GEOINT Shield -- Defense and Intelligence
GEOINT Shield -- Defense and Intelligence is a column by Marv Gordner, Program Manager, Intelligence Solutions Division, MorganFranklin. Mr. Gordner is a retired Military Intelligence Officer (Retired Lieutenant Colonel) who shares his knowledge and insights into the Defense and Intelligence side … More »
May 18th, 2012 by Marv Gordner
A veteran soldier I respect told me the story of receiving a care package, years ago, while serving in the jungle. Imagine his surprise and laughter when he noticed that the care package included bottles of bubble bath! No doubt, the giver’s heart was in the right place; the gift just wasn’t practical. While this is an exaggeration, there is some truth to it. For the intelligence professional who desires to provide timely, focused, and relevant products, there are some helpful questions to ask to ensure that all products are practical for use. All involve a little empathy—the ability to place oneself in the customer’s position.
Questions every intelligence professional should ask:
April 20th, 2012 by Marv Gordner
It’s no secret that budget cuts will be coming in the near future. For example, the U.S. Army is considering a potential 25% drawdown of its general purpose brigade combat teams. The Army will almost certainly reduce its end strength as well, most likely by tens of thousands of trained soldiers. In response to shrinking budgets and the winding down of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, there will also be a diminished need for intelligence analysts. Meanwhile, U.S. Special Operations Forces have no shortage of meaningful missions, realistic training, and resources.
November 28th, 2011 by Marv Gordner
By nature, the intelligence community (IC) thrives on the ability to uncover key data and intelligence from classified sources for the entire chain of command—from senior policymakers down to the warfighter. One area of intelligence gathering that is potentially just as valuable is open source intelligence (OSINT). While OSINT is certainly not new to the IC, it can be highly effective and is often overlooked as an ideal intelligence discipline.
As a discipline, OSINT extends beyond information that any citizen can access via sources such as Google or public data from government reports. The most robust OSINT programs utilize these techniques while also tapping into subject matter experts and members of academia. These individuals can provide deep understanding and ultimately actionable intelligence that can help the IC and the U.S. government make effective foreign policy decisions. In addition, OSINT data can augment intelligence gathered through other disciplines, providing a more comprehensive view for enhanced decision making.
Looking ahead, a new form of OSINT is emerging in the form of “crowdsourcing” data to provide better accuracy of intelligence forecasting. The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) has been actively seeking solicitations from members of industry and a pool of open source experts to help the IC make better informed decisions.
Members of academia are also helping the IC tap into the “wisdom of crowds.” The phenomenon is based on statistical evidence that large crowds of average folks are often capable of better predicting unknown events than individual experts. Via the Internet, researchers at George Mason University are assembling a team of more than 500 forecasters who will make educated guesses about a series of world events. The effort is actually part of an academic competition between universities that are vying for a grant from the IARPA.
In the face of future budget cuts that will task the IC with “doing more with less,” OSINT is a cost-effective way for the community to tap into and leverage data from open resources and crowds. While much of this data would be considered unclassified, it does not diminish its true value. The combination of classified and unclassified intelligence will provide the intelligence community with a complete set of data for decision making that will always be needed—even in the face of lowered budgets.
GEOINT 2011: Key Insights on Intelligence Integration and Future Budget Challenges from the Director of National Intelligence
October 19th, 2011 by Marv Gordner
As the key leaders of the intelligence community (IC) convened in San Antonio this week for the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation’s (USGIF) GEOINT 2011 Symposium, several themes resonated that will impact the future of the IC. Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James R. Clapper Jr. opened the event with a keynote speech that laid out his future vision for a more effective community that will increasingly focus on intelligence integration in a time of tremendous budget cuts.
In an effort to enhance integration by developing a unified intelligence strategy, Clapper has already put into place 17 intelligence managers focused on regional and localized problems who will work in concert with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to effectively mitigate any domestic threats. In addition, he acknowledged the power gained through having analysts from different intelligence disciplines all work in one central location.
Clapper also discussed how the online media organization WikiLeaks.com has caused significant challenges when it comes to effective and responsible information sharing in this new environment. However, he reinforced that new processes will mitigate this type of risk. One key element to reduce what he referred to as a “bad apple” experience is the recent executive order that President Obama signed outlining responsible sharing of classified information.
In terms of the more sobering theme—potential budget cuts for the IC—Clapper highlighted how the intelligence community will have to do more with less. One key solution that he highlighted was for the IC to develop a common IT architecture through the cloud that will be more cost-effective, efficient, and driven by members of industry. The theme of budget cuts was clearly top-of-mind for Clapper and other IC leaders in San Antonio.
One thing that we all have to remember is that the IC’s main focus is to protect the American people—both domestically and abroad. We must always keep in mind that we should not sacrifice the safety of our nation in the name of the bottom line, and it is clear that Clapper is focusing heavily on this challenge.
September 26th, 2011 by Marv Gordner
Next month, the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) is hosting its GEOINT 2011 Symposium with the theme “Forging Integrated Intelligence.” It is no surprise that USGIF chose intelligence integration as the theme since it is becoming a key priority for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). In addition, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s (NGA) new efforts to implement “on-demand GEOINT” also tie in well with the concept of better integration and information sharing.
While integration is becoming a priority for leadership and policymakers in the Intelligence Community (IC), the reality is that it has always been critical on the tactical level and it occurs every day. However, this new leadership push for better integration reinforces that it will most likely influence the development of future solutions from industry.
Intelligence analysts from all disciplines work daily in forward-deployed locations where information sharing occurs fairly seamlessly. For example, an NGA analyst can simply walk over to the desk of an all-source analyst to share key GEOINT data that could impact conclusions and recommendations on activities in Afghanistan. In fact, these intelligence professionals collaborate every day to create relevant, multi-discipline intelligence products.
The 10th anniversary of 9/11 reminded the IC of how the tragic terrorist attacks were the turning point for better integration and information. The IC was transformed in the wake of these devastating attacks. As Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper observed, the IC developed a deep sense of responsibility in regard to information sharing after 9/11.
The IC is now facing substantial changes in the post-9/11 world. Despite major troop drawdowns in Afghanistan and Iraq, the IC still has plenty of meaningful work to do, and intelligence integration will surely play a major role in helping the IC fulfill its missions in this new environment.
August 31st, 2011 by Marv Gordner
Since the devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks nearly 10 years ago, the United States has undergone unprecedented changes in relation to homeland security and military missions abroad. The U.S. has experienced two significant military engagements and created a new infrastructure and innovative technologies to help keep the nation and its citizens safe.
Without a doubt, the intelligence community (IC) was the behind-the-scenes contributor of the majority of these efforts—especially in regard to U.S. presence in both Iraq and Afghanistan. As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 draws near, the U.S. is facing extensive budget cuts while also managing troop withdrawal in these nations.
With these massive changes occurring, many may be wondering about the IC’s role in this new frontier. The reality is that the IC has always played a vital role in national security, and will continue to do so in the face of these changes by contributing in the following ways:
While significant numbers of U.S. troops may be leaving Iraq and Afghanistan, the reality is that nation-building will be a longer-term effort. The IC is the key player, helping the State Department, NATO, the U.N., and others tackle the often daunting challenge of creating long-term stability in volatile regions.
Keeping these regions stable is critical to U.S. security and will help ensure that another 9/11 never occurs. Because of this, the IC will continue to perform meaningful work and always strive to keep the nation and world safe.
July 20th, 2011 by Marv Gordner
When I served in the U.S. Army, we had a saying: “Knocking down 50-meter targets.” The idea was that while qualifying on the rifle range, a common error was for shooters to put all of their effort (and bullets) into knocking down the close pop-up targets at the expense of the longer (and admittedly more challenging) 200-, 250-, and 300-meter targets. Obviously, this had a negative effect on a shooter’s effectiveness, not to mention final score. My sense is that all too often, leaders and intelligence analysts are guilty of making this error—knocking down 50-meter targets at the expense of longer-range goals. Simply put, we focus on the urgent, but not always the important.
Put another way, if we as leaders and intelligence professionals are not fencing adequate time to think deeply, we are not being fully effective. Too often we run around like the proverbial “chicken with its head cut off,” knocking down 50-meter targets but never getting around to the truly significant tasks. We answer e-mails, attend countless meetings, and tend to personnel, resource, and technology challenges. But we never seem to get around to reflecting on long-range issues and casting a vision for the future.
It takes discipline to go deep. This type of thinking is counter to so much of our world—with its 20-second commercials, texting, and instant gratification. Again, for the effective leader and intelligence analyst, there must be a time when we can push away from the tyranny of the urgent, prop our feet up on the desk, and think.
Looking back, I only served in one unit during my Army career where I personally experienced such deep thinking. One special operations organization that I served in was very intentional when thinking about how the unit should look in five, 10, 15, and even 20 years. It held regular technology boards to focus on technology considerations, in concert with focusing on personnel manning, resources, and other areas. Key leaders arrived at these events prepared to articulate their views, and they were critically involved in these regular efforts. Not surprisingly, the commander or deputy commander always chaired these efforts.
The military provides a reliable, time-tested process to assist us: the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP). It is characterized by mission analysis, course of action development, course of action comparison (including the decision matrix tool), and the eventual decision. While this framework was created for staffs and commanders, its tools can also benefit individuals—even in a truncated format. For example, one can create criteria and use a decision matrix to consider, that is, think deeply about any challenge.
The good news is that we can get this process started anywhere. The technique I use is scribbling down an initial note to return to and pay careful attention to at a later time.
Remember that half of the phrase “intelligence analyst” is analyst. By definition and identity, we must be deep thinkers. Our supported senior intelligence officers and leaders cannot do their jobs without our fencing time for thinking and then making informed recommendations. They are counting on us to fulfill this purpose.
June 21st, 2011 by Marv Gordner
For the intelligence professional, honing the fine art of listening is of utmost importance. Effective listening is a force multiplier and can serve as the foundation for both great leadership and tactical day-to-day efforts. History and present-day times show that all great leaders have learned and practiced this unique ability. Both Presidents Reagan and Obama have demonstrated this skill by surrounding themselves with great advisers, listening to them, and then making important decisions based on the input received. Conversely, one recent political candidate was partially discredited when trying to answer complicated questions about constitutional law, which was not the candidate’s area of expertise. A better course of action would have been to say, “I am not an expert in constitutional law, but I will surround myself with advisers who are and I will listen to their counsel before making my decisions.”
I once served under a brilliant intelligence commander who possessed all the traits of a great leader, except for the simple fact that he talked too much. During routine meetings, he consistently provided only his point of view, which ultimately hurt the effectiveness of our organization. To his credit, he listened to this concern and then agreed to a disciplined meeting format in which he spoke for the first five minutes, his staff was given 50 minutes to brief him, and then he used the final five minutes to issue his relevant guidance. This new meeting format worked very well. His expert staff briefed him, he listened and issued guidance, and our organization became even more successful.
The most effective intelligence today comes from multi-discipline intelligence, a synchronization of multiple “INTs,” if you will. Geovisualization products portray a graphic representation and serve as the backbone for managing and sharing information from the IMINT, HUMINT, SIGINT, and MASINT disciplines. These multiple “INTs” confirm and support one another and allow our decision makers to act with confidence. By listening to one another, these sophisticated intelligence products solve some of the most complex intelligence and national security challenges that face our nation.
As intelligence professionals, while we expect our leaders and decision makers to listen to us and consider our sophisticated intelligence products and solutions, we must first remember that effective listening skills start with us. Let’s begin by considering the opinions of others and become great listeners. When this happens, the right decisions will be made and our nation will ultimately become a much safer place.
May 19th, 2011 by Marv Gordner
In the literary classic Beowulf, the main protagonist and title character answers the call from King Hrothgar to kill the evil monster Grendel. Successful in his quest, Beowulf kills Grendel and returns to the King’s castle, victorious. When the celebratory party is in full swing, Grendel’s mother appears seeking revenge. This is a prime example of a second order effect that is very analogous to what often happens in the intelligence community.
Whenever a commander makes a significant decision, intelligence professionals often have to present possible second order effects, which can be positive or negative, for consideration. Often these second order effects are considered and acted upon by commanders.
For example, in Afghanistan, a commander may increase the tempo of operations in an area with difficult terrain, resulting in an increase in soldiers on the ground. As a result, the negative second order effect is the risk to the soldiers. MRAP vehicles have diminished the threat from IEDs and direct fire, but soldiers on foot patrols increase this threat again. Conversely, a positive second order effect is the increased goodwill achieved by patrolling soldiers who interact with the local people.
Similarly, professionals from organizations such as JIEDDO continue to be effective in their efforts against IED threats. These professionals target the IED network, including training, supply, and the technology required to construct and initiate sophisticated IEDs against coalition troops. A positive effect might simply be increased freedom of maneuver for the commander and his subordinates throughout the area of operation (AO). Negative second order effects might include increased numbers of smaller, less sophisticated devices throughout the AO, which could result in increased attacks against the populace. This could also cause the emergence of other threats, such as suicide bombers. Second and even third order effects are something that must be considered and presented to commanders by all intelligence professionals.
And in the case of our hero Beowulf, he overcame his surprise at seeing Grendel’s mother and eventually slayed her as well. The net result was that he became King of the Geats and lived a long, adventure-filled life—a prime example of a second order effect leading to a positive outcome.
April 22nd, 2011 by Marv Gordner
As members of the intelligence community (IC), we are highly trained and work on very important and sensitive assignments. While it goes without saying that protecting our national assets both at home and abroad requires a high level of passion, tireless dedication, and extreme attention to detail, there are patterns that intelligence and imagery analysts can easily fall into that can compromise the overall effectiveness of our efforts. After all, we are human.
Conversely, because we are human, we can always improve our skills and efforts. One of the best ways to improve our efforts is by taking a hard look at the pitfalls that we confront on a daily basis.
Working in high-stakes environments where the margin of error is miniscule, imagery and intelligence analysts often need to take proactive steps to break daily patterns that can compromise our work. While we are only human, the job often requires us to perform at levels beyond human abilities. And when it comes to saving lives and protecting our nation, there is no room for error.