There are other aspects of JIC assessments on which our Review causes us to offer observations:
It should continue to be made clear on the face of the circulated document for what purpose an assessment is being produced.
It is reasonable for assessments requested by the MOD for planning purposes relating to potential military activity to consider worst case scenarios. The burden of proof in such cases may reasonably be lower than in normal circumstances and assessments may reasonably be made on a more precautionary basis. But JIC assessments that take this approach should state that fact explicitly. So should assessments and analysis derived from them, then and subsequently. Care should be taken to ensure that worst case analysis is not carried forward into assessments except those (like assessments of enemy capabilities) which warrant such an approach.
JIC assessments should make clear what the JIC does not know in areas where gaps and uncertainties are material to the assessment.
Assessments should not give undue weight to intelligence reports over wider analysis of historical, psychological or geopolitical factors.
All reasonably sustainable hypotheses should not be dismissed finally until there is sufficient information to do so.
Challenge should be an accepted and routine part of the assessment process as well as an occasional formal exercise, built into the system.
Consideration should be given from time to time to occasional external peer review, particularly on technical issues.
The JIC should continue to conduct regular lessons-learned processes. We have observed in the context of Iraq the truism that under-estimates of a problem tend to get highlighted and over-estimates forgotten on the basis that the latter are less damaging. Attention needs to be paid to misjudgements in both directions.
MACHINERY OF GOVERNMENT
We received evidence from two former Cabinet members, one of the present and one of
a previous administration, who expressed their concern about the informal nature of much
to judgements than is justified and intended. We conclude that the JIC has been right not to reach a judgement when the evidence is insubstantial. We believe that the JIC should, where there are significant limitations in the intelligence, state these clearly alongside its Key Judgements. While not arguing for a particular approach to the language of JIC assessments and the way in which alternative or minority hypotheses, or uncertainty, are expressed, we recommend that the intelligence community review their conventions again to see if there would be advantage in refreshing them.