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Transforming Military Intelligence

July 2003
By Robert K. Ackerman
E-mail About the Author

A new office aims to keep pace with U.S. and adversarial advances.

The U.S. Defense Department is transforming its intelligence infrastructure to meet the revolutionary changes that the military is undergoing. The very nature of intelligence is changing with the revamping of the force, and its application promises to be a key issue in the success of that overall military transformation.

Dynamic factors such as new technologies, shifting global priorities and increasing awareness among diverse adversaries all are influencing the collection, production and dissemination of intelligence as much as they are changing the military. With intelligence playing a steadily increasing role in military operations, the Defense Department is focusing efforts on ensuring that both communities continue to operate synergistically as they rapidly evolve.

A key step in this process is the creation of the new position of undersecretary of defense for intelligence (USDI). The first head of this new office, Dr. Stephen A. Cambone, explains that structuring defense intelligence must take into account two developing trends. One is that the character of contemporary warfare is evolving, and supporting this new form of warfare requires adjustments in intelligence operations. While traditional types of information such as order of battle remain important, understanding the internal dynamics of political structures is growing in importance. Planners now must incorporate economic and societal factors in operational plans to make maximum use of transformational capabilities such as speed and precision. “Intelligence to support those kinds of operations is different than it was to support a more attrition-based concept for military operations,” Cambone emphasizes.

Secondly, potential adversaries have learned a great deal about U.S. national security information and how the United States conducts its operations militarily. Accordingly, these potential adversaries continue to go to greater lengths to hide vital information from U.S. intelligence. The United States must continue to learn this information in spite of others’ efforts to hide it. “Technology being what it is, it [technology] has become increasingly available to those potential adversaries even as it becomes available to us,” Cambone warns. “And since their task is a bit more confined, there are some things that they wish to hide from us, and conversely there are many things that we want to know. It leaves a very interesting challenge for us in terms of the proper capabilities for collection as we go into the future.”

Efforts to address these two trends—the changing character of warfare and the learning curve of adversaries—must be coordinated to lay the groundwork for the longer term while adjusting processes and capabilities for near-term needs, Cambone warrants. His new organization is bringing together personnel and establishing the relationships—both within government and without—to achieve that goal.

The new office will interoperate with other leaders of the intelligence community through the secretary of defense. Calling the relationship between the secretary of defense and the director of central intelligence (DCI) “a special and unique relationship,” Cambone emphasizes that his office’s charge is to assist the secretary in ensuring that the armed forces have the necessary intelligence capabilities. A related responsibility is to ensure that the DCI has the requisite capabilities in the defense agencies that are part of the intelligence community.

As Cambone’s billet is a new organization, many of its issues are common to other new organizations—selecting the right personnel and positioning them where they can serve best. Many precedents are set during this inaugural period, and Cambone emphasizes the importance of setting good ones.

A large number of people are transferring from the former Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence (ASD C3I). These people, who comprise both civilian and military personnel, largely have been involved with intelligence or counterintelligence activities in that office, Cambone offers.

The intelligence focus in the new USDI office will differ from that of the old ASD C3I in that the new office is concentrating on four main areas of work. The first area involves longer range warning and preparation. This thrust is aimed at preparing the Defense Department for discernible changes in areas such as science and technology, deployment of new types of weapon systems and changes in regional relationships and balances. Having this long-range capability will permit defense leadership to adjust acquisition strategies and programs, force deployment, coalition and alliance planning and structuring, for example.

“These are the kinds of things that take time to accomplish,” Cambone states. “They all have their focus in the period beyond the FYDP [future years defense program]—out at the 10- to 15-year mark, rather than inside the planning period for the department.”

This intelligence will be crucial for developing recommendations for changes in how the department invests within an FYDP, in rearranging actions at home or abroad, and in adjusting war plans. “The perspective is outside the FYDP, but the period of action is inside,” Cambone declares.

Long-range activity also will include considering whether the intelligence apparatus is structured to serve department needs over time. “Do we have the right collection profile? Are we doing the right kinds of things—technical, HUMINT [human intelligence] or open source—to collect information? Do we have the correct means for distributing that information to the people who need it, in the fashion that they need it, when they need it?” Cambone offers.

The second focus area concerns support to the warfighter. This involves three major activities, the first of which is to work with the services. This may include diverse topics such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and policies for moving people and materiel. The second activity focuses on working with the combatant commanders to identify their intelligence support requirements and to assist in meeting those requirements. This may feature either defense assets alone or these assets in combination with those of the intelligence community at large. The third activity involves establishing short-time-line contingency plans.

The third focus area is counterintelligence, both for personnel/physical security and for defense against penetration by foreign intelligence services.

The fourth focus area entails planning, programming and budgeting activities. Personnel working in this area will take recommendations from the first three focus areas and work with the defense agencies to examine whether their budgets have included the necessary intelligence items needed by the Defense Department. This group also would engage with the community management staff to ensure that these needs are met in the national foreign intelligence program.

Determining whether the Defense Department has the right skill mix in the force is only one of the intelligence challenges facing the department. Another task is to organize this skill mix in a manner best suited to supporting the kinds of operations that are likely to be conducted in the future. Cambone notes that one rationale for the Defense Department-wide transformation was to ensure that the defense establishment and the military forces would become quicker and more agile. The same transformation objectives apply to the defense intelligence community, he states.

Operationally, an important role for warning and preparation is to be aware of and actively work toward uncovering surprises before they occur. The community also must learn how to support military operations that are part of the concept of effects-based warfare. For example, a commander intending to conduct operations aimed at affecting an adversary’s behavior must know vital information about friendly operations as well as that adversary’s behavior. And, that commander must have a means of measuring the desired effect. Cambone characterizes this as an interesting new field of endeavor that differs from traditional attrition-based warfare.

This support to effects-based operations largely involves the analytic side of intelligence. For the collection side, the community must be certain that it has the right means—technical and otherwise—for gathering information from an adversary. Cambone cautions that this task is complicated by the fact that many potential adversaries have learned, through a combination of espionage and leaks, far more than they should know about how the U.S. intelligence community goes about its business.

The intelligence relationship between the department and the services will continue with a focus on jointness. The new USDI office will provide guidance on the capabilities that are needed to support the joint operator. Part of this guidance will ensure that intelligence systems go beyond mere connectivity by including horizontal integration that permits seamless information exchange among different service networks, data sets and tasking orders. The services then will generate their own proposals, which will be evaluated against that guidance.

Cambone allows that his office will recognize that some service-specific missions will require specific systems. He cites the Army’s Future Combat Systems as probably requiring an ISR system that differs substantially from those of the other services.

Other new technologies will be needed to stay a step ahead of adversaries. “It turns out that culverts are a good place to hide missile launchers,” Cambone relates. “It is hard to see through the dirt and into the sides of these culverts. So, people are scratching their heads about that and trying to come to some conclusions on how we are going to do that in the future.”

The defense intelligence community will require many enabling technologies from private industry to help it meet its goals. One approach involves developing machines that can replace people in tasks that are highly repetitive and do not require intellect. Roles that require correlating large volumes of information, for example, ideally would be moved out of the human realm. Error rates increase the more time that people spend on tedious tasks, Cambone notes.

These enabling technologies might range from machines that translate text all the way to predictive knowledge software. “It’s not always the big or glamorous system or program that can make a difference,” Cambone says. “Something as unglamorous or pedestrian as a machine translator could be a great boon.”

In turn, people removed from tedious tasks can review the results of the machine work. These people then can add their own intellectual strengths, which is at the heart of intelligence work, he offers.