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Archive for April, 2011

More of Your Comments From The Conversations With Military Intelligence Thought-Leaders Notes

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Here’s a note I received last week from a group of Army MI experts:
“1.  I agree to a point on the recent operational experience.  One of the biggest problems we had down range were well-intentioned folks that would come out to advise or send products forward that they built in the rear that really did not assist us a great deal because they were not developed with a thought to make that operationally relevant.  Part of being an intelligence professional is making something that is useful to the war fighter and I honestly do believe that you have to have had some basis in experience to do that.
2.  I would agree with overly-red focus and I would take it even one step further and say that some intel guys get way into the weeds on trying to predict ‘the enemy will ambush here in this fashion’, or he will likely put an ‘IED here’.  The bottom line is that Combat Arms folks don’t really need us to tell them where the IEDs are at because the can look at map and see the IED boxes as well as you can and they can read terrain and analyze tactics better than you can.  What the Combat Arms guys REALLY need (beyond the direct targeting function which is a separate discussion) is for you to give them the granularity in the operational environment that they cannot see.  It goes beyond mere cultural intelligence…..it is a full-fledged understanding of the OE and the synthesis of various different political, economic, military and psychological factors that gives the decision makers the context in which they have to make their decisions.
3.  I would caution on the first comment though about specific expertise versus general experts.  While every multi-disciplined intelligence organization needs the ‘SIGINT’ guy or the ‘IMINT’ guy that knows their discipline better than everyone and can leverage the capability, all-source intel analysts and the ability to synthesize across the entirely of the intelligence disciplines is an absolutely vital skill-set.  I have had recent experience with a BCT S2 that was a single source guy that I felt was not particularly effective at his job because he could not pull all the various disciplines together (collection management, analysis, targeting, etc) to form a coherent picture together and communicate it to decision makers.  I would say from personal experience that it is easier to take an all-source generalist and provide him with the single-source knowledge he needs to be successful than it is to take a single-source specific guy and get him to broaden his sight aperture.
4.  My final comment is to concur that certain types of education matter more than others.  I am really not impressed by MI types that are well read in military history…..I’ve got a ton of infantry and armor guys that read military history and you are not bringing anything more to the fight.  I am more impressed with the guy that reads the Economist, National Geographic, China Daily, Al-Hayat news, anthropology text-books, philosophy and the Atlantic Monthly than am I am my someone that reads Military Review, Army Times, Fox-News and FM 5-0.”

We’d like to hear your comments and share your ideas with this community of over 4,000.  Please e-mail me at john@lsi-llc.com, or post your comments on the Roundtable at  www.lsi-llc.com.

An Unexpected Perspective On Intelligence Analysis Effectiveness

Monday, April 18th, 2011

I interviewed an intelligence expert at one of the major agencies last week.  He’s generally recognized as one of the leading intelligence practitioners in that organization and the community.  We usually start these conversations with two questions:

*Is intelligence an art or a science?

*If you had $1 to spend to improve intelligence, would you spend it on training, tools or organizational changes?

Most responses focus on the art, and the belief that more training is the top priority.  This expert analyst surprised me by saying he’d spend his money on better tools, and he made a good case for the recommendation.  Here’s his logic:

*The community may well have had all the data that would have been required to spot the Christmas Day bomber, and other similar incidents, before he got on the plane to Detroit. But we didn’t know about all the data holdings available to us.
*Suppose we knew about as much as 70% of the community’s data holdings, and knew the full exploitable value of those holdings.

*Some percentage of those known holding are not generally accessible because of policy and secrecy provisions preventing correlation involving some portion of the holdings.  Suppose that makes the known and accessible holdings for any single analyst 50% of all the data we have.
*Suppose the research and “curiosity” queries that were done against these known data holdings actually select in or “include” in the analysis 10% of all the known and available data.

*The math has us building context and making recommendations based on 5% (10% of 50%) of all our combined data holdings.

*This leading practitioner did a review of queries developed by his organization over a period of time, and found a significant percentage of the queries suffered from a logic error that affected the effectiveness of the query.

*He also studied the number of different research sites the typical analyst accessed during the building understanding, knowledge and context phases.  He found the number of sites visited to add to pre-existing knowledge typically was 2, and dropped off rapidly after that.

A pretty compelling case for more and better tools that discover as much of the data as possible and make the holdings known, exploit the data more fully to provide insight into its potential value, and enable more correlation across more holdings.

I’m left, however, caught between this view in favor of better tools and:

*process-driven analysis ,

*rigorous and extended research,

*better thinking and auditing that produces correct and more specific queries,

*collaboration of experts with different perspectives and complementary skills that forces more thought about context, meaning, logic, alternative explanations,

*well-thought-out sequences of queries that get to the heart of a situation,

*disciplined following of meaning to the conclusions it recommends, and presentation of alternatives, almost in spite of existing “finished products.”
How about you?  Where do you come out on this tools vs. training vs. organization question?

We’d like to share your thoughts and perspectives with the community.  Comment on this note at the Roundtable on LSI’s Web site, or write to me at john@lsi-llc.com.  I’ll share your views with the community.

Some of Your Comments From The Conversations With Military Intelligence Thought-Leaders Notes

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Thanks to all of you who responded to our two recent Roundtable Blog notes with very thoughtful ideas, enhancements and other perspectives.  Here are excerpts from several of your notes:

*”We need specific-types of expertise more than we need general purpose experience.”

*”Our agency embeds our intelligence experts down at the company level with reach-back responsibilities to obtain the non-organic intelligence the commander needs to have full situational awareness.”

*”We used to recruit intel analysts from the military operational ranks.  I think we ought to go back to that model.  No one should be able to go into intel unless that person has completed his/her first tours as military operators, have had to live with the current state of intelligence production, had some type of higher-level planning experience, and a respectable education in a core science that is operationally-relevant and that has rigorous and translatable methods – geography, demographics, sociology, and political science.”

*We need multi-disciplinary teams from diverse fields and years of uniformed and non-uniformed service backgrounds.  To limit such an effort to purely ‘intelligence corps’ misses many points, especially the value of broadly differentiated skills.  There is no denying the value of a niche specialist; however, it is precisely the ‘diamond in a niche’ effect that we are attempting to overcome by diversifying our ‘diamonds to serve in many capacities of intellect and intelligence, applied and analytic operations.”

“The 2 shop folks, including the HUMINT types, are really concerned with the red layer.  While a great contextual understanding of the overall society that the red layer is derived from and operates within would be helpful, it is outside the mission set of the intel folks.  What you are describing is either green layer information, or, to use the term the British or French would describe it – cultural intelligence.  It is rightly the purview of Civil Affairs or their Civil Information Management functional component…. While ad hoc and largely unsuccessful, programs such as HTS, PRT’s and Afghan Hands have been created to deal with this issue.”

*”The COIN world demands more Sun Tzu and COL Boyd types running in tandem with would-be Rambos to increase our effectiveness in identifying individual and networks of HVT’s, and more precise in delivering the punch that is both lethal to those who constitute the immediate threat and a message to those who would perhaps elect to become tomorrow’s threats.”

We’re eager to hear and share more of your ideas with the community.  E-mail your views to john@lsi-llc.com, or provide your comments to the Roundtable on our Web site, www.lsi-llc.com.

More Ideas From Conversations With Military Intelligence Thought-Leaders

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Another group of ideas from the recent conversations we have had with several military intelligence thought-leaders and leading practitioners;

“*We have to rethink our fielding of intelligence officers, who goes where, and how the intel career path is perceived.

The Inversion Model

*What we are really talking about is a partial inversion of the placement and career path of seasoned intelligence officers.  In the dynamic and complicated COIN environment, the more experienced intelligence officers are most needed, and are most effective, in the field with the young military leaders.  If they accurately assess their situations, and then collect and disseminate quality intelligence up the operational chain, then the job of their junior intelligence counterparts sitting inside the wire at the battalion and campaign levels to assimilate and brief that information is simple.  In COIN, the ‘big game’ is out among the people.  In the Inversion Model, new analysts can cut their teeth learning at the big commands reading and assimilating what their more experienced colleagues are reporting and disseminating from their collaboration among colleagues in the field.   In COIN, the war is won at ‘the big game’, and that’s in the field, not inside the wire.  The collaboration in the field among experienced intelligence professionals that will provide the best picture is up to the operational commanders.

*The Inversion Model only works when senior analysts are willing to ‘get out’ with the troops, and when career paths and progression incentivize them to do so.

*Regardless of the model, we have to figure out how to enable our company commanders and our junior personnel with more experienced people…why can’t we hire back retired personnel, assign them to as mentors to company commanders and battalion commanders in combat?”

Please send your comments to john@lsi-llc.com, or use the “Comment” feature on the Roundtable at our Web site, www.lsi-llc.com.