Team B Strategic Initiatives Panel

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Team B Strategic Initiatives Panel, according to Anne Hessing Cahn's article Team B: The Trillion Dollar Experiment, was "an experiment in competitive threat assessments approved by then-Director of the Central Intelligence Agency George Herbert Walker Bush. Teams of 'outside experts' were to take independent looks at the highly classified data used by the intelligence community to assess Soviet strategic forces in the yearly National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs). NIEs are authoritative and are widely circulated within the government. U.S. national security policy on various issues as well as the defense budget are based on their general conclusions. Although NIEs represent the collective judgment of the entire intelligence community, the lead agency is the CIA."

Actually, Hessing writes, there were three B Teams: "One studied Soviet low-altitude air defense capabilities, one examined Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) accuracy, and one investigated Soviet strategic policy and objectives. But it is the third team, chaired by Harvard professor Richard Pipes, that ultimately received considerable publicity and is commonly referred to as Team B."

For full details, read the remainder of Hessing's article (Part I) and scroll down the page for Part II written by John Pradas.

According to the web site of researcher/writer Edward J. Epstein [1], "Question: Bill Keller, referring to the famous exercise in intelligence evaluation in 1976 called Team B, an effort by those outside the 'intelligence fraternity to ... second-guess the analysis of the A Team professionals' of the CIA. Did Team B do more than 'second guess' the CIA? If so, what implications does it have for present policy makers in Washington?

"Answer: Team B did not 'second-guess' the CIA. It participated in a competitive analysis that remains a unique experiment in the annals of US intelligence.

"In January 1976, in response to pressure from the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) to examine the way the CIA arrived at its National Intelligence Estimates, George Bush, then the newly appointed Director of Central Intelligence, agreed to a test in which both the CIA (called Team A) and a panel of non-CIA experts (called Team B) would independently analyze the same underlying material on three national security issues.

"Team B members, all approved by the CIA, were hardly outsiders to the national security establishment. They included political scientist Richard Pipes, General Daniel Graham, who had headed the Defense Intelligence Agency, Paul Nitze, a former Deputy Secretary of Defense, General John Vogt, the former Air Force Chief of Staff, Thomas Wolfe, a top Rand Corporation executive, General Jasper Welsh, the head of the Air Force's system analysis and Paul Wolfowitz, who was at the Arms Control Agency.

"The three topics selected by the National Security Council were 1) Soviet missile accuracy, 2) the ability of low-flying US bombers to penetrate Soviet defenses and 3) overall Soviet strategic capabilities and intentions. (A fourth proposed topic, the detectability of US submarines, was rejected by the Navy). The exercise began in August 1976 and ended in December 1976, with both sides presenting their conclusion to PFIAB.

"The same data produced two startlingly different results. On the issue of Soviet missile accuracy, for example, Team A concluded that Soviet missiles were relatively inaccurate (1/4 of a nautical mile), and therefore did not pose a major threat to US silos; whereas Team B concluded that Soviet missiles may have attained sufficient accuracy (1/15th of a nautical mile) to threaten these same silos. (As Soviet missile testing later revealed. Team B turned out to be correct on this issue.)

"The lesson of this extraordinary disputation was not that the Soviet Union had a greater or lesser capacity but that intelligence estimates, no matter how objective they may seem, are an inherently uncertain enterprise, based on questionable assumptions and selective exploitation of sources. The facts of intelligence work are not like marbles that can be lined up, counted and weighed. They assume different meanings depending on who selects them and orders them into a mosaic. Intelligence estimates are at best, therefore, an incomplete product.

"As one perceptive member of Team B later pointed out, 'To succeed in these circumstances, policymakers must become, in effect, the senior analyst on their core accounts. Above all, they must become adept at the analytic techniques for doing battle with incomplete information and contradictory assumptions.' That was what was learned from Team B."

Team B Members

"Team members included Richard Pipes (father of Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum) and William van Cleave, both of whom would become members of the second Committee on the Present Danger, as well as Gen. Daniel O. Graham, whose 'High Frontier' missile defense proposal foreshadowed President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), or "Star Wars." The team's advisory panel included Paul Wolfowitz, Paul H. Nitze, and Seymour Weiss--all close associates of Albert Wohlstetter. Although Richard Perle played no direct role in Team B, he was instrumental in setting it up. It was Perle who had introduced Richard Pipes, a Polish immigrant who taught Czarist Russian history at Harvard, to Sen. Henry Jackson, catapulting Pipes into a clique of fanatically anti-Soviet hawks. Pipes, who served as Team B's chairman, later said he chose Wolfowitz as his principal Team B adviser 'because Richard Perle recommended him so highly.'" [2]

"The Team B leader was Prof. Richard Pipes. Associates were Prof. William Van Cleave; Lt. Gen. Daniel Graham, USA (Ret.); Dr. Thomas Wolfe, RAND Corporation; and Gen. John Vogt, Jr., USAF, (Ret.). The Team's Advisory Panel was comprised of Ambassador Foy Kohler (former US Ambassador to Moscow); The Honorable Paul Nitze; Ambassador Seymour Weiss; Maj. Gen. Jasper Welch, USAF; and Dr. Paul Wolfowitz, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency."[3]

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