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Center for Security Studies Hosts Air Force Intelligence Course

ASU Center for Security Studies (CSS) Graphic

A group of the U.S. Air Force’s top uniformed and civilian intelligence analysts recently gathered at Angelo State University for the two-week Air Force Advanced Analyst Course (AAC) hosted by the ASU Center for Security Studies (CSS).

First implemented in February of 2010, the AAC is the flagship intelligence analyst course for the Air Force’s best and brightest.

“This program teaches analysts how to think about very broad and complex problems in what we call a non-linear world,” said Dr. Robert Ehlers, CSS director.  “In other words, how to think in a world where there are always human actors opposed to you, and those human actors may think or act very differently than you would expect them to, particularly if you become a captive of your own cultural background.  The idea is to give these individuals some very detailed educational insights on all aspects of intelligence.”

Participants received daily classroom instruction based on intensive reading assignments, and then engaged in complex intelligence analysis practice scenarios.  The 23 class members came to ASU from around the world after being nominated by their respective intelligence directors and ultimately hand-picked by the deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance at Headquarters Air Force.

“We had analysts in this class from duty assignments all over the globe as well as some who recently returned from operational tours overseas,” Ehlers said.  “We also had folks from all over the United States, from coast to coast and from Air Force bases and organizations located in numerous states.”

ASU is the first civilian institution to host the AAC, and the ASU class was also the first to include civilian analysts.

“There are national agencies,” said CSS deputy director Susan Williams, “and other entities that have civilians who work in analyst positions.  Probably the one the general public understands the best is the National Security Agency, or NSA, which has a lot of analysts who work on issues around the world.  We had six civilian analysts in this class.”

Dr. Robert Ehlers“They are Department of the Air Force employees,” Ehlers added.  “But, several of them work very closely with the NSA and other national-level intelligence agencies.  They are, to some extent, ‘on loan’ to these agencies. The presence of civilian analysts is a huge thing, in part because they are the ones who tend to perform analysis more deeply than just about anyone else in the Air Force.”

Of the nine course instructors, all are retired senior Air Force or Army officers, including an Army brigadier general who spent more than 30 years in military intelligence.  The lone exception is the active-duty deputy commander of the Air Force Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon.

Ehlers worked with Headquarters Air Force to bring the course to ASU, paving the way for civilian institutions to become regular hosts for the sessions, which are conducted several times a year.  The CSS will host another session of the course this summer.

“We thought it would be wise,” Ehlers said, “for both the Air Force and ASU to partner on this and for us to host the course to give the Air Force the opportunity to make use of some top-notch educational facilities at a very good civilian institution of higher learning.  We had a series of discussions, and the Air Force responded positively, so we just worked it from there.”

“The CSS is designed to help military, federal Civil Service and traditional civilian students of any kind get better at thinking, acting and advising in this complex, non-linear world,” he added.  “So, anything that falls within that arena is something we are interested in helping with, even if we are not in the lead, so to speak, as this is not actually our course.  If we can provide a crucial supporting role, we think it is the right kind of thing for the CSS to be doing.”

With the CSS gearing up to begin offering its own courses to Air Force personnel this fall, Ehlers and his staff also saw hosting the AAC as a chance to show the military intelligence community all the center has to offer.

“It establishes a partnership between the CSS and the Air Force, and one that is much bigger than just this course,” Ehlers said.  “It is a crucial first step in this partnership, it is one of the most visible and it certainly won’t be the last.”

Other budding partnerships the CSS is fostering include with the Center for Homeland Defense and Security, U.S. Naval Academy post-graduate school, Marine Corps University, the U.S. Department of Energy’s national laboratory system, agencies within the Department of Homeland Security and several businesses, such as USAA.

“As we develop our various degree and specialized programs,” Ehlers said, “we have talked with people from these current and developing partner institutions about the possibility of their employees attending programs here, as well as developing some sort of internship or work-study exchange with them.” 

In the mean time, hosting the Air Force Advanced Analyst Course provides crucial exposure for the CSS degree programs and helps put ASU and the CSS on the map.

“Because our degree programs in culture, security and border security studies are so innovative, so important and, frankly, so rare, they inevitably generate a lot of interest among the groups that come to engage in these types of activities here,” Ehlers said.  “So, the partnership is good for everybody because it gets the word out about the center and what we are trying to do here.”