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Army Intelligence Deals With Two Transformations

January 2002
By Robert K. Ackerman
E-mail About the Author

The new look to the service is complemented by a new security mission.

U.S. Army planners are building a new intelligence architecture that ties closely with military, civil government and law enforcement activities both for rapid overseas engagement and for homeland defense. A new plan outlines an Army that meshes with the intelligence community as a whole to fill future requirements in its multimission agenda.

Neither the Cold War nor its 10-year epilogue presented the global challenges facing the intelligence community in this terrorism era. For the first time since World War II, the arena of combat is global with the United States being part of the battleground. Challenges that were territorial or force-related now encompass worldwide protection.

In the face of both its transformation and the new homeland security mission, achieving Army intelligence goals will require new sensor phenomenology to counter enemy camouflage, concealment and deception. Information must be networked fully for top-level analysts to process and disseminate to decision makers at all echelons. And, display technologies must generate a virtual environment yet be mobile enough to travel with the commander in the field.

The new Army Intelligence Transformation Campaign Plan describes a future where “Army intelligence will be a globally focused, rapidly deployable, knowledge-based force.” Keith J. Masback, director of the Army Intelligence Master Plan, describes its basic tenets as, “see first, understand first, act first and finish decisively.” These basic principles hold fast despite the recent events of September 11 and the ensuing global war against terrorists.

Masback uses Lt. Gen. Robert Noonan’s analogy. “We have gone from the Cold War era, where you had two heavyweight sumo wrestlers posturing and going at each other, to this era of globalization, where you have a game of soccer. Both sides switch rapidly between offense and defense; there is action away from the ball that is just as important as things happening near the ball; you have to shift and plan; there are set plays, and at other times there is no set play,” Masback says. “There will be an agile, adaptive, thinking enemy who will not want to go against our strengths, but will seek other ways to come at the United States.”

Some of these Army Intelligence issues already have emerged during operation Enduring Freedom. “We were thinking about an asymmetric threat, an adaptive threat, long before September 11,” Masback relates. “That involved trying to understand how we would need to posture ourselves to deal with this adaptive learning threat that was not going to come at our strengths. So now, renewed emphasis and energy are being put into understanding how we approach that.”

Part of the intelligence challenge lies in thinking like the enemy. However, Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida network and the Taliban are unlike any conventional enemies, and thinking like them is extremely difficult for U.S. Army personnel. “We must be able to look through that lens, to take that cultural backdrop and apply it from the other side,” Masback states of the Army intelligence mission. “We must red-team the adversary’s thoughts and actions in order to be predictive and anticipatory, and not be in a reactive mode but be in an active mode to defeat and deter future threats.”

Masback notes a new emphasis on collaborating with law enforcement agencies and other government entities. While the Army has worked with these groups in the past, often under strictly defined legal parameters, the service is now finding that many of these constraints are in flux amid congressional activities. The Army must redefine these relationships within the new constructs. This involves sharing information, tactics, techniques and procedures in a new partnering relationship.

The homeland security challenges must be met against the backdrop of the ongoing Army transformation. Masback notes that the Army already had understood that the new operational environment would demand that its military intelligence branch be ready to adapt, respond to and anticipate new ways of doing business.

Masback describes the Army transformation to the Objective Force as both an awesome challenge and a tremendous opportunity. The new Objective Force relies heavily on decision dominance, not just information superiority. He defines this as the ability to obtain actionable information to enable decisions to apply effects to the battlefield.

While he describes the Army’s arena as encompassing everything from “mud to space,” Masback allows that the lines between strategic and tactical intelligence are blurring, but not disappearing. Traditional national assets now have applicability to the tactical commander, and many tactical intelligence assets now can be useful to strategic decision makers. The key to making optimum use of all these assets lies in establishing strong relationships with other members of the intelligence community, he says.

“The Army Intelligence transformation extends far beyond the Army,” Masback declares. “It is absolutely critical that we articulate the needs of the Objective Force into the national intelligence community so that we are able to shape the development of both theater and national intelligence capabilities.”

Masback notes that the Global Information Grid is a step toward building a network that will allow movement of multitiered intelligence information. The same information available to a national decision maker also would be available to a theater commander faced with a rapid decision in the field. Multiple users at all levels will require the same information in a timely manner to apply different effects appropriate to their echelon and rule.

The Army has identified five core intelligence competencies for the Objective Force era. When these are combined and enabled by the Global Information Grid, the result will be an infosphere representing “an unprecedented ability to understand and shape that battlespace,” Masback declares.

The first core competency is full dimensional protection in both the physical realm and cyberspace. Masback explains that traditional dimensions—land, air and space—are giving way to a unified approach to protection. The traditional concept of asset sanctuary, for example, does not apply to information.

Multilevel security is essential for protecting the networks, he continues. Also essential is having adaptive, self-healing networks that can be collapsed and reconfigured rapidly. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) tolerant networking program, which aims to develop technologies that support continued network operation in the face of successful attacks, is one promising effort in this discipline.

The second key competency is collection. The Army must have a wide, complementary array of sensors and collectors ranging from tactical through strategic levels. This array would provide the broad-ranging coverage required to pull in the huge amounts of data necessary for future operations. Masback notes that this may range from a tactical human intelligence team operating in concert with a maneuver force for gathering information on the battlefield to other sensor platforms or even elements of the strategic realm.

Key among existing technologies is the tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which Masback states has proved to be tremendously useful. Operations in Kosovo demonstrated the UAV’s effectiveness in understanding the battlefield situation “over the next hill.” The aerial common sensor will provide targeting information directly to Objective Force commanders.

The Army also must build new collection systems that are adaptable to changing situations. Collection assets currently fielded or under development complement theater and national collectors. However, potential adversaries have learned significant lessons about these systems’ capabilities from the Gulf War and the Kosovo conflict, and these would-be foes are working on concealment and deception that would defeat existing sensor systems. As U.S. sensors improve in sophistication, countermeasures evolve concurrently. Masback cites a need for technologies across the spectrum of sensors to overcome emerging countermeasures.

Other efforts include work on advanced electronic warfare sensors that focuses on new multispectral missile, laser and radar warning sensors for ground and air vehicles. And, Army researchers are developing cost-effective electronically steered antennas for multiple platforms and applications.

The third item involves integrating these sensors and intelligence sources. All intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance elements must be networked to provide a total information picture. Masback describes this task as the greatest challenge facing Army intelligence. Achieving this goal will involve hardware, software, tactics, techniques and procedures as well as a robust transport layer.

Networking all of this information also will require an advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance management capability. This will permit operators to manage and adapt the network when they identify seams, gaps and overlaps. This also touches on the capabilities of an adaptive self-healing network.

The key to meeting the challenge may lie in experimentation in realistic environments, Masback offers. Testing sensors, systems and concepts in traditional and asymmetrical scenarios is part of the formula.

The Distributed Common Ground System–Army will bring all the groundstation architectures into a common architecture. This will be the node on the network that allows multiple inputs from sensors and platforms—tactical through strategic—to enter the network through a distributed set of systems.

The fourth key competency is analysis. Masback cites an enduring requirement for automated target recognition/target cueing. “The better we are able to allow machines to cue us, across multispectral information, as to that which is important is absolutely critical to analysis,” he declares. The Army needs an automated capability for “separating the wheat from the chaff.”

The September 11 attacks indicate that the emphasis on analysis will be predictive. This goes beyond generic intelligence prediction, however. The Army is aiming for an enhanced capability that will give better warning of enemy actions and benefit the entire country.

“There is a critical role for people and analysis,” Masback emphasizes. “That gray matter is the most agile, powerful processor on that network, and it is the one that makes the difference.”

The same joint exercises that benefit networking efforts are useful in this arena, but they can have drawbacks. In some exercises, the glut of sensors can provide a high degree of relevant information that requires very little processing or analysis. Training needs are better suited by having raw data that must be processed by systems and interpreted by humans so that operators can become adept at core competencies. The goal is simulations that are as realistic as possible and that stress the entire intelligence system, and for the data flow to be interactive rather than scripted. The Army is working toward simulations that enable analysis on entity-level information, the results of which would be provided to commanders. The Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, is studying the implications for skill sets needed by future commanders to interact with and maximize their intelligence.

The fifth item is presentation. Masback relates that this involves understanding how decision makers receive knowledge to create information. It may entail creating an immersive environment so that commanders can understand information fully and make proper decisions.

Automation increasingly is making a tactical operations center (TOC) the focal point for battlefield information. However, being able to move the TOC with the commander tends to preclude having multiple large-screen displays for situational awareness.

New displays may improve the commander’s visualization of the battlefield and add to TOC mobility. Immersive technologies employing stereoscopic three-dimensional viewing may enable a synthetic environment that literally surrounds the commander with a visual rendition of a situation. Having this immersive environment in a compact, mobile platform can provide the TOC commander with effective information at any location.

Masback notes that diverse commanders often want to view information from different perspectives, including tailoring icons on a screen to display data in specific ways. Accordingly, display software must be adaptive for each commander to tailor the information presentation as needed.