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Archive for March, 2011

Conversation With A Military Intelligence Thought-Leader

Monday, March 28th, 2011

With Louis Tucker*, the newly-departed Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Minority Staff Director, we built on the previous conversations in a talk with one of the leading thinkers and practitioners of military intelligence analysis.  Here are some highlights from that discussion:

“*Rapid adaptability is the #1 need of our time. It’s what bad guys do and force.

*We must have an intimate understanding of the people to know what they respond to, and to determine the key linkages to the bad guys that we need to sever and replace.  It’s only with this situational awareness that we will be able to drive operations that successfully separate the population from the bad guys, and to create the conditions for security, stability and development.  Flexibility is a key aspect here as well, and our small unit intelligence officers must have the skills and ability to look for, recognize, and respond to the changes in the enemy and in the environment.

*The level of analysis required to understand the myriad of familial, tribal, local dynamics, multiple roles of ‘friends’, cultural, political and religious factors in order to do COIN properly, is beyond the understanding of most young, unseasoned company intelligence officers.

*We are talking about changes in small unit intelligence officer capabilities at the company level that will take a generation to implement unless we engage in the Inversion Model for fielding our analysts (to be discussed next posting), if we decide the company intelligence officer is the ‘sweet spot’ for improved situational awareness.

Bottom line from this expert:
1.  We have to adapt, fundamentally, our approach to localized intelligence and awareness.
2.  Training is vital, but we have to do it at a higher or more advanced level, especially for intelligence analysts. We can’t expect to win COIN conflicts unless we invest in the language training and cultural studies necessary to understand the environment.
3.  We have to figure out better ways to rotate our forces while sustaining battlefield awareness and population engagement.
4.  We have to figure out ways to better mentor company and battalion commanders.  They are the short term ‘sweet spot’ for improved awareness and understanding.
5.  Fusion Centers:  They are centerpieces for more than intelligence.  Our BCTs can handle them, but we haven’t made them part of our doctrine.  Everyone is creating them.  They work.  They integrate capabilities (military, IA, NGO, indigenous, etc…).  It is a place where knowledge can be developed, considered, shared.  In an environment where information and intelligence is vastly more dominant than fire and maneuver, commanders (leaders) have to place themselves in the middle instead of at the top of the intelligence pyramid.  Then and only then will they have true situational awareness and an increased level of consciousness and understanding across the entire organization.


February, 2011

Based on my note two weeks ago, below, a military intelligence thought-leader made the following comments in a conversation last week:

*COIN is population- or people centric, but we remain enemy-centric;

*We need to do a better job of understanding “who” the people are in the local situation and the multiple roles they must play;

*COIN in Afghanistan pushes analysis, decision-making and planning to the company level, unlike the   

  battalion-centric intelligence situation in Iraq;

*This expert has chosen to leverage technology to enhance the ability of the company intelligence officer   to generate situational awareness for the commander because technology scales….built it once    

  deploy the benefits in every AO;

*There are three phases to improving intelligence’s ability to drive operations:

   *The idea and creator leaders who push out capabilities they believe will improve intelligence;

   *The architects who integrate the capabilities into a cogent set of tools;

   *The rationalizers who keep the best capabilities and shut down the rest. 



January, 2011
I was fortunate to have a conversation last week with a military intelligence and national security thought-leader.  Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:

We don’t do a good job of collecting intelligence on our local area ‘friends’ in these war-torn countries.  We do not look at ways to confirm whether they are really our ‘friends.’  They may play………they may have to play……many roles related to multiple constituencies and changing circumstances in a district or locality.  Family, tribe, culture, religion, politics, influence, commerce, military, bad guys, threats, fear, and other influences may force them to act with different loyalties and interests in different situations during the same day. 

Our young military intelligence officers are not trained to look at these ‘friends’ from multiple vantage points and perspectives to understand what may be their many interests.  In fact, our warfighters are hesitant to collect on them at all, for fear of alienating a ‘friend’, as well as other political and policy considerations.”

*Having traveled to over 80 countries in the past 5 years to listen to our intelligence personnel in the field, Louis Tucker has a well-developed perspective and is himself a thought-leader in the area of intelligence analysis tradecraft.  His background includes former (and currently Reserve) SEAL team operations, CIA operations officer experience, and service as a strategic advisor to both the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and the ISAF Commanding General.  He can be reached at

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