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Archive for June, 2011

“What’s ‘The Story’ Here?” Fire Behavior Experts, First Responders, Marines and Cops On The Beat

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

Fighting Wildfires With Computers and Intuition

PHOENIX, June 23, 2011 — “As thousands of firefighters used hand tools and hoses to combat the wildfires torching vast stretches of the Southwest, Drew Smith stared into a computer screen at a command center near one of the fiercest blazes and tried to determine which way the flames would veer next.Some wildfires are mean. Some are wily. Some show exceptional endurance, or fierceness or moxie. The most difficult among them are assigned behavior analysts like Mr. Smith — fire whisperers, as it were — who act as psychologists delving into the blazes’ inner selves.“This fire is an exceptionally aggressive fire based on how large it has become and how fast it’s growing,” said Mr. Smith, now assigned to the Wallow Fire, which has become the biggest blaze in Arizona history after burning more than 527,000 acres in the eastern part of the state.Fire behaviorists work alongside meteorologists, given that the weather, especially wind patterns, plays a pivotal role in how a wildfire grows. The topography is also important because fires burn differently depending on whether they are going up a steep slope, across a valley or through a developed area. Then there are what firefighters call the fuels, which are the vegetation and other materials that give fires energy as they move along.With more than a dozen significant fires now burning through the Southwest, the fire whisperers are busy. At the sunrise briefings that wildland firefighters attend before they go off to the lines, a variety of status reports are offered on the day’s work ahead. None, though, is listened to as intently as that of the behaviorist, who uses computer modeling and intuition to try to predict how the fire will burn that day.“They seem to get inside the head of the fire, sort of like a Dr. Phil for a fire,” said Helen Snyder, who attended the daily strategy sessions that firefighters held in May as the Horseshoe 2 Fire threatened her home in Portal, Ariz. “Everyone hung on their words as they drew mental pictures of the fire.”The fires that Arizona has experienced, some surging forward faster than expected, are testing the mathematical models that behavior specialists use. Tom Zimmerman, a fire behavior expert at the National Interagency Fire Center for the United Forest Service in Boise, Idaho, said that the Wallow Fire had on occasion advanced more quickly than the models predicted. “We use each fire to verify the models and make them more accurate,” he said.Even with all the data crunching, fires are still full of surprises. That means that firefighters must be constantly ready for the unexpected and that residents insistent on knowing whether a fire is moving their way or when an evacuation order will be lifted may not get the definitive answer that they seek from fire officials.Scrutinizing a fire means thinking about it constantly, sometimes even in one’s sleep. Fire specialists say they ask themselves what the fire is trying to tell them on a given day, as if it is communicating through its flames. And some of them speak of fires as though they were living, breathing things.“One of my colleagues used to compare wildfires to coyotes because you can see them off in the distance but as soon as you take your eye off them they will come up and bite you,” said Ben Newburn, a fire behavior specialist in Reserve, N.M., who is analyzing the east side of the Wallow Fire.So vast has that particular fire grown that it has been divvied up into three parts and scrutinized from different perspectives. “Early on, this fire was moving 10 to 12 miles in a single day, and we consider that extreme fire behavior,” said Mr. Newburn, who works for the Forest Service.

There is a warlike aspect to fighting wildfires, and the fire behavior specialists have all spent considerable time as grunts, digging trenches, chopping down trees and setting off controlled burns to keep runaway flames in check. They have also managed fire crews and made the tough calls on when to advance and when to retreat. Now, though, they are like intelligence analysts trying to outthink the enemy.

Despite learning the laws of thermodynamics that govern fires, behavior specialists say there is still plenty of unpredictability to each blaze, which requires them to draw on their long experience. Fires can produce their own weather patterns, for instance, which can then end up altering the course of the fires.

The analysts’ critical judgments have significant real-world consequences. They acknowledge that not every call they make is perfect.

Would the Wallow Fire surge toward the small resort town of Greer or sweep by it at a comfortable distance? The fire made a sudden move around firefighters’ containment line and ended up damaging some homes and forcing firefighters to quickly retreat.

Would the Monument Fire, a growing blaze in southern Arizona, be held back by containment lines or surge past them? The fire, at just over 28,000 acres on Thursday afternoon, has declined in ferocity but only after destroying dozens of homes by jumping a highway and breaking containment lines.

Would the Horseshoe 2 Fire, fueled by a frost kill of oak this past winter, slow down at the back burns that firefighters were starting or spew burning embers right past them? The back burns did keep the fire in check, and although it has burned more than 220,000 acres since May 8, it was 95 percent contained on Thursday.

Two blazes could have nearly identical characteristics in two subsequent years and act quite differently because of the weather patterns leading up to them. One of the factors fueling this fire season, experts say, is the long drought that preceded it, which left the forest floors dry and susceptible to fire.

“You learn after you’ve been around fires that they are like people, in a sense,” said Mr. Smith, who is a captain with the Los Angeles County Fire Department when he is not on assignment at a wildfire. “No two of them are the same.””

Needs of First Responders

From the paper, “Training and Supporting First Responders By Mixed Reality Environments”, 2009

“A recognized emergency situation causes some so-called First Responders (e.g. fire brigades, ambulance services, police, security organizations and voluntary helpers) who are initially in charge of handling the emergency situation, with later support from specialists, to respond to the emergency call.  They are usually generalists, knowing most hazards but only to a certain depth.  Obviously these processes will be to some extent iterative and error-prone.

  • As our basis of thinking we assume that the kind of emergencies we consider are caused by the appearance of some kind of pollutant, be it that a container leaks, be it that a dangerous agent came from somewhere else (e.g. airbound).
  • First Responders must be able to identify, analyze and interpret symptoms and indicators.  Preferably their analysis should be based on available indicators (measurable data).  Unfortunately, most CBRN materials are only detectable by appropriate technical devices.  With respect to the different emergencies various best practices have been identified out of experience of the past to be the most appropriate actions under a given set of circumstances.  Based on the analysis First Responders have to make the appropriate decisions with respect to tactics and strategies.
  • This means that First Responders must have available some own knowledge to distinguish the applicability of the appropriate best practices, be it based on memory or on access to an information source.
  • Additionally they must be able to request ad-hoc and just-in-time additional information on the specific situation.
  • They have to make decisions which are often irreversible on the best practices.  For these decisions computer support could be highly useful.
  • CBRN emergencies usually also involve persons a victims.  It is necessary to give them medical, technical, or psychological support and help.
  • They also have to consider potential or existing damage to objects-at-risk and environment and the effects of the chosen best practice.”
From the paper “Training and Educating the Marine Corps for Irregular Warfare”, March, 2008:
“Other IW Initiatives
Combat Hunter: The Combat Hunter Program is focused on increasing every Marine’s observation skills, combat mindset, profiling, and tracking capabilities.  It also supports the “Tactical Cunning” mindset which includes….Outsmarting a Thinking enemy, and Time Critical Situational Awareness and Decision Making.
Cop on the Beat Tactics: Operating Forces support the concept of teaching “Cop Like” skills to Marines which address the nuances of Irregular Warfare.  The police skill sets effective for IW are similar to those employed by large city counter-gang units.  Deploying infantry battalions and RCTs conduct training with contracted police officers who have backgrounds in counter-gang and community policing.”
The common thread to all three articles?  How do small military, law enforcement and first responder units learn to effectively and quickly observe the situation, gather appropriate information to develop an initial idea of what the circumstances are, and think through the rapidly-developing, ambiguous, complex situation to gain an awareness of “what ‘the story’ is here”.  This initial diagnosis or building of a mental model is a critical first step in developing the situational awareness and understanding of the situation, so they can make appropriate decisions and take appropriate action.
We’d love to hear your thoughts and have you share your ideas with our 4,500+ readers.  Please comment on the Roundtable, at, or send me a note at, and I’ll share it.

More On Surprises, Thinking and Reasoning

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Much of this conversation we’ve been having about surprises, getting surprised by a development or situation we did not “expect”, is about two aspects of thinking and reasoning.  First are the biases that pre-condition us not to “expect” because the development does not seem “likely” to occur…..”likely” being part of the reasoning process that sets us up not to believe, in spite of what is there for the taking, a certain development prior to it becoming obvious.  “Obvious” speaks to thresh-holds of accumulations of facts that pass a point where our biases can continue to have us believe what is occurring would not happen.  The second reason behind many surprises is that they are composed of a combination of not-seen-before set of facts.

An example.  A friend last week told me about a law enforcement concept related to surprises.  It is the idea that, if something “just doesn’t look right” to the cop on the beat, this is sufficient reason to look more deeply into the situation to see if it is just a change or portends something more concerning.

How do we “learn” people to observe, think, reason with an open and pro-active mind?
We tend to “see” what we “expect to see”, or to combine a new set of facts or observations, in ways that fit into our experience.  If we can fit something new into existing experience, we can feel comfortable with what it is…..often the first step toward wrongly perceiving a developing situation.  And the faster the circumstances are developing, the greater are the consequences of an early-stage mis-diagnosis.

“Observe” is an interesting word to think about in this discussion.
That “diagnosis” term has a lot to do with intelligence and analysis…’s what the profession is really about.  See what is really there, have an eye for effective observation, consider what it means, decide what additional facts would help gain better context and situational awareness, and continue to reflect on the diagnosis, without bias, as more information is gathered and the analyst develops “the story” of the situation.

How do you know when you “understand” a situation?  How do you know when you know enough in the imperfect world that is conflict and emergency to “make a call”?
Another friend calls this the process of figuring out “what is ‘the story’ here?”   I wonder if training on creating a story to explain a situation and storytelling skills that enable effectively relating of the circumstances to others can be one of the components of improved intelligence.

How do we “learn” people to observe, think, reason with an open and pro-active mind?
Another friend at one of the agencies told me a couple of weeks ago about the role of collaboration in these efforts to “see things for what they really are.”  The farther an intelligence analyst goes down the path of developing “the story” to explain a set of facts or circumstances, the harder it becomes for them to abandon their “story” or theory of “what is going on here”.  They are much more open to alternate ideas or stories immediately as they come upon the situation or set of facts.  So, the agency encourages collaboration at this very early stage, the cops’ “something just doesn’t look right here” stage.  Gather the other members of the desk or team or others the analyst respects, lay out the facts, and solicit ideas, perceptions, alternative explanations and hypotheses, questions, etc. from others.

Jane Hall Lute, Deputy DHS Secretary, at a Council of Foreign Relations conference on “Community Partnerships to Counter Violent Extremism”, said “If something is wrong to a local law enforcement officer, it’s probably wrong, but they may in all cases know just how wrong it is, because of the anomalous behavior of the worrying signs that they see may not fit in their particular circumstance but would fit an understanding of a terrorist pattern of action.  And we want to put these pieces of the puzzle together to prevent and use what law enforcement knows every day about preventing violent crime…”
How do we “learn” people to observe, think, reason with an open and pro-active mind?

In their paper, “Toward Simulating the Complex Nature of Asymmetric Operations in Tactical Immersive Environments”, Paul Cummings, Linda Lewendowski, Michael Golson and Jeff Patterson note that “Often semmingly small or insignificant tactical level evetns have lead to socio-political situations that shape the course of wars, influence political and policy changes, create areas of hostile incubation, and affect economic and social climates.  We propose an immersive tactical level simultion framework that provides a novel method of modeling social complexity…..Combined with specific learning objectives, this high degree of variability within a learning environment poses new challenges to the trainee, namely the need to be aware of how to operate in highly dynamic environments… these techniques can be applied to the development of cross-cultural competence, situational awareness, crowd behavior analysis, and the formulation of options to influence individual and collective behaviors.”
How do we “learn” our small military, law enforcement, intelligence, and first responder units or team to observe, sense, think and reason their ways efficiently, effectively and successfully through the complex, rapidly-evolving and -changing, unique combinations of facts that they all come upon, discover or realize?

In their paper, “Training and Supporting First Responders by Mixed Reality Environments”, Austrians Gerhard Chroust, Stefan Schonhacker, Karin Rainer, Marcus Roth, and Peter Ziehesberger, observe “The perception and awareness of the possibilities of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (“CBRN”) emergencies is constantly growing.  These dangers are in most cases not directly detectable by human senses and as a consequence no inborn or trained reflexes of reaction exist……These Best Practices have to be specifically trained…….to simulate the consequences of various courses of action in a realistic way……The overall goal….is development an utilization of training tools for First Responders for all aspects of an intervention in emergency situations, including technical procedures, management, team coordination, etc.  By taking a process view these interventions can be dissected into individual emergency processes and their subprocesses.”
How do we “learn” people to observe, think, reason with an open and pro-active mind?
While there need to be processes “learned” for these conflict and emergency situations, in many cases what unfolds is a unique combination of facts and phenomenon.  So, are we back to “learning” small units and teams to observe without bias, consider quickly, maybe gain a few additional bits about the circumstances, and think and reason their way through, step-by-step, figuring out “what is ‘the story’ here”?

Another friend, the leading intelligence master at his agency, told me last week about his concept of “value-free sensemaking” at the very beginning of a situation or circumstance, and then proceeding to “pathfinding” as more is understood.  That conversation came shortly after the National Defense Intelligence College released David Moore’s paper, “Sensemaking: A Structure for an Intelligence Revolution.”

This same friend says he has been working for years to create courses on reasoning and question-generation.

How do we “learn” our small military, law enforcement, intelligence, and first responder units or team to observe, sense, think and reason their ways efficiently, effectively and successfully through the complex, rapidly-evolving and -changing, unique combinations of facts that they all come upon, discover or realize?

We’d like to hear your reactions, thoughts and experiences on this surprises, thinking and reasoning discussion, and to share them with the community.  Please comment on the Roundtable at, or send me a note at, and I’ll get it out to our almost 4,500 followers.


A Week of Gen. Martin Dempsey, Small Units and Surprises

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Lots of thoughts to share with you.

Gen. Martin Dempsey: Many of you commented on the Gen. Martin Dempsey nomination note, and his reported focus on people and processes.  Here’s one note:

“Making ‘people’ and ‘leadership’ the priority does not mean an organization is not focused on technology.  Any senior leader today knows technology, especially information (cyber) technology, permeates every element of his mission.   A focus on people and leader development which instills in individuals the motivation, knowledge, skills and organizational support to ‘master technology’ for their mission and tasks seems more likely to ensure we get and operate correctly the right technology at the right cost.”

From another reader:

“You might also want to consider putting in links to the two excellent companion piece articles David Ignatius authored in the OPED section of the Washington Post recently on Intel.  Not only did they provide some excellent insight into the difference between Title 10 and Title 50 authorities, they encouraged a dialogue with the author.  No group of people is better qualified to engage in that dialogue with Mr. Ignatius than your readers and ‘correspondents’.”

The two articles follow:

“Rewriting Rumsfeld’s Rules”

David Ignatius
David Ignatius
Opinion Writer

“At the Pentagon, there’s a legal formula for intelligence operations that has come to be known as “Gates practice,” after its proponent, Defense Secretary Bob Gates. It basically argues that if the United States conducts a sensitive intelligence mission outside a war zone, the president should make the decision.

That may seem like a no-brainer, but it wasn’t always the case. Early in the past decade, when Gates’s predecessor Donald Rumsfeld was looking for ways to pursue al-Qaeda, he issued a series of executive orders that gave the military new powers in the global war on terrorism. These “EXORDS,” as they were known, sometimes permitted commanders to approve sensitive operations without a White House and interagency review.

The Rumsfeld-era orders have been rewritten over the past several years, at Gates’s insistence. The review was begun by James Clapper, a former undersecretary of defense who’s now director of national intelligence. Michael Vickers, who is Clapper’s successor, is finishing the rewrite.

This review has brought all EXORDS in line with the Obama administration’s counterterrorism policies, which require more vetting of sensitive operations. The goal is to ensure that “Gates practice” is followed and the White House gets the last say. An earlier column outlined some of the excesses from 2001 to 2006, when Rumsfeld was secretary of defense.

A senior defense official who has been involved in the review sums up the change in standards this way: “What people might have thought sensible in the first half of the decade, by the second half they didn’t.”

Take the Pentagon’s use of Special Forces outside war zones, through a program known as “military liaison elements.” Critics were worried these teams would become “alternate stations,” notes the defense official. Now, their activities must be fully coordinated with the State Department and the CIA.

To foster the core mission of liaison with foreign special operations forces, or SOF, members of these MLE teams are usually assigned on standard tours, rather than short-term temporary assignments. “The biggest benefit is engagement with foreign SOF,” explains the defense official.

The CIA uses the Special Forces, too, as in the May 2 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound. The Navy SEALs who conducted the mission were “chopped to the CIA,” as the practice is sometimes called, so that they could operate under the agency’s Title 50 authority, which allows the United States to conduct “deniable” missions outside war zones.

Special Forces officers also work with the CIA on other sensitive missions, including task forces that collect intelligence inside the borders of foreign countries. These cases where military personnel are delegated to the CIA are sometimes known as “focal point operations.”

Members of Congress have worried that clandestine military intelligence activities aren’t subject to the same strict procedures as CIA “covert actions,” which require a presidential “finding” and congressional notification. The Pentagon instead briefs the armed services committees, sometimes leaving intelligence committee members in the dark. “People thought, ‘I’m getting half the story,’” notes the defense official.

This congressional concern surfaced at a March 22, 2007, hearing of the Senate intelligence committee on “DOD Clandestine HUMINT” (government-speak for “human intelligence”). According to an unclassified Pentagon summary, Sen. John D. Rockefeller, then committee chairman, “questioned the accuracy of ‘internal DOD definitions’ of clandestine and covert activity and asserted that DOD refuses to share EXORDS and other documents” with the Senate intelligence committee.

During the Rumsfeld years, “there was a general view that DOD was conducting activities that looked and smelled like intelligence activities but were called something else,” says one congressional source.

“The situation has improved,” continues the congressional source. He notes that after the bin Laden raid, the intelligence and armed services committees were briefed jointly by CIA and Pentagon officials. And he endorses Gates’s effort to rewrite the EXORDS.

The CIA-military coordination process is often informal. When Gen. Mike Hayden was CIA director in 2008, he would sometimes call Gen. Martin Dempsey, then acting Centcom commander, to sort out which activities should be done by the military under Title 10 and which should be CIA Title 50 “covert” activities. (The main legal difference is that a military “clandestine” activity, while secret, can’t be denied if it’s exposed.)

Intelligence operations are murky, even with the clearest rules. The best safeguard is probably the “Gates practice” idea of having the president make decisions about operations that have, as the spy mavens like to say, “major flap potential.” The more sensitive the mission, the more it needs the boss’ approval.”

“Testing the Afghan Exit Ramps”

“The argument within the Obama administration for a big troop withdrawal from Afghanistan over the next year goes roughly like this: We’ve killed Osama bin Laden. That means we’ve achieved the core goal for which we sent forces in 2001. We have a ticket out, and we should take it.

The counterargument from administration hawks is that a quick departure is a guarantee of failure. It risks repeating the mistake the United States made in the 1980s when, after pumping money and guns into Afghanistan to defeat the Soviet Union, America walked away — creating a power vacuum that was exploited by warlords and their regional patrons.

Somewhere in the middle is President Obama. “We will begin a transition this summer,” he said Monday. “By killing bin Laden, by blunting the momentum of the Taliban, we have now accomplished a lot of what we set out to accomplish 10 years ago.” But he didn’t say what that would mean in terms of policy.

Inevitably, this debate is partly a numbers game: The rapid-withdrawal advocates want a timetable for removing all 30,000 of the “surge” troops Obama decided to send in December 2009. The “stay the course” proponents want a modest reduction of 3,000 to 5,000 troops, which is all they think conditions allow. A “split the difference” caucus argues for a cutback that hits five figures — something around 10,000.

The problem with all these arguments is that they lack a clear strategic rationale. Do the “stay the course” proponents really expect that the Afghan army will be strong enough to stand on its own by 2014? That strikes many analysts as a dubious proposition.

Are the speedy-withdrawal advocates really comfortable with an Afghanistan that could quickly return to the pattern of the 1990s, with the regional powers, India and Pakistan, each manipulating their favorite ethnic groups and warlords? That sounds like a recipe for perpetual instability in South Asia.

The point is obvious: The number of troops withdrawn should be a function of the strategic plan, not the other way around. The three variables that U.S. policymakers have been discussing — troop withdrawal, reconciliation with the Taliban and drone attacks in Pakistan — are interrelated. What effect will a change in one variable have on the others?

Let’s take the question of political reconciliation: If Obama announces a big troop withdrawal, will this encourage Taliban concessions? Probably not, unless the Taliban is a charity organization in disguise. A skeptic about reconciliation (as Vice President Biden is said to be) could argue for a pullout, regardless of its effect on diplomacy. But if you think negotiation may work, then you want military leverage that enhances it.

The administration has begun secret talks with Taliban intermediaries. If this process is serious, it needs to move toward the practical test of a cease-fire, perhaps initially in one locale: The United States needs to show the Taliban there’s a way to ease the pain through negotiations, and Taliban representatives need to show they can deliver on the ground.

The same pragmatic test should be applied to Predator drone attacks. The drones have been an invaluable weapon against al-Qaeda, reaching into the North Waziristan haven. But if the drone attacks cause such severe political problems for Pakistan that they prevent Islamabad from playing a constructive role in reconciliation, the policy may need adjustment. This argument has been advanced by Cameron Munter, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, and some military officials, such as Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, also seem interested in thinking about the drone attacks in cost-benefit terms.

The White House has discussed the drone-attack conundrum, but for now it doesn’t plan any change in U.S. policy. The hope is that improved counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan will lead to better targeting by the drones and more use of alternative tactics.

The strategic goal is a regional framework for a post-America Afghanistan. That means, in essence, a coordinated effort by Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and the United States to make a political settlement work. Obama’s challenge in framing his troop-withdrawal announcement is to enhance this regional process, not undercut it. The leaders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India all want American troops to go home — but not if that creates a new vacuum that makes them more vulnerable.

“We’re not going to do anything precipitous,” Obama said Monday, in a statement that embodied his governing style. Hopefully, this means an exit strategy that actually provides a reliable exit.”

Small Unit Intelligence: A wonderful piece on the Small Wars Journal site this month by Marine Corps Captain Michael Gallagher, who deployed twice to Iraq as a Human Intelligence Exploitation Team Commander.  His paper, “Human Intelligence in Counterinsurgency: Persistent Pathologies in the Collector-Consumer Relationship”includes this observation:

“Yet counterinsurgency doctrine is impoverished with respect to the role of HUMINT. Pragmatic work pays lip service to the importance of HUMINT in general but offer few concrete lessons for commanders or collectors in particular. In this essay I aim to fill this gap. I argue that counterinsurgency doctrine fails to recognize that the most critical element of HUMINT work is not the relationship between a source and his handler, but rather the relationship between a HUMINT collector and his supported operational consumer. This collector-consumer relationship suffers from eight persistent pathologies that engender mistrust within the counterinsurgent force and therefore warrant closer examination.”
It can be found at:

Surprise and Small Units:  A wonderful book by Ephraim Kam, Surprise Attack: The Victim’s Perspective, aims to make this case:

“This study does not present one central explanation, because no one explanation can take into account the complexity of the issue.  Rather I attempt to follow the behavior of the victim at various functional levels and from several viewpoints, in order to examine the difficulties, mistakes, and biases that permit a nation to be surprised by an attack.  The study tackles the problem on four levels.  The first is that of the individual analyst – how he builds his hypotheses and treats information, and how misperceptions and biases of judgment occur.  My central assumption is that mistakes made at this level determine the failure to anticipate war.  Hence a major part of this study is devoted to an examination of the difficulties and biases inherent in the intelligence process at the level of the individual analyst.  I use the term analyst to refer to both the intelligence analyst and the political or military decision maker; in cases where the term refers to only one of these two functions, this is indicated either explicitly or contextually.  Second, I look at the small group of analysts – the way the group works and influences the perceptions of its members and their willingness to offer risky assessments.  Third, I examine the larger structure of the intelligence community and the military organization……Last, I return for a closer look at the decision makers and their relationship with the intelligence community.”

“Moreover, the intelligence community’s understanding of Al Qaeda was hampered by inadequate quality of evidence and lack of analytical focus.  Intelligence was more oriented toward tactical analysis in support of operations than on the strategic analysis needed to develop a broader understanding of Al Qaeda and the threat it posed.”

I’ll have some more thoughts to share on surprise and intelligence during the next week.

Please share your reactions, comments and views by commenting on the Roundtable, at, or by sending a note to me at  We’ll share your thoughts with our 4,000+ readers.


Gen. Martin Dempsey Nominated For JCS Chairman: Personnel and Small-Unit Leadership

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

A couple of friends sent me the following notes after reading the article on Gen Dempsey’s nomination, in the Post, Sunday, May 29th:

*”I think General Dempsey’s focus on people will not be at the expense of technology, but a higher priority than technology, is spot on.  If we develop our people correctly, they should be able to deal with any situation.  Leader development is and has been one of his priorities.”
*”First, if you haven’t had a chance to read Sunday’s Post article on the imminent appointment of Gen. Dempsey as JCS Chairman, I suggest strongly that you do so.  There’s an implicit suggestion that the new Chairman may take a much different approach to future planning, including possibly a de-emphasis on technology with a corresponding re-emphasis on personal and small unit leadership.

Note, especially, the following observations in the article:

‘The Army had spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the previous decade
on an annual war game designed to peer 15 to 20 years into the future and
envision what kinds of technology and fighting concepts the military would
need to prevail in the next major war. The game involved dozens of role play-
ers and an army of defense contractors waging computer-simulated battles…
(Dempsey) killed the war game in 2009. He replaced it the next year with a
series of seminars devoted to producing more flexible and free-thinking
officers at all levels…

‘Marty believed a good leader could succeed and rise above concepts [of
war] and military doctrine,’ said retired Maj. Gen. David Fastabend, who
served with Dempsey in Iraq. ‘For him it is all about leadership.’…

In choosing Dempsey for the military’s top job, Obama has selected an
officer who in many ways is the polar opposite of Gen. James E. Cartwright
… Cartwright, a Marine fighter pilot, is known inside the Pentagon as a
tech-savvy introvert who has spent much of the last decade working to
ensure that the military is prepared for the next big war. He’s made him-
self into an expert in cyber and nuclear warfare…

Dempsey has spent much of the last decade leading troops in a messy,
low-tech war in Iraq and is deeply skeptical of technology’s ability to alter
the basic nature of combat… ‘We operate where our enemies, indigenous
populations, culture, politics, and religion intersect and where the fog and
friction of war persists,’ he wrote recently in the introduction to the Army’s
main operating concept…

(From, Greg Jaffe, “Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Obama’s choice to head
Joint Chiefs, is a low-tech soldier”, The Washington Post, May 29, 2011; )

Let us know your thoughts relative to Gen. Dempsey’s nomination and what it means for the military in today’s world of asymmetric global engagement, and we’ll share it with our 4,000+ followers.  Comment on the Roundtable, at, or send me a note at


Company Information, Intelligence and Operations: Army and Marine Corps’ Expert Perspectives

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

This week I am thrilled to provide you two short papers, one written by an Army Captain and the other by a Marine Corps Captain, describing their perspectives on doctrinal, organizational, skill and process changes designed to better enable these small units to organically generate the knowledge and understanding necessary for them to be effective in their AO’s.

There are bits in each paper that I love:

“As a visitor, the HUMINTer is left only with his techne, his understanding of his craft as a science, and lacks contextual insight.”

“The CoIST empowers the company commander with a staff for information management and intelligence analysis.”

“The ability of a commander – at any echelon – to gain timely and accurate situational understanding of their area of operations is critical to mission success.”

“This [the CLIC] ultimately created superior tempo against their enemy.”

“Doctor David Kilcullen in The Twenty-Eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-level Counterinsurgency, stresses the importance of forming intelligence cells at the company level stating: ‘You will have one less rifle squad: but the intelligence section will pay for itself in lives and effort saved.'”

Enjoy these two articles, and let us share your reactions and views, by posting a comment on the Roundtable at, or sending me a note at  We’ll share them with our 4,000+ readers.

Company Level Intelligence Cells: A Key Enabler for
Understanding the 21st Century Operating Environment

20 February 2009

The ability of a commander –at any echelon— to gain timely and accurate situational understanding (SU) of their area of operations is critical to mission success.  Currently there is an ever-expanding dependence on small units, primarily company level and below, to operate in a distributed manner across much larger battle spaces. Higher commands are not fully meeting their intelligence requirements in a timely manner; nor at the level of detail necessary for company commanders to successfully operate in the contemporary operating environment. The Marine infantry company requires and organic capability to collect, process, and disseminate intelligence to increase their operational effectiveness in full spectrum conflict.  Infantry units require company level intelligence cells (CLIC) specifically organized, trained, and equipped to address this capability gap.
In June 2007, I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) held a Tactical Capabilities for Irregular Warfare Conference (TCIW) at Camp Pendleton, CA were they identified the requirement for an organic intelligence capability at the company level. As a result of the TCIW, the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) initiated a limited objective experiment (LOE) under the aegis of the enhanced company operations (ECO) concept to examine CLICs. The primary objective of the project was to develop a “best practices” model that addresses the CLIC structure, manning, training, processes and equipment.

The MCWL project began with a research phase to define the requirement and identify existing training efforts. The MCWL conducted interviews with units from each MEF that had recently returned from Iraq to discuss CLIC-related efforts and identify required intelligence capabilities.  Concurrently, as part of the assessment plan, MCWL personnel also observed the Mojave Viper final exercises (FINEX) of five infantry battalions who receive various methods of CLIC training.

The MCWL, in conjunction with Marine Corps Intelligence Schools (MCIS) and Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) Program Manager (PM) Intelligence, developed a ‘best practices’ model. The training and accompanying equipment was provided to Third Battalion, Fourth Marines during their Pre-deployment Training Program (PTP). The Lab
observed their Mojave Viper FINEX at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MAGCC), 29 Palms, CA from 27 January through 31 January 2008 to evaluate the training, model for organization, and equipment provided to the battalion.
Experimental Results
The MCWL, supported by Tactical Training Exercise Control Group (TTECG) formal assessments, clearly indicated that the battalion’s performance was enhanced by the CLIC
organization, training, and equipment.5 The CLICs improved the integration of intelligence processes –intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB), targeting, and intelligence synchronization— into company level operations. Over-all, this capability enhanced the company commander and small unit leader’s situational understanding and enabled informed decision making in a complex and fluid environment. This ultimately created superior tempo against their enemy.

Battalion Level Intelligence Platoons
To replicate this capability, the infantry battalion should form intelligence platoons under
the command and supervision of the Battalion S-2.  The battalion level intelligence platoon (BLIP) should be formed with personnel selected from throughout the Figure 1 BLIP Organization battalion based on their capability and availability. At a minimum, each company should identify and train six 03XX Marines.  When formed, the BLIP is divided into two echelons.  The first echelon is a single section to support the battalion headquarters. It consists of one 0202 officer, one 0203 officer, one 0231 SNCO, and four 03XX enlisted men. The Second echelon reinforces the companies in a direct support fashion and is collocated with them. This is the CLIC, which consists of one 0231 intelligence analyst and five 03XX enlisted infantrymen.

The formation of this platoon will facilitate initial and sustainment training by ensuring consistency throughout the battalion and eliminating additional training requirements for the companies. It will also ensure standardization in processes and reporting formats, and
further promote lateral communication among the CLICs. The BLIP allows the battalion commander to weight his main effort with additional intelligence support as required.
The CLICs in a direct support relationship to their respective companies ensure that its personnel remain devoted to the myriad of intelligence-related duties rather than being marginalized to working parties and collateral duties.
Company Level Intelligence Cells
The CLIC provides the company with an organic capability to collect and analyze information and to disseminate actionable intelligence in a timely manner. The goal is to synchronize and foster mutually supporting relationships among command and control (C2), intelligence, and operations at the lowest level. The cell is composed of
two elements, collection, and, analysis and production, with the senior Marine as the CLIC Chief under the direct supervision of the company commander. The CLIC will provide
two Marines at all times as the intelligence watch (one from each element) in the company combat operations center.  Figure 2 outlines roles and responsibilities.  The CLIC Chief is the senior 03XX Marine assigned to the CLIC. He receives guidance and direction from the
company commander and company executive officer. In daily operations, he assists the Watch Officer in building the Common Tactical Operation Picture. His primary tasks
•Manage and supervise CLIC operations
•Coordinate with higher, adjacent and supporting units on intelligence related information.
The Collections Element includes two 03XX Marines. It is responsible for information management and tracking of the company collection plan. The primary tasks include:
•Develop the company collection plan
•Facilitate intelligence gathering from detentions
•Maintain the patrol debrief database
•Coordinate site exploitation at target locations
They are responsible for the following products:
•Collection matrix
•Detainee witness statements
•Site exploitation reports
•Intelligence Requirement (IR) status chart
•Named Areas of Interest (NAI) overlays
•Storyboard updates
This Analysis and Production Element includes three Marines, one of whom will be a 0231 intelligence analyst. It is responsible for link analysis focusing both on the reported targets and on the population at large, with specific attention paid to prominent local citizens and
families. The primary task include:
•Tracking High Value Individuals (HVIs) and persons of interest
•Developing company-level Priority Intelligence requirements (PIRs) and Specific Information Requirements (SIRs)
•Providing maps and imagery upon request
•Conducting pattern analysis of enemy activity
They are responsible for the following products:
•Target packages
•Link analysis and storyboard updates
•Enemy activity templates
The Intelligence Watch at the company COC will include two CLIC Marines on a rotating cycle from each CLIC Element. They receive guidance and direction from the COC Watch Officer. Their primary tasks include:
•Tracking of enemy activity
•Updating pattern analysis products
•Conducting briefs for all outgoing patrols,
•Conducting debriefs of returning patrols
•Maintaining the Intel Read Board in the COC
CLIC Roles and Responsibilities

Although it may seem excessive to some, experimentation revealed the necessity to augment the CLIC with additional manpower to effectively operate in continuous combat operations. If required, the CLICs now have the capacity to surge intelligence trained Marines to support operations such as cordon and searches and raids.  Proper troop-to-task ratios support entry of information into a database; assistance to units conducting pre-combat mission analysis and preparation; and the conduct of detailed post-action debrief. Having trained 03XXs in the CLICs will allow the resident 0231 to focus his efforts on research and analysis. The addition of a 0231 also provides an individual authorized access to Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI) level information.
At present, the loss of the four 0231s from the battalion intelligence section to man the CLICs will have repercussions on its ability to conduct required functions.  This places significant value on the selection and assignment of reliable 03XXs, who are self-starters and quick learners, to man the battalion intelligence section.  The deficit of the Intelligence Analyst at the battalion intelligence section will be resolved in the following years with the addition of four 0231s to the infantry battalion’s table of organization.

Platoon & Squad Intelligence Representatives
To complete the capability desired, each platoon and squad should designates a Marine to serve as their unit’s intelligence representative, a collateral duty, to assist in the collection effort. This will provide the unit with trained subject matter experts on intelligence related
tasks and provide a vital link to the CLIC. These representatives will lead their unit’s effort in tactical questioning, sensitive site exploitation, and detainee operations. The majority of this training currently exists within Pre-deployment Training Program (PTP).
Selection Criteria
The importance of the company leadership’s direct involvement in the CLIC screening and selection process cannot be overstated. Selection of CLIC Marines should occur as early as possible in the PTP cycle. Marines with platoon-level operational experience are preferable –they possess the ability to providing relevant analysis at the small unit level.  At a minimum, CLIC Marines should be eligible for a Secret Clearance and scheduled to attend the subsequent deployment with the battalion.

Infantry battalions should use the existing MCIS Mobile Training Teams (MTT) to train their CLICs. Based on  MCWL’s observations, units trained by the MTT performed better during Mojave Viper than those self-taught units.  CLICs should receive training early within their unit’s Phase II PTP cycle to facilitate their integration into future collective training evolutions. The initial training should make full use of intelligence systems and programs
currently used in-theater; viz., Intelligence Operations Workstation, MarineLink, and Analyst Notebook. When possible, the training should use of real-world historical
data from the unit’s designated in-theater Area of Operation (AO) to allow the Marines to master the associated learning objective while concurrently building an understanding of their future battlespace.  The MCWL proto-type training package exclusively used real-world data –significant event tracks, census data, patrol debriefs, and link diagrams— downloaded from the MarineLink and Tactical Fussion Center data bases and augment with material from the battalion’s pre-deployment site survey team. The training culminated with each CLIC providing an AO brief to the battalion and company commanders. All briefs provided detailed information on the unit’s anticipated AO that included link analysis charts of actual targets, improvised explosive device (IED) and small arms fire attack situation templates (SIT TEMPs), and pattern analysis graphs from as recent as a two weeks prior
to the training.
Under the cognizance of the battalion intelligence officer, CLIC sustainment training should continue to utilize the IOW and MarineLink to conduct Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) and track events within their anticipated AO.  Throughout the PTP, CLICs
should provide the company with regular briefs to increase their situational awareness. In turn, the company should begin to process request for information (RFI) for future briefs –ultimately building a process and a rapport between the CLIC and small unit leaders prior to deployment. If executed properly, this effort will reduce the time required to begin effective operations in-theater.

Key equipment to facilitate CLIC operations is the Intelligence Operations
Workstation (IOW) with the MarineLink and Analyst Notebook applications. MarineLink
is essential at the company level to successfully manage and process information. It also
enables the CLICs to quickly generate charts and graphs from databases that precede
their time in-theater –key requirements for pattern analysis and identification of
indicators and warnings of enemy action. Based on the situation, CLICs may also require
printers, scanners, and external hard-drives. To facilitate collections, the company should
possess biometrics equipment, ground sensors, cameras, and micro-unmanned aerial

Two key counterarguments exist in institutionalizing CLICs. First, some argue that the manpower requirements are draining the rifle company’s combat power –the riflemen.
It is true that the current table of organization (T/O) for the “Rifle Company Headquarters Element”—two Marine officers and four Marine enlisted— does not meet the operational demands of current and anticipated combat environments. The headquarters section is too small to operate effectively in garrison and while deployed.  Although not on the T/O, most companies in garrison designate two to three armory custodians, an administrative
clerk, and a training NCO without giving proper consideration for their role in combat. Until the rifle company T/O is re-examined, these Marines that perform garrison functions provide the numbers for a deployed intelligence capability.
Little utility beyond Iraq or counterinsurgency operations.
This argument largely ignores that accurate, relevant, and timely intelligence is critical in any operation. It also discounts that conflicts are increasingly “characterized by a hybrid blend of traditional and irregular tactics, decentralized planning and execution, and non-state actors using both simple and sophisticated technologies in innovative ways.”

The Marine Corps’ Strategic Vision believes that we will increasingly experience enemies who employ all forms of war and tactics, possibly simultaneously. The blurring of modes of war, and what technologies are brought to bear, produce a wide range of variety and complexity that requires organic intelligence at the lowest level. The analytical capability
provided by the CLICs enable the company commander to have AO specific intelligence at his disposal at all times.

In our current fight, intelligence flow is more bottom-up than top-down. The formation of the CLIC is critical to the effective management, analysis and dissemination of information that will increase both company and battalion’s operational effectiveness.  Companies must screen and select high-quality Marine serve within the CLIC. Early organization and training will allow for their integration into collective training and foster a synergistic relationship between the CLIC and small unit leaders. CLIC sustainment training should focus on research and IPB of their unit’s anticipated AO. They should conduct regularly scheduled briefs to the Marines they support to build an understanding of what the CLIC can provide and an understanding of the battlespace prior to the deployment.

Doctor David Kilcullen in The Twenty-Eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-level Counterinsurgency, stresses the importance of forming intelligence cells at the company level stating: “You will have one less rifle squad: but the intelligence section will pay for itself in lives and effort saved.”

The Disposition of Human Intelligence Collection in Counterinsurgency


Because intelligence and operations are so closely related, it is important for collectors to be linked to the operators and analysts they support… collectors should not passively wait for operators to submit requirements; rather they should closely monitor the operational environment and recommend requirements based on their understanding of operators’ needs – FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency, 3-129.

Many have now written on the necessity for the maneuver company commander to have an analytical capability within his formation.   The Company Intelligence Support Team (CoIST) or Company Intelligence Cell (CIC) has already been much discussed, even within this very publication, and few now disagree with the concept’s value.   However, we must now begin to take the next step: empowering the maneuver company commander not only with increased analytical capability, but intelligence collection capability as well.

In a counterinsurgency, maneuver is the most important column on the ISR collection matrix.   The maneuver company and her platoons are in constant contact with the local populace everyday, from planned engagements to Traffic Control Points (TCPs), even to local nationals coming to the Patrol Base.   The pulse of the insurgency lies with its ability to influence the population and that pulse can only be felt with the everyday contact made at the company-level and below.   Thus, the maneuver company commander is forced to devote an immense amount of his time to the collection and analysis of information.[i]   Sir Frank Kitson adds that, “…the system involves a commander in collecting all the background information he can get from a variety of sources including the intelligence organization, and analyzing it very carefully in order to narrow down the possible whereabouts of the enemy, the purpose being to make deductions which will enable him to employ his men with some hope of success as opposed to using them at random in the hope of making a contact.”[ii]

Besides his own soldiers and perhaps a Raven UAV, the Maneuver Company Commander has no organic intelligence collection capability.   He is forced to compete with his peers for assets to assist in his gathering of background information.   The first place he looks is naturally to the battalion, where in practice there are more maneuver forces, in the form of different platoons, and the Human Collection Team (HCT).

The HCT is usually made up of three to four 35M Human Intelligence Collectors with one serving as the Team Leader.   “The guiding principle to the use of HUMINT in support of offensive operations is to minimize the time between when friendly forces encounter potential sources (detainees, refugees, and local civilians) and when a HUMINT collector screens them.” [iii]   As the name implies, the HCT is taught to operate as a team, all or most attending every source meeting, thereby guaranteeing security and source familiarity with the collectors in case something should happen to one of the collectors (e.g. injury or Environmental Leave).   This proves very frustrating to the Infantryman; the only time he interacts with the HCT is when he is tasked to escort them to source meetings, the information from which may not even concern his Area of Operations (AO).   To make matters worse, in terrain where weather and distance hamper timely transportation between outposts, such as Afghanistan, or heavily IED’d Lines of Communication (LOCs) restrict regular movement, such as certain parts of Iraq, an HCT’s circulation to all Company AOs is often severely hobbled.


The Art of Locality

Insurgencies are local…The mosaic nature of insurgencies, coupled with the fact that all Soldiers and Marines are potential collectors, means that all echelons both consume and produce intelligence.   This situation results in a bottom-up flow of intelligence.   This pattern also means that tactical units at brigade and below require a lot of support for both collection and analysis, as their organic intelligence structure is often inadequate. – FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency, 3-5.

            To most effectively gather and analyze intelligence, the collector and analyst must become intimately familiar with the area in which they operate.   Outside intelligence organizations provide products and analysis that are very useful, particularly for the objectivism that certain types of collection can give, but the primary source of what happens on a day-to-day basis has to come from those that live in the area and interact with the populace.[iv]   The analyst from afar can never fully appreciate the situation on the ground, and subsequently his products most often lack a focus that the supported unit is driving at.   The same is true of the collector from afar and the collector who comes to visit only occasionally.

This “visiting collector” is the HCT.   As previously mentioned he comes to support when he has source meetings in companies’ AOs.   The HCT will of course do its best to respond to any Priority Intelligence Requirements (PIRs) of the company, but this is difficult since most company commanders have not been taught to create their own PIRs.   Thus, company commanders are constantly pinging the battalion S2 shop for HUMINT support until they are fed up with the irregularity.

If the HUMINTers are not local, then they never learn the mētis they require to be fully successful.   That is, they never completely gain the local knowledge that is comprised of “a wide array of practical skills and acquired intelligence in responding to a constantly changing natural and human environment.”[v]   If the HUMINTer lives with the company and constantly goes on patrols to spot and assess when not in source meetings, then his local knowledge is that of the company, and there is no loss in between the collector and the customer due to misunderstanding.   Furthermore, by developing mētis, the HUMINTer is a better collector; he understands the rationality behind the actions of those he aims to influence by living in their context and is also less susceptible to be taken in by false reporting.

That is not to say HUMINTers do not go out on patrols with companies when they are placed at the battalion-level; from time to time the HCT visits to go on missions with the company to see the AO and spot and assess.   The argument however, is that in the most common configuration (the HCT as a battalion-level collection asset), the access that the HCT has to every company’s AO is limited and generally is restricted to either whichever AO has more reporting, or whichever company commander is easier to work with.   For the most part, the HCT is just another enabler that the company commander is trying to juggle and coordinate for, just another visitor to his AO.

As a visitor, the HUMINTer is only left with his techne, his understanding of his craft as a science, and lacks contextual insight.   An HCT armed with its craft is powerful, but it is not counterinsurgency.   Counterinsurgency is local, and therefore intelligence collection must be as well.

The HUMINTers are Part of the CoIST

HUMINT collectors may have to be placed in DS of lower echelon combat maneuver forces (battalion and lower) to support operations. HUMINT and combat reporting by units in direct contact with threat forces and local inhabitants becomes the means of collection. – FM 2-22.3 Human Intelligence Collection Operations, 3-16.

HUMINTers need to be at the company-level.   Clearly, for MOS-specific training, this is impractical, but for operations it is necessary.   The CoIST is, in effect, the S2 shop for the company; it empowers the company commander with a staff for information management and intelligence analysis.   The CoIST pre-briefs patrols; de-briefs patrols; analyzes combat information to create a company-level enemy Situation Template (SITEMP); develops threat Courses of Action (COAs); targets, both lethally and non-lethally, at the company-level; serves as a company-link to the battalion S2; and recommends ISR requests and develops recommended PIR for the company commander.

The HUMINTer is a natural extension of this concept, as he is capable of providing much more benefit than just Military Source Operations (MSO).   The 35M works in concert with the company commander and the CoIST Team Leader to better focus his collection.   He reviews every patrol de-brief to expand his knowledge of the AO and to identify future sources of collection.   He helps plan the company’s missions, sometimes planned around the HUMINTer’s source meetings.   He also runs the company commander’s informant network; every company commander has informants, and these are often mishandled when the commander tries to illegally task them as if they were sources.   The HUMINTer keeps the commander ‘legal’ by managing who is worthy of being a source, and handling them appropriately.   Within the CoIST, he can have a dedicated analyst, which provides sharper focus to HUMINT operations.[vi]   But perhaps most importantly, the HUMINTer goes on the majority of patrols, every planned operation, and attends every possible local leader engagement; the HUMINTer is now providing intelligence collection in support of all the Lines of Effort (LOE) at the company-level, and not solely focusing on Security.   He develops the mētis necessary to become a part of that company fight and AO through practice and experience.[vii]

Despite the HUMINTer becoming part of the CoIST, the 35M reporting channels are unchanged.   The individual HUMINTer still sends his reports to the HCT Team Leader, who in turn forwards the reports to the Operational Management Team (OMT).   The HCT is not disbanded, just dispersed; the team leader still has responsibilities despite the Team not operating as one unit.   In addition to reviewing and editing his team’s reports, he is also responsible for weighting heavy collection areas or planned operations with additional HUMINT support.   The team leader must still hold meetings, virtually or telephonically if need be, with all of his HUMINTers to provide mentorship and ensure information sharing across the battalion’s AO.    He also has to manage, with oversight from the MICO, which HUMINTer is with which company.   Certain HUMINTers may not fit into some companies’ command climates, so the team must remain flexible to adjust.

The HUMINTer’s interactions with the company commander, platoon leaders, and other members of the CoIST are as important as his interactions with the local populace.    This fusion of the collector, the analyst, and the consumer at the company and platoon-levels, enables counterinsurgents to execute operations more effectively, sooner.[viii]



All actions designed to retain and regain the allegiance of the population are relevant to the process of collecting background information…. Sir Frank Kitson, Low Intensity Operations

                As the S2 for 3-509th Infantry Battalion (Airborne), I had a very interesting deployment to Iraq.   Before the deployment began, I set up CoISTs in each of our companies.   We began the deployment with our Transfer of Authority (TOA) in Iskandariyah, at the end of November of 2006.    In December we were detached from our brigade and sent to the Marines in Al Anbar.    We returned to Iskandariyah in at the end of June 2007, where we served as a Brigade Strike Force for three months.   We then owned battlespace in Iskandariyah again for the final two months.   In each of those moves, the methods available for collecting intelligence varied greatly; often the sources of intelligence were extremely undeveloped or not available at all at the start of each new phase of the deployment.   This fomented the establishment of creative methods to maximize collection and generate substance for the targeting process.   Our time in Garmah, Iraq, a small city and region northeast of Fallujah, was a notable example.

We arrived in Garmah in late-December 2006, and took control from an Iraqi Army Brigade (-), who re-located to Baghdad in support of the Surge.   There was no RIP/TOA and no intelligence hand-off.   The Shi’a Iraqi Army had largely alienated the local Sunni population and had become prisoners in their own patrol bases due to Al Qaida’s dominance.   The Iraqi Army had burned every HUMINT source they had.   We started from zero.

At first, my HUMINT Team Leader intended to run operations like he had in Iskandariyah, largely waiting for walk-ins to come to the FOB and requesting to go on missions with companies when he felt the team had time.   However, one of the biggest changes from Iskandariyah to Garmah was that the companies were now living in six separate Combat Outposts (COPs), and not on the large Forward Operating Base (FOB) where the Battalion Headquarters was located.   There was no HUMINT reporting.

The continued absence of HUMINT reporting was decisive in persuading the HUMINTers that they needed to live with the companies or they would never acquire any sources nor have any idea what the environment was like.   Once they left, they never came back.   The HCT was divided in order to have at least one collector per company.   SSG Ken Del Valle maintained all of his team leader responsibilities, and still provided constant feedback to the battalion S2 shop.

At first company commanders did not know how to use 35Ms, but through coaching from the HUMINTers themselves and the S2 shop, eventually all of the commanders began integrating them into mission planning.   CPT Matt Gregory and his Able Company, 3-509th IN (ABN), took the greatest advantage of having a HUMINTer at the company-level.   CPT Gregory quickly recognized the concept’s utility: “The 35Ms assigned to my company were the biggest combat multipliers by far.”[ix]

Able Company accelerated past her sister companies in the battalion task force due largely to superior intelligence collection efforts; they focused on gathering background information on the local area and populace that either had never been gathered before, or had been lost.   Additionally, CPT Gregory incorporated SSG Del Valle and the CoIST into his mission planning process.   Able Company began focused patrols and planned missions where the HUMINTer was the main effort; “We conducted patrols specifically in order for SSG Del Valle to engage the local population in specific areas, and this had a tremendous effect over time.”[x]   By integrating into Able Company, SSG Del Valle began to not only spot and assess on every patrol, but he also gained the local knowledge that he could not have by simply visiting from Camp Fallujah.   CPT Gregory soon recognized that the HUMINTer could assist in more than just producing reports, and began to utilize SSG Del Valle in planning his political engagements and information operations messages.

Another innovator was CPT Stew Lindsay, commander of Charlie Company, 3-509th IN (ABN) in North Babil Province, Iraq.   Early in CPT Lindsay’s command, there was no HUMINT support, and he was forced to run an extensive informant network in order to gather any intelligence on the ground.   “Local nationals would come and tell me information all of the time, but because I was not a HUMINTer, I could not put the intelligence into a format that would allow me to detain someone.”[xi]   The Iraqis living in Charlie Company’s AO were frustrated since they were providing information on Al Qaida, but the Coalition Forces were unable to arrest the enemy.   Visits from HUMINTers alleviated some of the reporting legitimacy problems, but did not adequately resolve the issue.

After receiving a dedicated 35M, CPT Lindsay was able to reorganize his operations to focus on building the intelligence framework necessary to support one of the most successful company targeting efforts in the brigade.   “I took my HUMINTer with me everywhere; I took him to Sheik engagements, Iraqi Security Force meetings, infrastructure events, raids, you name it…”[xii]   Additionally, Charlie Company’s HUMINTer, SGT Micah Boor, assumed CPT Lindsay’s informant network, was able to apply his craft, and turned most of them into legitimate sources.   SGT Boor played an integral part in the company’s targeting process as Stew adds, “I was focusing on so many different things as a company commander; having SGT Boor and the CoIST there to keep all of the background information straight and make realistic lethal, non-lethal, and ISR targeting recommendations was tremendous.”[xiii]  Through targeting with SGT Boor, and later 35M SPC Wayne Border, Stew’s weekly detainment rate rose 800% over a three month period.[xiv]   Finally, CPT Lindsay established a Company SOP for operations on the objective that featured the HUMINTer screening potential detainees with focused Tactical Questioning, while his CoIST performed Tactical Site Exploitation and started detainment paperwork.

Unfortunately, some company commanders were less open-minded with tactical planning or distrustful of intelligence in general.   There was some misuse at first, until the battalion field-grade officers could be convinced to correct it.   The other companies’ success with their assigned HUMINTers was more gradual, but it was nevertheless there.   It took more time for them to learn CPT Gregory’s lesson: “If you put him [the 35M] at the back of the patrol and forget about him you will get nothing in return, but if you put him up front and put his talent to work, then you will get more than you could ever ask for.”[xv]



Yet a man who uses an imaginary map, thinking that it is a true one, is likely to be worse off than someone with no map at all; for he will fail to inquire whenever he can, to observe every detail on his way, and to search continuously with all his senses and all his intelligence for indications of where he should go. – E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful

Following the Iraq deployment of 4th Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division (Light), I moved from battalion S2 to the Military Intelligence Company Commander, and naturally sought to incorporate the intelligence lessons learned into training and operations for the current deployment to Afghanistan.   It is difficult to effect change in a large organization without the support of the chain of command.   But this turned out not to be an issue as the new brigade commander also believed strongly in both the importance of the CoIST, and also the company-level placement of HUMINTers.   He had drawn the same conclusions from his previous service in Afghanistan as I had in Iraq.   Accordingly, the CoIST concept was soon implemented in every maneuver company in the brigade.

The 4/25th ABCT CoIST is comprised of six people, and is uniform throughout the brigade’s maneuver companies.   The only MOS-specific positions are one 35F Intelligence Analyst and one 35M Human Intelligence Collector.   The other positions are the CoIST Team Leader, the Raven Operator, the Analyst Assistant, and the HUMINT Assistant, and are MOS-immaterial.   Careful training and control has been placed on the HUMINT Assistant to ensure that no laws are broken; they cannot conduct MSO, but rather serve as a dedicated analyst for the 35M and perform some tasks HUMINTers receive more in-depth training in, such as Tactical Site Exploitation (TSE), Tactical Questioning (TQ), etc.

There are, of course, challenges with the both the CoIST concept and having HUMINTers at the companies.   The first, as I mentioned in my Iraq experience, is that most infantryman do not know what a HUMINTer can do, and they are subsequently misused.   My 1SG and I have played a direct liaison role with all of the maneuver companies; we sought early in the life-cycle to establish positive working relationships so that we could help them understand the role of intelligence at the company-level and prevent collectors and analysts from being relegated to radio watch and the like.

Another valid argument is that just as in any unit, the HUMINT platoon members have a varying level of experience and maturity.   One maneuver company will get an NCO with combat experience and additional HUMINT schools, and another will get a HUMINTer straight out of initial entry training.   Therefore, the junior 35Ms can scarcely get the mentorship needed in their craft.   The junior soldiers are also likely to be less confident in their HUMINT skills and may have difficulty making solid recommendations to Infantry Captains.   We identified these issues in advance and did our best to match personalities of command teams to HUMINTers, but were confident that these hurdles were worth it.   Leader training was the priority in pre-deployment, and I stressed that it included every HUMINTer.   There have been some conflicts, and we have adjusted to the best of our ability to ensure adequate support for all the units.

A third problem was the availability of CAT-II Interpreters in order to maintain legality for HUMINTers conducting MSO.   Obtaining all of the interpreters was easier than we anticipated.    We provided detailed justifications for our increased interpreter requirement to the contracting companies and, in less than a month, they all arrived.

When we arrived in Afghanistan, we relieved the previous unit’s “HUMINT map.”[1]   They had placed three-fourths of their organic HUMINT collection in one battalion’s AO.   They were placed because the unit believed the majority of collection was to be found there.   In addition, a few attached HUMINTers provided coverage in two other areas.   Another reason they never tried to expand their HUMINT coverage geographically was that they thought other organizations were already collecting where their brigade had gaps, so there was no point to alter the order of things.   However, the most important reason why the majority of the maneuver companies rarely saw the HUMINTers was because there were only four HCTs, and they remained intact.

By focusing on their imaginary HUMINT map, no one could confirm or deny whether there were more sources to be had in many of the remote areas.   Instead of replacing HUMINT one-for-one, we drove on with our more dispersed CoIST-focused HUMINT lay down; our HUMINTers are spread out over fifteen different locations.    Our HUMINTers were able to take on the former unit’s source pool and expand quickly.   In the areas where there wasn’t supposed to be any reporting, we have acquired sources.   The previous unit failed to confront the fact that even if there were other organizations running sources in some areas, those organizations would be collecting on a different set of criteria and responding to a different chain of command’s priorities.   The area that our sources report on has approximately doubled the previous unit’s network in less than ninety days.   The area covered by our source network also has a greater correlation to occurrence of significant activity than the previous HUMINT map.   However, these are measures of performance, and not effectiveness.   The measures of effectiveness will not become evident until more reflection has been achieved.   But, as of right now, it would be fair to say that several of the earlier internal critics have been greatly persuaded, if not won over.



They said … that he was so devoted to Pure Science … that he would rather have people die by the right therapy than be cured by the wrong. – Sinclair Lewis, Arrowsmith

Afghanistan is not Iraq; anyone who has deployed to either knows this and is frequently reminded.   However, whether addressing an urban insurgency or a rural insurgency, “… the HUMINT collectors must be able to maintain daily contact with the local population.”[xvi]   The closer a HUMINTer can get to the population the better.   In a bottom-up intelligence structure, the place of the collector is at the bottom, not mid-way.

There has been much resistance to the changes that constitute the concept above.   The majority of this resistance comes not from the collector himself, but from those with great HUMINT experience in the pre-9/11 Army.   Team-centricity is well-established in the HUMINT schoolhouse and amongst its subject matter experts.   But it has been my experience that when this concept is tried, the hands-on experience turns some doubters into believers.   Just like my Team Leader in Garmah, who fought against separating the HCT and living with the companies, once they go, most don’t look back.   Still others remain entirely obstinate, because it is not taught that way and involves letting go of control.   In the end, however, the concept above is really just another manifestation of the HUMINT collector being able to, “Operate with minimal equipment and deploy in all operational environments in support of offensive, defensive, stability and reconstruction operations, or civil support operations. Based on solid planning and preparation, HUMINT collection can provide timely information if deployed forward in support of maneuver elements.”[xvii]

“There are never enough HUMINT collectors to meet all requirements.”[xviii]   But this is a maxim true of all intelligence, whether collection or analysis, and doubly so in a counterinsurgency.   The increased intelligence burden that a counterinsurgency creates easily exposes the inadequacy of the BCT intelligence MTOE.   Low-Level Voice Intercept (LLVI) Teams in every CoIST would allow SIGINT collection and tactical intelligence fusion at the company, but the MICO’s SIGINT manning simply doesn’t support it.   The UAS platoon is designed to only have one aircraft flying an ISR mission at a time.   But, with more operators and maintainers, it would not be difficult to sustain aircraft conducting persistent surveillance on multiple objectives.

There are not enough collection assets in the BCT’s MICO to satisfy the requirements of the maneuver company.   This problem is exacerbated even further by the employment of field artillery and BSTBs as maneuver formations, as is common practice in Afghanistan and Iraq today.   As demonstrated earlier in the article, intelligence collection in a counterinsurgency is not “plug and play;” you cannot train effective intelligence collection systems while divorced from maneuver.   The modular design of the BCT necessitates an intelligence collection system that is integrated with maneuver during training and in combat.   All of these factors place the tactical company-grade MI officer in the pillory for the lack of organic intelligence capability within Brigade Combat Team.   It becomes his job to “create” more.   Training non-MI MOS soldiers in the crafts of some intelligences involves plotting an absurd course between the desires of maneuver and the requirements of statutes, both military and non-military.   But that, clearly, is another article.

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