Enable breadcrumbs token at /includes/pageheader.html.twig

Laboratory Integrates Intelligence

Intelligence data is under a virtual microscope and literally surrounding analysts with the opening of a facility at the U.S. Joint Forces Command, Norfolk, Virginia. Under the auspices of the Joint Transformation Command for Intelligence, the Joint Intelligence Laboratory is the new home for representatives from the services as well as from industry and academia. The laboratory enables them to view real-world operational data in innovative ways and solve commanders’ real-world problems.

The Joint Intelligence Laboratory (JIL) is the latest step in the U.S. Joint Forces Command’s (JFCOM’s) journey toward fulfilling a directive former Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone issued. JFCOM was instructed to manage a joint intelligence laboratory in which any joint intelligence concept, process, methodology, technology, prototype or transformational initiative could be tested with intelligence community participants.

Former JFCOM Commander Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., USN, re-missioned the Joint Intelligence Center to lead the Defense Department’s joint intelligence community transformation. The goal was to ensure that policy, law, procedures and best practices could be globally trained and instantiated to the same levels. A large training contingent within the JIL helps meet this goal under its Joint Intelligence Training Joint Management Office, states Col. Chuck Mehle II, USA, commander of the Joint Transformation Command for Intelligence (JTC-I), JFCOM, Norfolk, Virginia.


The JIL’s knowledge wall is approximately 38 feet wide and 18 feet tall with a resolution that is four to seven times that of a high-definition television. Information feeds from a multitude of military networks populate the wall.

The JIL is unique, he continues, in that it focuses on those intelligence issues that face joint commanders, the combatant commands (COCOMs) and joint task forces. It is the joint warfighting advocate specifically for intelligence-related issues.

The work force comprises representatives from each of the services who specialize in intelligence, information technology and operations. In addition, the laboratory is home to U.S. Defense Department civilians, industry partners and members of academia. 

Col. Mehle estimates that five exercises, events or experiments are underway simultaneously at any given time in the laboratory. Task-specific personnel report to the JIL from organizations such as the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Joint Center for Operational Analysis.

On the JIL's first floor is the knowledge wall, an information display that is 38 feet wide and 18 feet tall; the resolution quality is between four and seven times that of high definition television. The wall takes disparate feeds from networks regardless of security level, including the secret Internet protocol router network, the nonsecure Internet protocol router network, coalition networks and the Defense Research and Engineering Network.

Access to a lot of data presents problems of its own, however; JIL intelligence experts can find themselves inundated with information. To address this problem, Penn State University created the Knowledge Advanced Visualization Environment (KAVE), a capability that allows analysts to actually stand inside the data in a three-dimensional, almost holographic environment.

Another solution to the so-much-data dilemma comes from an unlikely place: Hollywood. In a project called Valiant Angel, the JIL is working on a way for commanders to handle the massive amounts of available full-motion video. Realizing that the commercial entertainment industry has the same problem and already has solutions, a JIL team asked for help. “[W]hat Valiant Angel has done is we have partnered with research and development experts out of the entertainment industry to [figure out how to rapidly] manage, store, communicate and access very, very large data sets,” the colonel explains.

The U.S. Central Command is excited about Valiant Angel solutions and would like to field them quickly. The colonel shares this enthusiasm and has no doubt that they will revolutionize the way the intelligence community communicates.

But the colonel is concerned with more than just technology. Doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) and concepts of operations (CONOPs) are equally important to providing intelligence personnel with a useful capability. “We have systems out there right now—the Distributed Common Ground System and others—that collect signals and events as they’re occurring. But how do you increase the integration of those systems? How are those systems collaborative? How do those systems reflect to all of the key players—regardless of whether it’s joint, coalition, interagency—the full common operational picture? Those are the kinds of things that we are very, very concerned about within the JIL and framing them up into not only doctrine but also TTPs, CONOPs, and so on so that we’re not winging it or making stuff up from area of responsibility to area of responsibility," Col. Mehle states.

The JIL relies on industry to keep it on top of emerging technologies and capabilities that can enhance both intelligence operations and intelligence experimentation, integration or training demands. Although the laboratory provides the staffing, evaluations are done at no expense to the government. “And you would be amazed at how many industry partners have elected to do exactly that,” Col. Mehle states.