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Sherman Kent

Sherman Kent, (December 6, 1903 - March 11, 1986), was a Yale University history professor who during World War II, and through 17 years of Cold War-era service in the Central Intelligence Agency pioneered many of the methods of intelligence analysis. He is often described as "the father of intelligence analysis".

He was a graduate of The Thacher School and Yale University where he studied European History with the intention of spending his career as an academic. After graduating he did spend several years teaching and doing research but joined the O.S.S. with the outbreak of the war in Europe.

Sherman Kent first served within the Research and Analysis Branch of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) as Chief of the Europe-Africa Division. In this capacity, he oversaw much of the process which would now be considered intelligence preparation of the battlespace in support of planning for Operation Torch, the 1942 Allied invasion of North Africa. (An irreverent wit, Kent once proposed for the heraldic emblem of the often-zany OSS, "A horse's ass ramptant on a Boston Social Register").[1]

After a post-war stint at the National War College, Kent returned to Yale for three years, during which time he wrote his classic work on Strategic Intelligence. In November 1950, during the crisis that followed the Chinese Communist incursion in the Korean War which prompted a build-up and reorganization of the American Intelligence Community, he was called to Washington to assist Harvard historian William L. Langer, with whom he had worked in OSS, to form a new CIA Office of National Estimates (ONE). He succeeded Langer as chief of ONE in 1952, serving in that position for the next fifteen years under four Directors of Central Intelligence in four presidential administrations.

Kent's ONE was "a small organization, consisting of a Board of National Estimates of between five and twelve senior experts, a professional staff of 25-30 regional and functional specialists, and a support staff." [2]. Until it was dissolved, six years after Ken't retirement, in a Watergate-era CIA reorganization, ONE prepared more than 1500 speculative National Intelligence Estimates for the President and top foreign policy-makers.

Kent led ONE through years of challenge and crisis, including McCarthy-era accusations against one of Kent's young aides, future presidential advisor William Bundy,[3] and "predictive failures" during the Cuban Missile Crisis and other Cold War "flaps".

Kent's unique and enduring role within the US intelligence community was to formalize analytical "tradecraft" and methodologies, while encouraging creation of a "literature of intelligence" to provide a formal mechanism for the transfer of knowledge and experiences between generations of analysts.

Sherman Kent retired from the CIA in 1967, and died in 1986.

In 2000, the CIA established a school dedicated to the pursuit of professionalism in the art and science of intelligence analysis, named after Sherman Kent.

He is the son of William Kent (U.S. Congressman) and Elizabeth Thacher Kent, the brother of Roger Kent (General Counsel of the Defense Department during the Truman Administration and Chairman of the California Democratic Party in the 1960s), the nephew of Sherman Day Thacher and the great-great-great grandson of American founding father Roger Sherman.


Kent's Publications


  1. ^ Richard Harris Smith, "OSS, The Secret History of America's First Central Intelligence Agency" (Guilford, CT, 2005)
  2. ^ Robert L. Suettinger, "History of Intelligence Estimates", US National Intelligence Council,
  3. ^ Peter Grose, "Gentleman Spy, The Life of Allen Dulles" (Boston, 1994)

Biographic Sources

External links



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