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Chapter 7

Strategic Debriefing

Strategic debriefing is the art of interviewing an individual in a strategic environment, that is, voluntary sources of information to obtain usable information in response to command and national-level intelligence needs. Strategic intelligence provides support to national-level planners and operational commanders across the entire spectrum of conflict and is especially useful for long-range planning purposes. Strategic intelligence is collected in peacetime as well as wartime and often fills intelligence gaps on extremely sensitive topics or from sensitive areas.

The objective of the strategic debriefing process is to obtain information of the highest degree of credibility to satisfy outstanding intelligence requirements. This avoids surprises of strategic nature and consequences. Strategic debriefing operations will be discussed further in FM 34-5 (S). The types of sources encountered in strategic debriefing are emigres, refugees, resettlers, and selected US sources. While there are other types, these represent the vast majority. Doctrine for strategic debriefing is provided in DIAM 58-13.


Due to the diverse nature of the various operations using debriefers, both outside the continental United States (OCONUS) and within the continental United States (CONUS), specific duties and responsibilities peculiar to a particular operation will be detailed in unit SOPS. However, there are certain duties and responsibilities to debriefers regardless of assignment.


Proper response to notification of the availability of a source will depend upon unit operations. The debriefer may have to respond spontaneously as in the case of walk-in sources. He may have the luxury of advance notice as in the case of an invitational interview.


Planning and preparation for the strategic debriefer are similar to that process already described in Chapter 3 with the following considerations peculiar to the strategic environment:

  • Prior intelligence reports pertaining to a particular source may not be readily available and the source's area of knowledgeability, personality traits, and potential intelligence value should be determined by the debriefer.
  • Pertinent intelligence requirements should be reviewed in an attempt to assess the source's potential to answer them.
  • Necessary maps, technical reference manuals, city plans, photographs, handbooks, and so forth should be assembled and organized in the anticipated sequence of the interview.
  • An appropriate debriefing site may need to be selected with considerations given to legal agreements with host countries or particular directives within unit SOPs.



In the approach and initial contact, basically the same process is used as described before except that the sources for strategic debriefing are in a different legal status than EPWs.


The debriefer uses good questioning techniques and rapport and effective follow-up leads to ensure the answering of specific requirements.


Comprehensive and logical note taking is translated into comprehensible, logical, and objective reporting within the parameters of the intelligence report procedures outlined in DIAM 58-13.


An interview is terminated in a manner which enables any debriefer to recontact a source at a later date and resume the debriefing process. The debriefer ensures that the source receives all promised incentives. It is often necessary to provide transportation and lodging for sources. Such considerations demand that the debriefer be familiar with the procedures for use of Intelligence Contingency Fund monies.


There is an obvious need for OPSEC before, during, and after any debriefing. Source confidentiality and the handling of classified materials demand constant and special attention.


Maintaining a language proficiency is a basic requirement, and improvement of dialects, slang, and technical terminology is a must.


A debriefer may have the added responsibility of maintaining local liaison with host-government agencies while OCONUS. Unit SOPS usually dictate the necessary and proper procedures.


The debriefer keeps up with new scientific and technical development of target countries. Intelligence agencies publish numerous reports and summaries which are readily available to the strategic debriefer.


Information gathered as strategic intelligence may be categorized into eight components. An easy way to remember these components is through the use of the acronym BEST MAPS:

  • B--biographic intelligence
  • E--economic intelligence.
  • S--sociological intelligence
  • T--transportation and telecommunications intelligence
  • M--military geographical intelligence.
  • A--armed forces intelligence.
  • P--political intelligence.
  • S--scientific and technical intelligence.

Each of these components can further be divided into a number of subcomponents. These components and subcomponents are not all-encompassing nor mutually exclusive. This approach is merely a means to enhance familiarization with the types of information included in strategic intelligence.


Biographic intelligence is the study of individuals of actual or potential importance through knowledge of their personalities and backgrounds. This component can be divided into a number of subcomponents:

  • Educational and occupational history-including civilian and military backgrounds of individuals.
  • Individual accomplishment-notable accomplishments of an individual in professional or private life
  • Idiosyncrasies and habits-including mannerisms and unusual life styles.
  • Position, influence, and potentialpresent and future positions of power or influence.
  • Attitudes and hobbies-significant interests that may affect an individual's accessibility.

Such biographic information is reported by preparing a message intelligence report in accordance with the format in DIAM 58-13.


Economic intelligence studies the economic strengths and weaknesses of a country. Its subcomponents are-

  • Economic warfare-information on the diplomatic or financial steps a country may take to induce neutral countries to cease trading with its enemies.
  • Economic vulnerabilities-the degree to which a country's military would be hampered by the loss of materials or facilities.
  • Manufacturing-information on manufacturing processes, facilities, logistics, and so forth.
  • Source of economic capability-any means a country has to sustain its economy.


Sociological intelligence deals with people, customs, behaviors, and institutions. The subcomponents are-

  • Population-rates of increase, decrease, or migrations.
  • Social characteristics-customs, mores, and values.
  • Manpower-divisions and distribution within the workforce.
  • Health, education, and welfare.
  • Public information-information services within the country.


Transportation and telecommunications intelligence studies the role of transportation and telecommunications systems during military emergencies and during peacetime. The subcomponents of this topic are too varied and numerous to cover.


Military geographic intelligence studies all geographic factors (physical and cultur


Armed forces intelligence is the integrated study of the ground, sea, and air forces of a country-often referred to as OB. It is concerned with-

  • Strategy-military alternatives in terms of position, terrain, economics, politics, and so forth.
  • Tactics-military deployments and operations doctrine.
  • OB-location, organization, weapons, strengths.
  • Equipment-analysis of all military materiel.
  • Logistics-procurement, storage, and distribution.
  • Training-as carried out at all echelons to support doctrine.
  • Organization-detailed analysis of command structures.
  • Manpower-available resources and their conditioning.


Political intelligence studies all political aspects which may affect military operations. Its subcomponents are-

  • Government structure-organization of departments and ministries.
  • National policies-government actions and decisions.
  • Political dynamics-government views and reactions to events.
  • Propaganda- information and disinformation programs.
  • Policy and intelligence services- organizations and functions.
  • Subversion-subversive acts sponsored by the government.


Scientific and technical intelligence studies the country's potential and capability to support objectives through development of new processes, equipment, weapons systems, and so forth. The subcomponents are-

  • Weapons and weapon systems.
  • Missile and space program.
  • Nuclear energy and weapons technology.
  • NBC developments.
  • Basic applied science.
  • Research and development systems.


Equally important to the components of strategic intelligence is an awareness of the strategic intelligence cycle and the debriefer's role within that cycle. The first step is the identification of intelligence gaps. Analysts translate these gaps into intelligence requirements-the second step. In the third step, the strategic debriefer fulfills those requirements. The fourth step involves preparation of an intelligence report. The fifth and last step is the preparation of an intelligence report evaluation by the originator of the requirement. These evaluations measure the quality of the information as well as the quality of the report writing.

Page last modified: 26-04-2005 16:40:27 Zulu