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Archive for October, 2012

The Look of Future Military Deployments: Geolocation as an Organizing Discipline

Monday, October 22nd, 2012


The Director of National Intelligence has created a wonderful new source of seasoned, expert thinking about many things intelligence.  The group is formally called the Intelligence Community Strategic Study Group, the ICSSG. They exchange perspectives and ideas about the state of and how to enhance many of the very basic aspects of intelligence analysis, from definitions that are the basis for all discussion to the training, skills and thoughtfulness necessary for better processes and outcomes.

I’ve been fortunate to have several ICSSG members forward some of the conversations to me, and I have studied the thinking the discussions with great interest, learning a lot in the process.  One of those discussions I want to draw to your attention is about the central importance of time and place as the basis for collection, analysis and understanding of events and evolving situations.  Two ICSSG member experts, Larry Meador and Collin Agee, have led the discussion on this topic, and part of their exchanges is included below. But first, a perspective from here that has guided my developing understanding of the unusual importance of time and place, or geolocation, or activity-based intelligence.

I believe we are going through a period I call the changing nature of deployments and engagements.  We are seeing an entire range of deployments developed using an enhanced approach…..from peacekeeping to partner support to training to threat network engagements, etc…….all “limited engagements with limited aims,” as a friend calls them.  They will be very much in keeping with what has typically been seen as the Marine Corps’ expeditionary nature, and they will be more SOF-like in composition and capabilities.  They will be “more brains, less bullets” “team game” with the requirement for more comprehensive and richer intelligence and socio-cultural knowledge prior to and during the engagement or mission or deployment.  The deployed unit’s organization and skill set will see greater emphasis on information gathering, thinking and sensemaking, understanding the complex combination of phenomena that will be unique to each deployment. This will require more thoughtfulness on the part of the mission commander and more intelligence, collection and analysis skills and involvement…… the mission unit and at echelons above, where more seasoned experts and analysts will contribute to, augment the knowledge and understanding of the mission, as well as learn from the details of the situation produced by assets in the mission team.

Some of this approach is explained in more detail in a short overview I created.  I originally prepared it for the Marine Corps, but believe it is generally applicable.  I will be glad to send it to you if you’ll send me a note requesting same.  It’s a short three pages. 
With the background now established, here’s some of the “conversation” between Larry Meador and Collin Agee.
Larry Meador’s note:
“I think “geolocation” is a tactically important analytic process that can be executed more or less well with one or several intelligence sources (potentially “multi-INT”….), depending on the circumstances, the target, the available signatures at the time, and where the target itself may be (at least approximately) positioned at a particular time. The geolocation of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi has been held out by some publicly as an excellent example of how multi-INT can help with high value targets – I offer no personal opinions on these publicly expressed views (because I don’t have any of the detailed background) but I think we do have historical examples and evidence of integrated multi-INT being key to geolocation success (see the Defense Science Board Task Force Report on Integrating Sensor-Collected Intelligence, for instance). But there are other examples of geolocation where only a single Intel source turned out to be key to getting the right fix once we knew what the right target was — which itself may have come from an Intel source other than the one that geolocated the target.

“But an important question that you may imply with your last comment is whether we know enough about the target, its signatures, and its likely approximate whereabouts at a given point in time to have high confidence that we also know which Intel source (or combination of sources) may be most helpful to geolocation of the target of interest. So to me, the term “multi-INT” simply refers to the existence of several potentially relevant sources of Intelligence and the availability of this multi-INT in an integrated fashion for a particular Intelligence problem of interest (like geolocation) — and the real question is whether it is adequately integrated and available to relevant analysts and other Intelligence users to address the problem(s) they currently care about”.

“So in this view, you might say that geolocation can be thought of as one (of very many) analytic processes that are occasionally useful and that Multi-INT simply refers to the existence of several potentially relevant sources of information that could be useful to the analytic process if adequately integrated and available.”

Collin Agee’s comment on Larry Meador’s note:

“Geolocation is an important enabler of Multi-INT.  It enables the fusion of disparate sources of intelligence because the location AND of the collect can be readily correlated.  This is why NGA holds that GEOINT is the foundation for all types of intelligence.

“SIGINT has an advantage here because it normally contains a location and DTG in the original collect.  The disadvantage is that the location often comes with an error ellipse.  Sensor or data fusion enables refinement of the location and, in many cases, tracking of the entity”.

“Mark Lowenthal and others on this list know that I am an advocate of Activity Based Intelligence (ABI).  Geolocation is central to this approach.  Not only does it allow us to achieve Multi-INT collection in real time, it leverages the power of automation to handle volumes of data that overwhelm human analysts and achieve fusion–and tracking–in unprecedented ways.

Larry Meador’s reply:
“Collin’s comments ring an instructive bell — a time tagged geospatial reference infrastructure may offer a useful construct for bringing multi-INT resources together (along with critical metadata to assist in user discovery of relevant information in the sea of data bases and knowledge bases that are possible as resources). Activity Based Intelligence (ABI) can be layered upon such a reference infrastructure along with many other potentially valuable sources (INT’s).”

Regionally-Aligned Brigades: There’s More to This Plan Than Meets the Eye

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

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