Posts Tagged ‘geospatial intelligence’
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
Wednesday, August 31st, 2011
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:
- Post-Conflict Stabilization: In any post-conflict nation, a tremendous amount of work is required to fully stabilize the nation. From financial systems to host armies and security forces, there must be a path to true stabilization, or localized turmoil could erupt all too quickly and easily.
- Supporting Host Nations: The IC will continue to play an advisory role for host nations attempting to implement more stabilized governments. The IC often provides security strategies to help host nations keep their citizens safe in ways that help local governments function properly.
- Training Local Forces: Without proper training and guidance, localized forces can easily fall back into old tribal warfare methods. The IC helps host nations “demobilize” local forces in ways that will prevent them from falling back into long-running tribal feuds.
- Logistics: The U.S. will need to handle the removal and/or management of key U.S. military equipment and assets. In addition, because there is potential for future military engagements in nations such as Libya, the IC must help manage this equipment to keep it “at the ready” for any future conflicts in the region.
- Demining and Other Safety Measures: Ensuring the safety of local citizens rests mainly in the ability to demine former war zones. While the U.N. often plays a major role, the IC also helps in these efforts.
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.
Tuesday, June 21st, 2011
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.