During the Cold War, when the United States' intelligence efforts were focused on the Soviet Union, one of the primary tasks of the Central Intelligence Agency was to estimate Soviet defense spending. In Soviet Defense Spending: A History of CIA Estimates, 1950-1990, Noel E. Firth and James H. Noren, who spent much of their long CIA careers estimating and studying Soviet defense spending, provide a closer look at those estimates and consider how and why they were made. In the process, the authors chronicle the development of a significant intelligence analytic capability. Firth and Noren also explain what the CIA has learned since the collapse of the Soviet Union about the USSR's actual military spending during the Cold War. For historians and political scientists interested in the Cold War, U.S.-Soviet relations, the politics of defense spending, and the history of U.S. intelligence and estimation of Soviet forces, Soviet Defense Spending will be a valuable and enlightening explanation of a crucial part of the U.S. intelligence system. Students of Soviet economic and political history will find it useful as an overview of Soviet military development and as an informative slice of the history of U.S.-Soviet relations.
Noel E. Firth spent the first nineteen years of his thirty-one-year career with the CIA working directly on the development of estimates of Soviet defense spending.James H. Noren spent almost his entire thirty-two-year career with the CIA conducting research on and analyzing the Soviet economy.