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Eliminating the Fog of War

October 2000
By Maryann Lawlor
E-mail About the Author

Data hunters and gatherers hone predictive skills.

A metamorphosis in the U.S. Army military intelligence community closely mirrors the changes seen throughout the service as it embarks on the transformation to a full-spectrum force—the Objective Force. The service’s conversion is motivated by an increase in the diversity and number of threats, the creation of new technologies, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These same factors have military intelligence leaders assessing the part that their personnel and technology will play in future operations. And, as in the past, it will be a critical role and one that will grow and change in proportion to the number of adversaries and missions.

The Army’s transformation plans aim at creating a force that can dominate at every point on the spectrum of operations (SIGNAL, July, page 31), from disaster relief to high-intensity warfighting. The goal is to provide a more responsive, deployable, agile, versatile, lethal, survivable and sustainable force. This effort is in response to a multitude of changes that have occurred worldwide since the 1980s. Since 1989, the average frequency of Army contingency deployments has increased from one every four years to one every 14 weeks. During this same time period, all of the armed forces have struggled to attract and retain qualified personnel.

According to Lt. Gen. Robert W. Noonan, Jr., USA, deputy chief of staff for intelligence for the Army, his sector is a microcosm of what is occurring in the Army as a whole. Intelligence personnel must support operations in various theaters, keep up with technology, monitor more activity from an increased number of potential adversaries, and provide commanders with knowledge not just data.

This revolution in weapons, adversaries and capabilities has produced two challenges that today’s military intelligence providers must meet. Because the Army is aiming at lighter, leaner forces, deployed troops must have a reach-back capability that establishes communications between forward troops and the continental United States or other headquarters. “The biggest challenge is how do you do reach-back? How do we partner with other agencies to get the intelligence?” the general says.

In addition to this capability, the general believes that deploying intelligence capabilities before engagement poses a second challenge. Today’s intelligence forces must be much more predictive than in the past, he offers.

“We are adjusting to this new paradigm. We are a major part of peacekeeping in the world, and we have to stay aware of emerging problem areas like the Caspian Sea area,” Gen. Noonan explains. The Middle East is a particular concern, the general says, because nations in this oil-rich area are vying for control of that region.

The U.S. Defense Department is aware that the Middle East is not the only geographic area of concern and that conventional conflict is not the only threat. The intelligence community shares this view. Terrorist activity, weapons of mass destruction and attacks on the information infrastructure are among the possible vulnerabilities that must be addressed. In addition, various religious groups and the “-stans”—emerging countries in the Middle East—are items that the intelligence community must consider. Army intelligence must have a greater cultural awareness of these areas, Gen. Noonan says.

In addition to these challenges, there is also a confluence of different types of problems. For example, troops may not have easy access into certain locations, he adds.

Technology is seen as the key component in addressing these new issues. Gen. Noonan points to the Trojan special purpose integrated remote intelligence terminal (SPIRIT) as one of the key technologies that support this effort. The system uses secure commercial and military satellite communications (SATCOMs) to provide national- to tactical-level connectivity in support of warfighters’ intelligence needs. It consists of two heavy high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles with shelters and a SATCOM antenna mounted on a tactical trailer.

The system supports force projection by enabling split-base operations between intelligence operating bases in sanctuary and forward-deployed troops. It helps achieve information dominance by providing the means for rapid, secure and seamless information sharing in voice, data or video formats across all echelons.

Using technologies such as these and combining communications capabilities with improved weapons systems will ensure that the United States and its allies can strike hard and fast—a capability that is critical to the success of future missions, Gen. Noonan believes. “We can’t afford to lose people because we have fewer people out there. Smaller forces mean they need intelligence. No one is going to let us build up forces like we were able to do in the Gulf. We have to seize the day right away, and this means the troops need greater situational awareness out there,” he offers.

To this end, the Army is refocusing its efforts on the collection and production of information and is looking at technology as one key component. “When I started in the Army, we used to count Russian tanks. Now we’re watching technology move, and it’s moving very quickly,” Gen. Noonan comments.

Intelligence must be provided in what the general terms as space to mud. “We used to have a lot of seams, a lot of structures, and all of that was echelon. We’re trying to get rid of all those seams,” the general explains. The Army must integrate everything from imagery gathered by satellites to what the soldier sees and provide the support so that commanders in the field understand what the data means, he adds.

It is the analysis element that concerns many in the intelligence community. Human intelligence, or HUMINT, includes the personnel who gather information, but it also refers to the analysts who review the information and reach some conclusions.

“We have to have knowledge-based awareness, not just data flowing in. There is a lot of C4ISR [command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] out there, but it is the analysis that is important. I don’t want people enamored by what’s on the monitor. We have to make people doubters of what they see on the screen. The younger generations sit in tactical operations and watch. They have to really look at what’s on that screen and analyze it,” Gen. Noonan offers.

To support this activity from a technical standpoint, it will be necessary to determine how to configure data, and there must be standardization so commanders can choose to view what they need. “We have to have intelligence on demand,” the general says.

Gen. Noonan views technology as an important tool for achieving this goal. The Army has had tremendous success with the digitization of large amounts of data, and it is leveraging the appropriate technology to continue this effort. Advancements in imagery have been especially beneficial, and the general points to developments by the National Imagery and Mapping Agency as an example of available tools.

However, he warns that it is important to watch commercial sector developments in the imagery arena. “The enemy could gain access and see our area. Our adversaries don’t have access to all the tools because they don’t have the money, but they can get some of the information. We have to work with other agencies, industry and academia in this area. Technology is working for us, but it can also work against us,” Gen. Noonan states.

Despite this caveat, the general believes technology can support future missions that are predicted to occur in settings that are different than on today’s battlefields. “We’re going to be fighting in cities in the future. We need some new technology to help us in this area. The question becomes how do you keep up. You can’t do the technology du jour, so this goes back to forecasting—predictive intelligence,” he says.

It is this added dimension that causes Gen. Noonan to make the distinction between C4 and ISR. Although the intelligence sector certainly relies on communications, so do other military units such as logistics and personnel. It has become somewhat common for leaders to refer to the two components—the technical side and the intelligence side—as if they are one in the same, he explains.

The general expresses concern about this connection but agrees that communications capability is key. “I don’t want to make it seem like C4 is only ISR. The I stands for intelligence and refers to collection, processing and analysis. Dissemination is the C4 element, but I don’t want the perception out there that you could fold ISR into C4. If you were to deliver all the information to a commander at one time, he wouldn’t know what to do with it. You have to have the analysis part, which is intelligence,” he explains.

In some ways, the Army transformation effort supports this view. Some of the new brigades are embedding more intelligence at the lower levels. Soldiers in the field receive some instruction about collecting information; however, more intelligence can be gathered with more highly trained personnel in place. For example, as troops talk with residents of an area, they can gain insight into any alterations in normal activity. “Intelligence is still an art form. Teams that go out can find the baseline, so when changes occur, commanders can make decisions. And this is an art form that you have to learn,” Gen. Noonan offers.

This requirement touches upon another key element of the Army transformation—people. Manning the force is an integral part of the transformation strategy; however, concerns exist about the service’s ability to attract people with technical and advanced skills. From a military intelligence perspective, the general believes the service must determine whether it is recruiting the right people. “We are handing intelligence responsibilities to a lot of junior people, and there is a larger reliance on civilians too—departmental civilians and contractors,” the general says. The Army is trying to be revolutionary and evolutionary at the same time. As a result, this is another area where training becomes critical, he adds.

The service also is experiencing a revolution of sorts in its role in operations, and the increased number of coalition missions creates some special challenges for the intelligence community. Currently, the United States has different agreements with various nations for sharing intelligence information. Because many countries may not want to share the sources of their intelligence, liaison officers will continue to play a key role in providing allies with the finished product that those sources provide, the general offers.

The combination of technology and human input can be used to not only lift the fog of war but to eliminate it and avoid a crisis or to ensure a decisive victory with the least amount of casualties, the general states.

Based on the changes occurring in military intelligence today, Gen. Noonan offers predictions about where it is headed during the next several years. He foresees greater use of unmanned aerial vehicles to gather data. Although intelligence expertise will continue to be required at high command levels, more intelligence personnel will be embedded in the lower echelons. Force XXI Battle Command, Brigade and Below technology will be put in every vehicle, an effort that is now underway. Technical systems will have to be protected, and operational security will have to be resurrected, Gen. Noonan offers.

These additions will give troops more situational awareness. In the future, commanders will receive more information and will have to react more quickly, the general says. The synchronization of data and analysis will facilitate the process and will result in robust command and control, he adds.