The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW


FM 34-8: Combat Commander's Handbook On Intelligence


Why You Need This Handbook

Units win battles, campaigns, and wars by generating combat power at decisive times and places. Intelligence predicts and then verifies when and where those decisive points will be. It also provides insight on how much combat power you'll need to use to win. Intelligence is your decision tool that focuses and leverages your combat power. To accomplish this, you must understand--

  • The capabilities and limitations of the Intelligence BOS.

  • How intelligence is synchronized with other BOSs.

  • The intelligence system of systems architecture.

  • Your role in focusing and prioritizing the Intelligence BOS.

Purpose of this Handbook

This handbook will help you understand the Intelligence BOS and your role in directing the IEW effort to meet your mission requirements. You will never have a perfect picture of the battlefield; however, the more you know about the intelligence system and how to focus it, the better your picture will be.


The Intelligence BOS provides timely, relevant, and accurate IEW support to tactical, operational, and strategic commanders across the operational continuum and the threat spectrum. It reduces uncertainty and risk to U.S. Forces and permits effective application of combat power.



  • Indications and Warning (I&W) gives you as much early warning of hostilities as possible.

  • Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) integrates the environment with the enemy's fighting doctrine. It reveals his capabilities and vulnerabilities and allows you to systematically predict his actions. It also helps you understand the battlefield and synchronize all your BOSS for maximum effect.

  • Situation Development confirms or denies enemy courses of action (COAs) predicted in the IPB. This enables you to make timely decisions.

  • Target Development and Target Acquisition identify high value targets (HVTs) and high payoff targets (HPTs) that support your concept of the operation. Then they detect and locate those targets with sufficient accuracy for attacks by fire, maneuver, and electronic means.

  • Battle Damage Assessment (BDA) gives you a continual assessment of enemy strength and your operations' effect on the enemy.

  • Force Protection identifies those elements of your force most important to an enemy force and those most vulnerable to detection and attack by enemy operations. It also limits the enemy's opportunities to engage friendly forces, and enables you to achieve maximum surprise on the battlefield.

You may have to prioritize these functions based on resources and time constraints. For instance, the intelligence collection assets required to support your situation development and targeting requirements are the same which support any BDA requirements you establish. Your G2 or S2 has to be a very smart collection manager to accomplish this. If you need something quickly, it will usually be at the expense of another requirement.


  • Intelligence is for the commander. It's valuable only if it satisfies your planning and warfighting requirements in a timely manner. You are both the director and the recipient of intelligence. Your intelligence officer's goal is to provide you the intelligence, targets, and BDA you need when you need them.

  • The commander focuses the intelligence effort by stating his priority intelligence requirements (PIRs), targeting priorities and priorities for other types of intelligence support, such as force protection and BDA. You will never have enough intelligence assets to perform all six intelligence functions concurrently. So you need to identify when you must have specific intelligence and when specific targets must be detected and attacked to support your concept of the operation. By articulating your priorities, you focus and synchronize collection assets on your specific needs and also prioritize the intelligence processing and dissemination efforts.

  • Understand the battlefield. Intelligence predictions and analysis must be grounded in tactical and operational expertise and common sense. Your intelligence officer must understand your intent and concept of the operation, and the reaction it will most likely evoke from the enemy force. With this understanding, he can anticipate enemy action and reaction, and use his finite collection resources to confirm them.

  • IPB drives all warfighting operations. The G2 and S2 must assess multiple enemy COAs and prioritize them in order of likelihood of occurrence. IPB also gives you and the "2" a systematic way to confirm the intelligence estimate or determine which alternative COA the enemy has taken. The set of enemy COAs developed in the IPB process allows you and your staff to anticipate and preempt the enemy on the battlefield.

  • The G2 and S2 always manage, direct and coordinate your intelligence effort. Your MI unit commander responds to the G2's or S2's intelligence taskings.

  • The maneuver commander task organizes and requests intelligence as-sets to best support each mission, enemy, terrain, troops, and time available (METT-T) situation. Habitual relationships are used where possible, but command relationships and standard tactical missions for MI units are dictated by a METT-T analysis. Intelligence assets are never kept in reserve.

  • Only the parent unit's commander or staff tasks intelligence assets. All other units (both higher and lower) must request support on a non-interference basis.

  • Intelligence operates as a "seamless system of intelligence systems." No echelon has all the intelligence assets it needs to satisfy all the requirements of its commander. Consequently, higher echelons must focus downward and push intelligence to lower echelons, while lower echelons must be able to pull or request specific intelligence information from higher echelons. This system is seamless because there are no echelon barriers to this flow. Your G2 or S2 must know how to or-chestrate this system of systems to satisfy your requirements.


  • Relevance: Do the intelligence products pertain to your mission and support your concept of the operation?

  • Usability: Are the intelligence products in a format you can easily use? Can they pass the "so what?" test? Do they clearly tell you their significance to your concept of the operation?

  • Timeliness: Are you getting the intelligence, targets, electronic warfare (EW) support, and BDA when you ask for them?

  • Accuracy: Are the intelligence products and targets correct? Are targets given with locations sufficiently accurate to attack them?

  • Completeness: Are you getting the whole story or are the portions that are known versus those that are analytical estimates made clear to you?

  • Objectivity: Is the intelligence unbiased, undistorted, and free from political influence or constraint?

  • Predictive: Do the intelligence estimates of enemy capabilities give a set of possible enemy COAs which are prioritized in order of likelihood of occurrence?


You are the primary player and owner of your unit's intelligence effort.

      Commanders must focus intelligence. They
      must decide what they need to know for the
      operation to succeed. This includes establishing
      clear priorities for intelligence and targets.
      My goal was to limit my questions to six.
                                --Frederick M. Franks , Jr. 
                                  General, U.S. Army
                                  Commander, Training and Doctrine Command

Your "2" coordinates with you, your "3", and your fire support officer (FSO) to identify your intelligence and targeting requirements. He then:

  • Verifies these requirements through IPB and staff wargaming.

  • Develops a collection or Reconnaissance and Surveillance (R&S) plan to satisfy those requirements.

  • Converts, through analysis, collected information into intelligence and targets. He then disseminates these to you and others when they're
Your MI unit commander is tasked to satisfy many of your unit's intelligence requirements. However, he will not be able to satisfy all your requirements. Your "2" must be able to elicit support from other echelons in the intelligence systems of systems to ensure you are fully supported.


Chapter 2 describes your role in the fundamental intelligence process for planning and executing battles. This description is keyed to the command estimate process.

Chapters 3 and 4 discuss key organizations and functions of S2/G2 staffs and MI unit capabilities.

Appendix A describes how to focus PIRs.

Appendix B provides a more detailed description of specific intelligence collection assets.

Appendix C contains tips on how to train your unit's Intelligence BOS.

Appendix D contains an annotated reference of field manuals with more detailed information on the Intelligence BOS.

If you know the enemy and know yourself; you
need not fear the result of a hundred battles.


Join the mailing list