The idea behind intelligence analysis is to offer insight on potential future developments that may have “an impact on the national security of the U.S. to policy makers (political leaders, military commanders and law enforcement agencies). Generally, intelligence analysis that will be of value to the decision maker comes under the umbrella of “Warning analysis is charged with applying all-source information, expert insights, and specialized tradecraft to help policy officials prevent or limit damage from threats to US security interests” (Davis) There are two subdivisions of warning analysis, they include tactical warning which “seeks to detect and deter specific threats to US interests; the objective is to avoid incident surprise and thus block or blunt damage.” (Davis) and “Strategic warning addresses perceived dangers in broader terms, in order to inform policymaker decisions on general security preparedness—again to prevent or limit damage.” (Davis) In theory intelligence will warn decision makers of all threats to national security.
However, as much as the intelligence analyst would like to predict every future event to ensure that the decision maker is prepared for every potential event that just isn’t possible. The unknown factor in intelligence analysis is known as “Strategic Surprise is most concerning. Certainly, you've seen support for this idea in earlier readings and courses, or even in world events. There are many events for which preparations COULD be made. However, cost benefit analysis will eliminate many of those. Nevertheless, policymakers need to know the threats as well as the likelihood of the threats if they are to do their jobs. Arguably, almost anything is possible, but everything is not likely.” (DiRenzo) No matter how many future predictions are made, there will always be an event that takes the intelligence community completely by surprise. As a matter of fact there is a term for events that catch the intelligence community completely by surprise, they are known as black swan events. A black swan event is defined as “A Black Swan event is an event in human history that was unprecedented and unexpected at the point in time it occurred. However, after evaluating the surrounding context, domain experts (and in some cases even laymen) can usually conclude: “it was bound to happen”. Even though some parameters may differ (such as the event’s time, location, or specific type), it is likely that similar incidences have had similar effects in the past.” (About) One such black swan event could be a global pandemic (of the sort depicted on the TNT TV series The Last Ship).
Research on the topic of global pandemic finds the following information “It’s impossible to predict which bug will begin spreading across the human population or where it will begin. But one thing is for sure, a new and easily infectious pathogen affecting the respiratory system that kills or incapacitates greater than 1% of its victims could “result in millions of people suffering and dying in every corner of the world in less than six months” (Samson) While it isn’t possible to identify when a pandemic will begin, a closer look will indicate that there are/were potential warning signs. For example as of 2 September 2014 an Ebola pandemic is occurring in “The 2014 Ebola outbreak is one of the largest Ebola outbreaks in history and the first in West Africa. It is affecting four countries in West Africa: Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, but does not pose a significant risk to the U.S. public. CDC is working with other U.S. government agencies, the World Health Organization, and other domestic and international partners in an international response to the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa. CDC has activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to help coordinate technical assistance and control activities with partners. CDC has deployed several teams of public health experts to the West Africa region and plans to send additional public health experts to the affected countries to expand current response activities.” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) The potential that Ebola may spread to the United States has become very real to several parts of the U.S. this is indicated by the fact that Myrtle Beach/Conway, SC has a local college (Costal Carolina University) warnings have been posted by the university’s department of public health that cover potential exposure to Ebola.
"Any student or faculty who have traveled to any of the four countries listed with Ebola virus, we screened," according to Dr. Jennifer Kuperman, a physician at CCU's Student Health Services. "We went through both the international student department and the athletic department just to make sure we didn't miss anyone."
The screenings were not limited to people who traveled to Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, where the virus continues to kill.
"There were also people who went to a conference in Washington, D.C. and were near other students who had been to those countries, and we screened those as well," said Dr. Kuperman. (Heaton)
Ebola is “Ebola hemorrhagic fever (Ebola HF) is one of numerous Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers. It is a severe, often fatal disease in humans and nonhuman primates (such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees).
Ebola HF is caused by infection with a virus of the family Filoviridae, genus Ebola virus. When infection occurs, symptoms usually begin abruptly. The first Ebola virus species was discovered in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo near the Ebola River. Since then, outbreaks have appeared sporadically.” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Up until recently it was believed that Ebola outbreaks were occurring in Sub-Saharan Africa in locations that would make it highly unlikely that an exposed individual would be healthy enough for long enough to make it to a major population center. The new (2014 outbreak) has demonstrated this belief to be untrue. This outbreak is being called the worse Ebola outbreak “in history. Already, the hardest-hit West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have reported more than 3,000 cases, including the infections of 240 health-care workers.” (Frankel) Additionally “Ebola is now spreading from the remote provinces and into the teeming cities such as Freetown, where 1.2 million people jostle for space. Previous outbreaks had been limited to remote villages, where containment was aided by geography. The thought of Ebola taking hold in a major city such as Freetown or Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, is a virological nightmare. Last week, the World Health Organization warned that the number of cases could hit 20,000 in West Africa.” (Frankel) There is no known vaccine to Ebola, in addition, public health officials from the CDC and WHO are unclear about methods of transmission(scientists are unclear as to whether Ebola can be airborne or it if is a completely blood borne disease).
Given the magnitude of the Ebola outbreak, it is completely possible that a global pandemic will be a black swan event. While no one took the potential of a disease outbreak seriously there were indications that as the world becomes more globalized and therefore easier to travel from one location to another the potential for ease of disease transmission also became easier.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "2014 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/guinea/ (accessed September 1, 2014).
"About." Black Swan Events. http://blackswanevents.org/?page_id=26 (accessed September 2, 2014).
Davis, Jack . "Strategic Warning: If Surprise is Inevitable, What Role for Analysis?." Central Intelligence Agency. https://www.cia.gov/library/kent-center-occasional-papers/vol2no1.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).
Frankel, Todd C. . "It was already the worst Ebola outbreak in history. Now it's moving into Africa's cities.." Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/it-was-already-the-worst-ebola-outbreak-in-history-now-its-moving-into-africas-cities/2014/08/30/31816ff2-2ed6-11e4-bb9b-997ae96fad33_story.html (accessed September 1, 2014).
Heaton, Alex . "Eight CCU students, one staff member screened for Ebola." Carolina Live. http://www.carolinalive.com/news/story.aspx?id=1090312#.VAZwCPldVAs (accessed September 2, 2014).
Samson, Adam . "Eight ‘Black Swan’ Events that Would Change the World." Fox Business . http://www.foxbusiness.com/economy/slideshow/2012/12/10/eight-black-swan-events-that-would-instantly-change-world/#slide=1 (accessed September 2, 2014).
DiRenzo, Joe. "Strategic Surprise/ Dealing with the Unknown, the Uncertain, and the Counter-intuitive." Lecture, Forum Five from APUS, Charles Town, WV, September 1, 2014.