Saturday, January 28, 2006

Topic: Info-centric Warfare

Much has been said about the need for transformation in our military. Nowhere is transformation more necessary than in the field of intelligence.

Intelligence deals with collection, handling and analyzing information. We need to change how we approach each of these tasks:

Collection. During the last ten years our collection capabilities, (especially related to our "national" technical assets), have improved, but they have also become increasingly important to the warfighter community. Basically, there are more customers for what in the past were considered "strategic" assets. The line between strategic and tactical in constantly being blurred in the different realms of warfare and intelligence is no exception. Our collection assets have to support both military and civilian activities in order to achieve our national goals. Of course, the needs of the military (usually short-term, more perishable, operational and tactical needs) are very different from those of the civilian sector (usually more "strategic" and long term needs). Even within the military sector the intelligence requirements of a battalion commander fighting insurgents in an Iraqi town are very different from those of a regional combatant commander planning for the next potential theater-wide crisis. Additionally, the requirements to support a counterinsurgency and counterterrorist operations (4GW), are very different from those needed to support traditional maneuver warfare (3GW) for a major conflict.

Handling of Information. This deals with how we disseminate and what we do with the information we have collected. If the collection aspect is sensor-centric, the handling aspect is network-centric. Today, we live in a multi-INT environment. No single discipline of intelligence (IMINT, SIGINT, HUMINT, etc.) has all the answers. At the operational and tactical level, in order to put bombs on target and at the right time, you usually cannot rely on a single INT. This is what's called fusion. To make key decisions in our current environment we need fast iteration of information from more than one sensor. That information needs to get to the right player at the right time. In Afghanistan and Iraq (and in any future major operation) this involves analysts from different agencies, handling different kinds of INTs, disseminating intelligence in networks to permit quick responses in support of operational and tactical decisions made under great time pressure and under stressful conditions.

Analysis. The two tasks mentioned above have mostly a technical component (sensors, networks) with the human factor as the unifying component. Analysis is mostly a human challenge. In the realm of defense intelligence, we have are being asked to analyze terrorist threats (long considered a law enforcement problem), as well as conventional nation-state capabilities. Due to the rate of assignments at which we change assignments, there is very little chance that the average military intelligence analyst would be an expert in both disciplines. Even the experts from the defense intelligence community would greatly benefit from consulting people from outside the community on subjects in which we have been traditionally weak (e.g. counterterrorism). Unfortunately, on many occasions, we don't stray from the perspectives of the "cleared", "need-to-know" ("the anointed") crowd. By keeping the analysis within our circles, we might miss patterns that non-cleared experts might see. We need to work a way to use the expertise that these "outside" sources bring to the table without compromising our security.

We are already seeing the changes. But more needs to be done. We are witnessing a fundamental transformation of how we conduct our business. The thing is we have to work on all three domains at the same time. We can vastly improve our collection capabilities, but if we don't improve the way we handle and analyze that information, we would still be facing new threats with old methods.

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