rather, its leaders want to reinstate the pride that was essentially born into many Soviet families during the Cold War days and use that national sentiment to bring the nation together again. My research argued that it is the pride of Russian power vs. the pride of a new Soviet state that is most important to Putin now.
To build this power and pride, Russia has spent the last 10 years expanding its influence on the world stage more than any other time before. For example, Putin has been reaching the fingers of the Russian state into many other places in the world such as Syria, Venezuela, and China. He has clearly gained satisfaction from meddling in American politics and watching the United Kingdom’s Brexit mess.
There is little doubt that the Russian government is looking to expand, even if in truth, some of it is a façade. Many of us who watch the news and follow global events view the influence of a nation based on its ability to project power. The United States demonstrates this best with naval activity used to deter Iran, China, Russia, and North Korea. Russia demonstrates its power on the Middle East, Venezuela, and others. Even if Russia doesn’t have the existential power to project, it has the resources to encourage our belief that it can.
Conducting academic research on the motives and tactics of the Russian government has helped me more thoroughly understand the objectives and actions of that nation. Learning this more sophisticated approach in the classroom has translated to more patience and thoroughness in my professional work, which has led to a more comprehensive understanding as I assess indicators. My academic work has also helped me make better judgments and prevented me from making precipitous assessments in my work life, which I believe has made me a better intelligence professional overall.
About the Author
Eric W. Adams graduated from American Military University with a bachelor’s degree in Intelligence Analysis and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Intelligence Operations. Additionally, he is currently active in a graduate program with North Carolina State University’s College of Natural Resources, Geospatial Information Sciences and Technology (MGSIT). Adams is an Army veteran with more than 21 years of geospatial intelligence experience and currently works as a government contractor for the Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center (FNMOC) in Monterey, California. His primary focus is developing capabilities to provide meteorological and climatological data to the Intelligence Community via Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) standard web-mapping services.
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