Transformation Turns Intelligence Around

May 2004
By Maryann Lawlor
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Combat targeteering students Cpl. Stormy Munkirs, USMC (l); Capt. Natasha Ziegler, USAF; and Senior Airman Eric Thompkins, USAF, respond to a simulated Middle East conflict scenario by implementing information derived from various intelligence sources. They are plotting the order of battle onto a map so war planners know the location of friendly and hostile forces. Targeting is one of the areas that the Joint Forces Intelligence Command  (JFIC) is working to improve.

Command builds bridges between intelligence islands.

Emerging technical capabilities and innovative concepts are turning the intelligence gathering, analysis and sharing process on its head. Tools that facilitate research at the beginning of the intelligence production cycle and reduce compilation time at the end will increase the amount of time available for analysis in the middle of the process. The result will be joint operational intelligence that enhances decision-making.

While military leaders continue designing comprehensive transformation plans, work is underway at the units that form the building blocks of change. For its part, the intelligence community is pursuing systems and concepts that are born joint. It also is applying lessons learned from current operations and improving its training and processes to anticipate future intelligence needs.

The Joint Forces Intelligence Command (JFIC), Norfolk, Virginia, is intricately involved in the U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) transformation mission and is the chief agent for change in the joint intelligence analysis realm. In the past, JFIC concentrated on indications and warning and coalition operations support, explains Capt. William Reiske, USN, commander, JFIC. Today, the command is transitioning into an organization with focus, funding and manpower directed toward joint operational intelligence. JFIC supports joint force training, concept development and experimentation as well as joint integration and interoperability, Capt. Reiske says.

As a subordinate unit of JFCOM’s Intelligence Directorate (J-2), the command also drives intelligence transformation within the regional combatant commands (RCCs) and combat support agencies, including the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency. JFIC has positioned itself as a two-way bridge between these groups by assessing new analysis and visualization tools, testing key intelligence systems and supporting JFCOM’s intelligence experimentation directorate, which focuses on concept development.

Approximately 70 of JFIC’s personnel work on joint intelligence training by assisting in major exercises. Of those, approximately 40 to 45 people work on all the intelligence production for the training environment for major exercises. “All the production, all the imagery, HUMINT [human intelligence]—anything that the intelligence expert would come across in an exercise—we try to create that environment for them as best as we can. Prior to the exercise, we also provide them, through our regional joint intelligence training facility, functional and systems training to get them ready before they are put into the team environment,” Capt. Reiske explains.

JFIC creates the environments from real-world data and works closely with the DIA so that the training environment is realistic. This enables JFIC to evaluate the effectiveness of the presentation of intelligence information so it can identify and correct shortfalls, the captain explains.

In addition to its training responsibilities, JFIC conducts targeting and collections tasks for all of the RCCs. This mission was the result of lessons learned in Bosnia that identified a need for improvement in this area. The command created a quick-reaction team of targeting and collection management experts who enter a theater at the same time that a military contingency is ramping up to enter an area. Team members help targeting and collection personnel within different theaters of operation work through their procedures to eliminate gaps in targeting or collection plans. Lessons learned from this process are brought back to JFIC and incorporated into training as well as are shared with the concept development experimentation office.

Some of these lessons revealed the need to improve targeting and collection management command and control. As a result, targeting analysts are working with the JFCOM’s Joint C4ISR Battle Center to find solutions.

Approximately a year ago, the JFIC Transformation and Experimentation Cell (JTEC) was formed to support JFCOM’s joint concept development and experimentation efforts. The team of 14 military and contractor personnel evaluates tools and networks using real-world data. Since its inception, it has expanded its work beyond JFCOM’s Joint Experimentation Directorate to the intelligence community at large. The cell is examining a variety of intelligence tools, including data mapping and mining, research and analysis. In some cases, this investigation can lead to moving tools into the field sooner than anticipated, the captain notes.

Although JTEC is interested in tools that can be useful in the intelligence-gathering and -assessment process, Capt. Reiske points out that the real goal is to find technologies that support the decision-making process. “You can have analytical tools and collections tools and production tools, but if they can’t eventually graduate to a point where they are helping you make decisions, they’re not useful. So our mind is always on how these tools improve the decision-making process,” he says.


Among its many responsibilities, JFIC provides intelligence data to the U.S. Joint Forces Command’s Joint Warfighting Center to help service members train in a joint environment. Northrop Grumman Mission Systems leads the contracting team that supports the center.

This exploration is part of JFIC’s effort to reverse what Capt. Reiske calls the “intel bathtub curve.” Traditionally, substantial time is spent researching; a small amount of time is dedicated to analyzing; and a great deal of time is devoted to producing the intelligence. “By looking at technology in networks and processes, we’re looking at reversing that into a bell curve where we’re spending less time on research, a lot more time on analysis and less time on product because the tools allow us to do the front end and back end a lot better than in the past,” the captain explains.

JFIC also is helping JFCOM evaluate lessons learned from operation Iraqi Freedom. In this area, JFIC is working primarily on targeting, interrogation procedures and the Iraqis’ perspectives on the conduct of the operation. As JFCOM works through that information and creates an implementation plan for improvement, the entire intelligence enterprise, including JFIC and JFCOM’s Intelligence Directorate, will examine its role in the process. Some of the necessary changes are at the national level, for example in HUMINT, so JFIC will not be involved, Capt. Reiske notes.

Transformation change packages are one method JFCOM’s intelligence enterprise uses to suggest or implement changes. Currently, the J-2 has sponsored three packages. The Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) package homes in on concepts of operations and tactics, techniques and procedures to improve ISR efforts. The Blue ISR package examines aircraft and satellites mission support to ensure that commanders understand the capabilities they bring to the battlespace. This improves decision-makers’ understanding of the platforms that can and cannot fill gaps when they make changes to their ISR environment, the captain explains.

The operational net assessment (ONA) concept is the third change package, and Capt. Reiske relates that ONAs improve how commanders evaluate adversaries by providing the commanders with a dynamic analysis of the enemy’s total war-making capability (SIGNAL, August 2001, page 53). The concept has progressed through the prototype pathway and is now a capability that the services, the Joint Staff and the combat support agencies advocate. It is being fielded as part of the standing joint force headquarters in the theater.

The success of these three change packages indicates that transformation is an integral part of the intelligence community. “We are at the point now where a concept that was born at JFCOM and led by the intelligence enterprise here is starting to make inroads into the combat support agencies and the RCCs and how they look at a problem set. So we are making great strides,” he says. The ONA concept is just now beginning to grab the attention of the strategists at the national level, and JFIC has had many discussions with the DIA and others about how the concept will affect their support of an RCC joint force headquarters, he adds.

JFIC also is responsible for intelligence planning for the joint concept development experimentation effort at JFCOM. The goal is to determine how to improve intelligence planning at the RCCs. Capt. Reiske explains that JFIC’s role includes a range of duties, from making sure that intelligence operators have a clear picture of the situation to ensuring that collections systems are in place prior to an operation, to evaluating the post-operation environment.

“This is a huge task, and it’s going to incorporate just about anything you can think about from beginning to end when you’re trying to plan for a major operation in a theater. It will involve looking at tools. We are looking at tripling the size of our JTEC lab to handle the kind of requirements that are involved with this task,” the captain says. The current work concentrates on the capabilities rather than just the concept, he adds.

Capt. Reiske contends that improvements in knowledge management and information management technology are the reason the intelligence community has been able to keep up with today’s operational tempo. Although the need for knowledge management is not new, it has increased because threats and adversaries are now asymmetric. “This requires a more agile, responsive collection and knowledge management system, and that’s where the ONA concept comes in. ONA is a very good fit to address the changes from the Cold War environment to what we’re dealing with today.”

The ISR piece is another part of that knowledge management best practices effort, Capt. Reiske continues. “Even though knowledge management was running within each specific theater, it was not a holistic approach to a transnational problem set. So those two things have been very important to solving the knowledge management thirst that we’ve had for a long time,” he says.

The captain shares one striking example of how technology supports new concepts such as ONA. “For a system-of-systems analysis, Experimentation Directorate personnel said it would take six man-years to conduct the nodal analysis for a specific country. We took a tool and did the same search that identified all of the nodes in 20 hours. That was just the beginning of the research, but there are tools out there to get through all the front end of all the data. That’s how you start moving from the bathtub curve to a bell curve,” he offers.

Capt. Reiske believes that “unity of effort” continues to be a topic of deliberation in the intelligence world today. “People are no longer debating goals or definitions. They are really debating who is going to provide what and how it’s going to benefit all levels of operations, from policy-making all the way down to the guys and gals in the platoon,” he says.

The captain maintains that transforming the intelligence field involves more than just the intelligence community. “It’s all organizations and functions, and it’s multinational and interagency. Everybody has a piece in improving intelligence. We’ve seen that we can be very effective. Post-9/11, we were very effective. At national special security events, such as the Winter Olympics and Super Bowl, you see traditional and nontraditional intelligence and information organizations get together and do phenomenal work. But that’s the exception, not the rule. ... Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and others are working to make that the rule and not the exception.

“In the global war on terrorism, there have been a number of successes. Some of them can’t be mentioned because we’re preventing an operation from occurring. But they all involve collaboration and the ability to display the adversary—whether it’s an adversary that’s working in the financial world or working on the battlefield—and bringing those nontraditional working groups, boards or environments together long enough to look at a problem, find an answer then capture that knowledge for when the problem comes up again. You’re building a collaborative environment, kind of like a Napster, that exists in pockets today. That will help alleviate some of the issues, but again, I think the successes outweigh the failures by a large margin,” Capt. Reiske states.

JFIC has been working with companies that will support joint operational intelligence. Capt. Reiske says his command sponsors industry symposia to communicate its specific needs to companies. For example, he points out that many commercial solutions are useful at the strategic or national level but do not meet the needs in the joint operational intelligence environment.

JFIC’s goals for the next two to three years include creating a “future cell” to help the command anticipate the intelligence needs of military organizations. In addition, the captain relates that JFIC is examining its own processes and procedures so it can adopt intelligence best practices and create an effective environment for training and experimentation. Because the command’s eyes are always on the future, the final goal is to find tools that can reduce the time for the Defense Department’s intelligence production process by one-third.  

Additional information on the Joint Forces Intelligence Command is available on the World Wide Web at

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