Foreign Missile Threats:

Analytic Soundness of National Intelligence Estimate 95-19

T-NSIAD-97-53: Published: Dec 4, 1996. Publicly Released: Dec 4, 1996.

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GAO discussed its evaluation of National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) 95-19, "Emerging Missile Threats to North America During the Next 15 Years". GAO noted that: (1) the main judgment of NIE 95-19 that no country, other than the major declared nuclear powers, will develop or otherwise acquire a ballistic missile in the next 15 years that could threaten the contiguous 48 states or Canada, was worded with clear, 100 percent certainty; (2) this level of certainty was overstated, based on the caveats and the intelligence gaps noted in NIE 95-19; (3) NIE 95-19 had additional analytic shortcomings, because it did not quantify the certainty level of nearly all of its key judgments, identify explicitly its critical assumptions, or develop less likely, but not impossible, scenarios referred to as alternative futures; (4) NIE 95-19 did acknowledge dissenting views from several agencies and also explicitly noted certain information the intelligence community does not know that bears upon the foreign missile threat; (5) NIE 95-19 worded its judgments on foreign missile threats very differently than did two 1993 NIEs on related subjects that GAO reviewed, even though the judgments in all three NIEs were not inconsistent with each other; and (6) in general, the two 1993 NIEs pointed out unfavorable and unlikely outcomes associated with foreign missile threats to the United States more often than did NIE 95-19.

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