The COVID-19 Intelligence Failure: Why Warning Was Not Enough


Professor Erik J. Dahl

Department of National Security Affairs Naval Postgraduate School


Before the COVID-19 outbreak, intelligence agencies and public health experts had been warning for years about the danger of a global pandemic. But those warnings, and the global surveillance and intelligence systems designed to anticipate just such a crisis, were not enough to avert disaster. The pandemic in the United States was further exacerbated by decentralized public health systems and an aversion to scientific advice on the part of political leaders.

In his talk, Dr. Erik J. Dahl will discuss his latest book, The COVID-19 Intelligence Failure: Why Warning Was Not Enough (Georgetown University Press, 2023). He will explain how it was possible for the world to be surprised by a threat that we should have seen coming. He will examine the roles that both traditional intelligence services and medical intelligence and surveillance systems play in providing advance warning against public health threats, and how these systems must be improved for the future. Finally, he will argue that the lessons learned from the pandemic will be critical, not only to help us prepare for the next pandemic, but also to help us as we face other kinds of threats. No matter the cause of the next worldwide crisis, we now know that future threats are likely to break out and go global very quickly, and intelligence and warning systems will be needed to anticipate, detect, and respond.

Erik J. Dahl is an associate professor of national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, where he is also on the faculty of the Center for Homeland Defense and Security. His research and teaching focus on intelligence, terrorism, and international and homeland security. In addition to The COVID-19 Intelligence Failure, Dr. Dahl is also the author of Intelligence and Surprise Attack: Failure and Success from Pearl Harbor to 9/11 and Beyond (Georgetown University Press, 2013). He retired from the US Navy in 2002 after serving 21 years as an intelligence officer. He received his PhD from the Fletcher School at Tufts University, and holds master’s degrees from Tufts, the Naval War College, and the London School of Economics, as well as a bachelor’s
degree from Harvard University.


  • Wednesday, March 29, 2023
  • 11:15 am: Registration
  • 11:45 am: Luncheon
  • 12:30 pm: Program


  • Spinach Salad Dressed with Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Honey Dijon Garlic Chicken Breast Served over Toasted ALmond Couscous
  • Sauteed Green Beans
  • Fresh Bread and Butter
  • Lemon Bars with Berries
  • Coffee, Tea and Lemonade
  • Vegetarian Option: Bell Peppers Stuffed with Almond Couscous, Raisins, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Green Olives


  • $36 for members
  • $41 for guests
Important: You Must Provide Proof of Full Covid-19 Vaccination in Order to Attend

All those attending WACMB in-person events must show proof of full Covid-19 vaccination, including a booster.

To prove your vaccination status, you can present either your vaccination card or your State of California QR code.

You only need to present such proof once. Your documentation will be noted, and that box will be automatically checked for future meetings.

For the time being, no auditors will be permitted to attend any WACMB in-person meetings. This is to ensure that every person in the room has been vaccinated and boosted.

Thank you for your cooperation with our efforts to keep our members healthy!


Reservations are due by March 26.

Refunds are not available after the due date listed above.

Registration is now closed.


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