The Bush School Intelligence Studies Program established the Ready Room in the fall of 2021, realizing months of student-led effort and initiative to create a public forum for the intelligence work originating in and outside of the Bush School. Featuring analytic pieces written by current and former Bush School students, as well as external subject-matter experts, the Ready Room comprises a journal for open-source intelligence that is relevant, thoughtful, and representative of diverse viewpoints.
“The Ready Room is meant to give our Intelligence Studies students a platform to voice their perspectives,” said Audrey Kuhnle, a second-year MIA student and current Ready Room Treasurer. “By doing this, we are hoping to bring the space in between academia and the intelligence community. We look at this as us just playing our part for our country.”
Bush School Professor of Intelligence and former U.S. Army colonel Matt Gill said the idea for the Ready Room originated in April 2021. “Midway through last year, I was sitting down with some of my students from my defense intelligence course, and we were just talking about the Intelligence Studies Program itself. We all collectively said, “You know what? We don’t have an online presence that tells the world what we do.” So I gathered a team of about ten students, all volunteers, who wanted to be a part of it.”
A student evaluation of Professor Gill’s defense intelligence course inspired the group of students to create something approximating what became the Ready Room.
“There are many ways to get involved in other concentrations, like the Cyber Club or the Future Grand Strategists program, but there is not much for the Intelligence Studies Program,” said Kuhnle. Taking mostly core classes as a first-year student and accommodating University social distancing policies left her feeling disconnected from the vision and personnel that comprise the Bush School’s Intelligence Studies Program. “Professor Gill really took that and gave a group of us the opportunity to spearhead that and turn nothing into something.”
Gill became the budding organization’s advisor, guiding students through the arduous process of discovering the ideal way to establish a public-facing component to the Intelligence Studies Program. “This was all student led,” he said.
Dean Mark Welsh and Department of International Affairs Head Gregory Gause backed the project. According to Gill, the team “found complete support from the faculty, all the way up to the Dean. They thought it was a great student-led activity.”
Led by second-year MIA student Hilary Godfrey, the team devoted six months to researching ways of constructing a professional website that would attract readers and expert contributors from public and private institutions across the United States.
The Ready Room launched on September 11, 2021, alongside a sponsored event featuring post-9/11 reflections by the Intelligence Studies Program faculty at the Bush School.
The Ready Room highlights the hard work done on the part of Intelligence Studies students to develop critical thinking skills and learn how to write with what Gill terms “powerful brevity.” Students who succeed in these skills become prime recruits for government and private-sector intelligence positions.
“We have a tremendous amount of unseen talent at the Bush School,” said Gill. He discussed why the Ready Room might serve as a valuable asset to the aspiring intelligence producer: “You’re a graduate student, so you are already writing. Why not take some of that writing and get it out in the world, so the world can see the type of student we have here at the Bush School?”
“Just this morning, I was able to virtually introduce one of our newest authors in the Ready Room to the U.S. military’s senior-most researchers on Russian military activities. To be able to link a new graduate student up with somebody who’s been looking at Russia for over forty years is tremendous.”
Kuhnle says the Ready Room motivates her to strive for academic excellence, acting as a crucible for refining her analytic products. “I would love for all of my intelligence pieces to get published on this platform, but only when and if they are good enough. [The Ready Room is] a driver to me because I want to make sure intelligence consumers are getting the best possible information,” she said.
At the same time, the Ready Room informs a general audience on vital global matters, providing analysis and assessments using open-source information on matters relevant to national security. Not only intelligence studies students but any Bush School student who wants to test their analytic aptitude can contribute to the Ready Room.
Gill described his primary contribution to the Ready Room moving forward as facilitating students’ professional development and participation in the real world of open-source intelligence. “As professors and academics, we create human capital that needs to be hired into the workforce,” said Gill. “We shouldn’t be waiting until the spring semester their second year. We should be starting the fall semester of their first year, linking them up with our own professional network and highlighting the good work the students are doing.”
Kuhnle expressed a desire to hand the Ready Room to the next generation of Bush School students: “We are also really excited to get more first-year students involved and for them to tell us where they want this platform to go. Ultimately, it will become the first-years’ project, but I am excited for the platform to be flexible and buildable for our program.”
By Micaela Burrow