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Posts Tagged ‘MorganFranklin and Intelligence Community’

Have a Little Empathy: How to Provide the Best Intelligence Products to Support Customers

Friday, May 18th, 2012

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:

  1. What is the customer’s mission? Is he/she protecting a fuel delivery convoy, or pulling security at corps headquarters? Is this a humanitarian mission, such as a mobile medical team, or a raid to apprehend an enemy insurgent? This knowledge will help tailor the product(s) to the right audience.
  2. What kind of bandwidth can this customer support? A Special Forces team at a forward operating base (FOB) may or may not be able to receive sophisticated products such as detailed imagery, which requires excessive bandwidth. Meanwhile, a customer at a main operating base may have no bandwidth restrictions.
  3. How much time does the customer have? Selected Special Forces NCOs, called 18Fs, undergo excellent intelligence training. Still, in a tactical scenario, the team’s 18F likely has other responsibilities. Intelligence is not a full-time job. The client cannot focus solely on intelligence matters. He/she may need simple, relevant, well-marked products that brief themselves. (For example, PowerPoint slides should include complete sentences instead of bulleted phrases.) In other cases, the customer may wish to cut and paste portions of the product into working products.
  4. What customer need does the product fulfill? Does it answer a question the customer is asking? Any intelligence product is useless without a “so what” purpose. Is it to inform the customer? Is it to allow a decision maker to make a choice or assume a risk? If the product does not answer this question, it is useless.
  5. It is always appropriate to contemplate security considerations. After all, legend tells us that the Mongols got over the Great Wall of China by simply bribing selected guards. What is the highest level of classification that the customer’s computer can support? Can he/she move a classified product from one system to another? Does the client have a SCIF or tactical “TSCIF”? Does he/she have the ability to store any classified materials?
  6. What kind of enemy threat exists? Is the customer located on a secure compound, or forward under stealth in enemy territory? A customer on a secure base can make a lot of noise, hang products on the wall, and use multiple computers. A sniper or small tactical unit, on the other hand, might not even be able to “light up” a Tough Book, due to enemy threats.
  7. What kind of training does the customer have? Does it include intelligence training? Again, an 18F has excellent training and knows jargon and abbreviations like PIRs (Priority Intelligence Requirements), LTIOV (Latest Time Information of Value), OCOKA (Observation and Fields of Fire, Cover and Concealment, Obstacles, Key Terrain, and Avenues of Approach), and ICP (Intelligence Collection Plan). A coalition tactical element may need basic, clear products in simple English, with no slang.

Second Order Effects: Key to Enhancing Decision Making for the Intelligence Community

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

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.

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