A dilemma faced by intelligence analysts is whether to stop and report an inference based on available information, or to collect additional information. More information might produce an inference with greater usefulness at a higher level of confidence, but seeking additional information adds to intelligence costs and also risks a result that is not timely enough to be of value. This dilemma might be encountered early in the intelligence process or, more critically, later during the testing of hypotheses. This skill, then, is the ability to evaluate the need for new information by considering the value, cost and risk tradeoffs that are involved.
The analyst faces value-cost-risk tradeoffs principally during the stage of analysis in which hypotheses are being tested; this is a critical part of the process of developing a useful inference. Typically, one or more hypotheses would have been developed at this stage of the analysis and additional information might be required to help confirm or refute them. With limited time and resources available for collecting additional information, the analyst must employ these resources in the manner that will produce the greatest value for the resources expended. The analyst must also be sensitive to producing an inference in sufficient time and at a high enough level of confidence for it to be of use.