Tactical Intelligence: Reducing Reliance On The National Intelligence Agencies
SUBJECT AREA - Intelligence
Title: Tactical Intelligence: Reducing Reliance on the National
Author: Mr. Jeffrey T. Dubiel, Central Intelligence Agency
Thesis: Although the military services have improved their
tactical intelligence capabilities, the services still rely
excessively on the national agencies for tactical intelligence
that the services should provide for themselves.
Background: The U.S. military does not now have sufficient
equipment to collect the tactical intelligence information that
it needs. It also lacks the ability to adequately analyze the
information it does receive, and does not always emphasize real-
world intelligence in training scenarios. These problems are due
to the concentration of collection assets at national level, to
policies that the military itself has followed regarding
personnel assignments and promotions, and to an overemphasis on
operations. The national and service intelligence agencies, such
as the Defense Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency,
and the Army Intelligence Agency, have adequate collection assets
and personnel policies that encourage the development of subject
matter expertise. Therefore, military units frequently go to
the national agencies to acquire tactical intelligence that they
should be receiving from much lower echelons.
Recommendation: The military services should acquire the
intelligence collection equipment that they need. They should
also develop personnel policies that encourage the development
of long-term expertise and stability, and use real-world
intelligence in training scenarios whenever possible.
Thesis: U.S. military units at the operational, and, especially,
the tactical levels of warfare lack the capability to produce
timely and accurate intelligence tailored to their own needs.
This weakness results from both a concentration of intelligence
collection and analytical assets at national level, and from
internal military policies that inhibit the development of
intelligence expertise. While the U.S. military has made
significant progress in correcting this problem, warfighting
units still must overcome excessive reliance on the national and
service intelligence agencies for tactical intelligence.
A. Shortfalls under present system
B. Overview of the U.S. Intelligence Community
1. National and Service Intelligence Organizations
2. Tactical and Operational Intelligence Organizations
C. The Intelligence Request Process
2. "Old Boy" Network
II. Comparison of Tactical and National Agencies
A. Collection Platform Distribution
B. Comparison of analytical expertise
1. Organizational and grade structure
2. Time on job
C. Focus of effort
1. National level: real issues, few distractions
2. Tactical level: training exercises, many
A. Command emphasis most important requirement
B. Additional collection assets under tactical commander's
1. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle a good example
2. Other systems already under development
3. Progress easiest to achieve here
C. Only real-world information used during command post and
1. Focus on actual contingencies
2. Force operators to plan based on the intelligence
D. Improved personnel management policies
1. Longer tours for intelligence personnel
2. Waive "up or out" policy for intelligence officers who have high levels
of expertise, but no desire for command
3. Enhanced officer and enlisted grade structures for technical intelligence
a) Imagery interpreters to Lt.Col./SgtMaj (E-9), rather than Capt./SSgt typical now
b) Study use of civilian analysts at lower levels
1) Long-term stability a plus
2) Civilian status a major drawback in combat
3) Worth considering
Operational and tactical intelligence are better than
they have been, but true subject-matter expertise still resides
in the national and service intelligence organizations. The
warfighters must develop their own expertise to improve their
abilities to react to contingencies.
The Gulf War provided the U.S. military its first
opportunity after Vietnam to test its intelligence capabilities
under rigorous battlefield conditions. Grenada and Panama had
offered some challenges, but the lack of an effective military
threat in Grenada and the familiarity of U.S. soldiers with
Panama's terrain and armed forces had reduced the need for basic
intelligence beyond current targeting information. By contrast,
the conflict with Iraq brought the U.S. military face-to-face
with a large, modern, and experienced army it had not planned to
fight. Consequently, the U.S. military needed all types of
intelligence about its foe, from the Iraqi military's command
structure to how Iraqi infantry squads dug their fighting
positions. How much of this information did the U.S. military
receive? According to a Defense Department after-action report,
No nation or coalition of nations has ever had the
ability that the Coalition possessed during the
Gulf crisis to collect and disseminate
intelligence. No combat commander has ever had as
full and complete a view of his adversary as did
our field commander.1
This statement fails to answer an important question,
however. Where did the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) actually
get its intelligence, especially its tactical and operational
intelligence? Did most intelligence come from CENTCOM's own
intelligence units and those of subordinate commands, or did
CENTCOM have to rely on organizations it did not directly
control? The answer reflects the U.S. military's failure to
correctly anticipate the intelligence requirements for the modern
Currently, U.S. military units at the operational, and,
especially, the tactical levels of warfare lack the capability to
produce timely and accurate intelligence tailored to their own
needs. This weakness results from both a concentration of
intelligence collection and analytical assets at national level
and from internal military policies that inhibit the development
of intelligence expertise. While the U.S. military has made
significant progress in correcting this problem, warfighting
units still must overcome excessive reliance on the national and
service intelligence agencies for tactical intelligence.
The Gulf War is a case in point. CENTCOM had its own Joint
Intelligence Center (JIC) that was supposed to provide
intelligence for the command itself and its service components.
However, an Army general who was there has written:
Theoretically, intelligence flows from DIA
(Defense Intelligence Agency) through the Unified and
Specified Command, to the Army component.
That is not the way it works . . . (CENTCOM) did not
have the staff capability to manage myriad sudden
and urgent wartime requirements. In DESERT
SHIELD, AIA (Army Intelligence Agency) stepped in
to provide a single point of contact for support
and coordination with DOD (Department of Defense)
and national intelligence agencies. That system
worked well for the Army.2
The Title V after-action report submitted to Congress
corroborates the general's impressions:
The entire national intelligence community
mobilized to support Operations Desert Shield and
Desert Storm. . . .Virtually every national
intelligence collection system with a capability
to collect on Iraqi targets or related targets
worldwide was used to support Operations Desert
Shield and Desert Storm.3
The national intelligence agencies had to support the
operations because, "The CENTCOM Directorate of Intelligence, or
J-2, was not structured for a deployment or conflict on the scale
of Desert Storm".4 Now, more than two years after Desert Storm,
the JICs still must rely on the national and service intelligence
agencies for tactical support.
THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY
The National and Service Agencies
The U.S. Intelligence Community consists of those agencies
that support the foreign policy machinery of the government.
With one major exception, these agencies are components of
cabinet-level departments and focus most of their efforts on
providing intelligence for them. For example, the Defense
Intelligence Agency (DIA) supports the Defense Department, while
the Bureau of Intelligence and Research supports the State
Department. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is the
exception. It provides intelligence support directly to the
president and the National Security Council and is not a
component of any other department. The military services also
have their own department-level agencies, such as the Army's AIA.
Most national intelligence agencies also support military
operations, at least to an extent.
Tactical and Operational Organizations
The U.S. military services also have their own intelligence
organizations at the tactical and operational levels. In the
Army (the primary focus of this paper) and Marine Corps, these
range from a battalion S-2, to a field army or Marine
Expeditionary Force G-2. The Army and Marines also have
intelligence units that augment the S-2 or G-2 at brigade level
and higher, and provide additional collection and analytical
support. The Navy and Air Force have personnel and organizations
that perform similar functions.
At the unified and specified commands, the JIC, headed by
the command J-2, provides intelligence support to the theater
commander-in-chief (CINC). Intelligence personnel from all
services make up the JIC staff. In theory, the JIC combines the
collection, analytical, and dissemination functions in one
organization, streamlining intelligence support for both the CINC
and the subordinate units. However, reality often differs from
Another major lesson is that to support Army
requirements, Army intelligence was absolutely
required. . .trends toward centralizing intelligence
at joint levels are precisely opposite of what we
experienced here. What commanders demanded was
control over their own destinies, with tailored
tactical intelligence from experienced
professionals who knew Army operations, the
intelligence exigencies that stem from them, and
how to lead intelligence maneuver to support
THE INTELLIGENCE REQUEST PROCESS
Military units usually attempt to satisfy their intelligence
requirements through their own intelligence staff sections first.
A battalion S-2 section, consisting of at most a captain or
lieutenant, a senior sergeant, and a junior enlisted driver, has
little capability to acquire or analyze information beyond the
immediate combat information that the battalion's own organic
assets can obtain. When ground combat battalions need more
extensive intelligence, the S-2 submits a request to the
intelligence staff section at the next higher echelon to provide
Problems in satisfying intelligence requirements generally
begin here. The higher echelon section may determine that the
lower unit does not actually need the information and deny the
request outright. This does not happen often, and usually
results from incompetence or inexperience at either level, or
personal animosity. Generally, the senior section attempts in
good faith to get the information the junior section says it
needs. When the senior section cannot satisfy the request itself
and believes that the subordinate still needs the information, it
relays the request to the next higher echelon. This passing of a
request to the next higher echelon may continue all the way up to
the national agencies. Even with modern communications, a
response to an immediate tactical requirement may arrive too late
to be of use.
In addition to this formal chain, intelligence officers may
use the informal "old boy" network, which thrives in intelligence
organizations. An officer assigned to a tactical unit and
impatient for a response to an intelligence requirement may have
a friend at DIA or CIA who has just the expertise he needs.
After a call or two on the secure telephone, the officer has his
answer. When the officer circumvents the chain this way, his
higher-echelon intelligence section does not learn that he has
obtained his answer and the section may continue to waste effort
to satisfy his request. The section also cannot disseminate this
intelligence to other units that need it.
NATIONAL AND TACTICAL AGENCIES: A STUDY IN CONTRASTS
The long request chain and the "old boy" network are two
problems in how the military obtains intelligence support, with
the request chain being the more serious of the two. At least
the "old boy" network results in someone receiving useful
intelligence. Both have their origins in the military's lack of
a sufficient organic collection and analysis capability. In the
interest of saving money, the Marine Corps retired the RF-4B
reconnaissance aircraft, leaving the Marines without a means of
deep tactical aerial reconnaissance. The Army has had no means
of deep aerial reconnaissance for years and has relied on the Air
Force to perform the mission. Signals intelligence (SIGINT) has
received more emphasis and better funding from the services than
imagery intelligence, but the National Security Agency (NSA)
still retains direct tasking authority over all U.S. SIGINT
assets. This arrangement may result in tasking conflicts between
NSA and the theater CINC.
The U.S. military has also pursued personnel management
policies that have degraded the capabilities of intelligence
units to perform effective analysis. Typically, the job of
"intelligence analyst" is only one of several that an
intelligence officer may hold during his career. He may also
wind up as a battalion S-2, collection and jamming platoon
leader, or headquarters company commander. Enlisted personnel
usually have assignments more directly related to their
intelligence specialties, but often find themselves doing routine
intelligence-related "housekeeping" tasks, such as map posting,
that require little skill. In neither case do the officers or
the enlisted personnel build up the necessary expertise to become
truly effective analysts.
The situation in both hardware availability and personnel
policies at the national agencies differs greatly from that of
the military . The national agencies either control directly or
may easily task the collection platforms. While the national
agencies do not always successfully anticipate future hardware
requirements, with the retirement of the SR-71 months before the
Gulf Crisis the most egregious example, they generally have
enough assets to fulfill their needs.
The personnel situation at the national agencies also lends
itself to more effective development of analytical expertise. An
analyst generally remains an analyst for his entire career, often
on the same "account", or topic, enabling him to develop
considerable insight into his analytical field. For example,
during the Gulf Crisis, the 11 analysts in one national agency
office assigned to analyze the Iraqi military had a combined
total of 82 years of experience in the analysis of Middle Eastern
military forces, including over 15 years on Iraq itself. Active-
duty intelligence units, which change analysts almost constantly,
do not have the opportunity to build up this type of expertise.
Despite the military's use of clever analytical matrices,
templates, and checklists to ensure complete analysis, nothing
can replace time on an account for developing expertise.6
Another difference between the national agencies and the
tactical and operational intelligence units is that the national
agencies spend most of their time and effort on real-world
intelligence problems. The national agency analysts have to
produce timely, accurate reports on these problems and have no
time to be distracted by fictional military training scenarios.
By contrast, military training exercises often have
scenarios that bear little relation to reality. Even if the
scenario reflects an actual situation, the intelligence officers
also may not be given the latitude to add all relevant enemy
information.7 If the intelligence officers try to add enemy
forces that they know could hinder friendly operations, the
commanders or operations officers may veto the attempt. The
operators say that they're only interested in how well their own
units can execute the plan, never mind the potential opposition.
Although not as prevalent an attitude as before, this short-
sighted view of intelligence still has the potential to leave
U.S. soldiers unprepared to face an enemy that intends to kill
Tactical intelligence improvements will require investments
in new equipment, modifications in training practices, and
changes in personnel policies. Above all, improvements will
require commanders to emphasize real-world scenarios that fully
exercise intelligence officers' capabilities. Sophisticated
equipment, challenging training, and personnel improvements will
go to waste unless commanders demand that intelligence officers
provide them with timely, accurate and relevant information.
The current lack of sufficient collection and analytical
equipment is perhaps the easiest problem to fix. The Army and
Marines have already made considerable progress in providing
intelligence hardware to tactical users. Collection platforms
such as the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) mounting a television
camera have already been used successfully, and follow-on UAVs
are under development.8 Computer workstations designed for
tactical use have also made their debut, potentially increasing
the analytical capabilities of intelligence officers, as well as
easing their routine housekeeping chores.
The use of intelligence in training has also improved in
recent years, but could be far better. For example, a U.S. V
Corps exercise conducted in March 1993 used fictional countries
such as "Graylandia", while a lucrative intelligence crop went
unharvested in nearby Bosnia-Herzegovina.9 The Gulf crisis gave
intelligence officers and commanders six months to refine the
intelligence picture of Iraq and integrate it into operational
plans, and the intelligence system still had numerous problems.
Few crises will allow U.S. forces sufficient time to develop the
intelligence picture after they are committed to a theater. When
they have the opportunity, U.S. forces must incorporate and train
with actual intelligence before they go in harm's way.
Personnel improvements offer the military the most reliable
route to upgrading the quality of intelligence support. Modern
collection equipment and realistic training scenarios have little
use when intelligence personnel do not understand their potential
enemies or their areas of operation. The present policy of
transferring officers and enlisted soldiers after three or four
years contributes to a lack of both expertise and institutional
memory in a field that requires these qualities. Time on the job
on a specific intelligence account directly affects the level of
expertise. Typically, an intelligence analyst can contribute
little during his first year on any given account. Despite this,
he probably will not have the luxury of learning his account
without being free of production pressure. This leads to
shallow, if not erroneous, analysis. By the time he becomes
reasonably comfortable with his account, he then has to prepare
for his next assignment. The unit then loses his expertise, and
has to train a new analyst on the account.
To break this cycle of constant personnel turnover, the
military should introduce longer tours of perhaps six to eight
years for some commissioned and enlisted intelligence personnel.
Tours of this length would give them the necessary time to
develop their expertise. Long tours would also reduce the
anxiety that soldiers and their families experience when they
move every few years, and would save the military money.
Two related courses of action should go along with longer
tours. First, the military should waive its "up or out" policy
for intelligence experts who have no desire for command or high-
level staff assignments. Superb analysts or collection
specialists sometimes make mediocre commanders or first
sergeants. These experts would become similar to the Limited Duty
Officers currently in the naval services, and the program would
be restricted to first-rate performers of proven benefit to their
Second, the military should enhance the grade structures for
intelligence specialties as an incentive to develop expertise.
For example, most Army imagery analysts are captains,
lieutenants, warrant officers, and noncommissioned officers of
pay grade E-6 and below. Majors and senior sergeants in the
imagery field perform supervisory tasks and rarely look at film,
even though they usually have the most analytical experience. If
officers could make lieutenant colonel and sergeants could make
E-9 and remain working analysts, the military would receive the
benefits of their expertise while being able to adequately
compensate them for their service.
Another suggestion to improve expertise and stability
involves the limited use of civilian analysts and specialists in
tactical military units, down to division or possibly brigade
level. If promotable to a sufficiently high pay grade, such as
GS-13 or 14, civilian intelligence personnel could remain in one
unit indefinitely and would serve as both subject matter experts
and repositories of institutional memory. Civilians would also
be immune to the typical distractions that plague military
members, such as physical training, work details, staff duty
officer tours, and mandatory formations. They would not be
exempt from field exercises, however. Rather, they would be
fully integrated into whatever intelligence center the unit
operates in order to take full advantage of their expertise.
Their civilian status could be a major drawback during combat,
but the CENTCOM's experience during the Gulf War with both
national agency civilians and contractor personnel should provide
a baseline from which to build.
Operational and tactical intelligence are better than they
have been in recent memory, but true subject matter expertise
generally resides in the national and service intelligence
organizations. The warfighters must develop their own expertise
to improve their abilities to react to the many potential
hotspots in the world. The military must improve its tactical
and operational intelligence collection and analysis equipment;
it must restructure its personnel policies to allow experienced
intelligence specialists to remain on the job and still be
adequately compensated; it should also experiment with having
civilian intelligence specialists at tactical levels in order to
provide even greater continuity. These measures would
significantly improve the tactical and operational intelligence
capabilities that all the services have said they want. Let the
services now show how serious they are.
1. U.S. Department of Defense, Conduct of the Persian Gulf Conflict,
An Interim Report to Congress Pursuant to Title V Persian Gulf Supplemental
Authorization and Personnel Benefits Act of 1991 (Public Law 102-25),1991,
2. Stewart John F. Jr., Brigadier General, U.S. Army, "DESERT STORM-A
3rd U.S. Army Perspective", Military Intelligence, October-December 1991,
Ft. Huachuca, AZ, p. 27.
3. Department of Defense, op. cit., p. 14-1.
4. Ibid., p. 14-1.
5. Stewart, op. cit., p. 31.
6. Department of the Army, FM 34-3, Intelligence Analysis, Washington,
DC, March 1990, Chapters 3 and 4.
7. Stewart, op. cit., p. 23.
8. Department of Defense, op. cit., p. 4-2.
9. Bradley, Richard J., Major, U.S. Army Reserve, Personal Interview,
23 March 1993.
1. Baker, Daniel F., Major, U.S. Army, "Deep Attack: A Military
Intelligence Task Force in DESERT STORM", Military Intelligence, October-December
1991, Ft. Huachuca, AZ, pp. 36-38.
2. Black, John H., Colonel, U.S. Army, "The IEW Synchronization Matrix",
Military Intelligence, October-December 1991, Ft. Huachuca, AZ, p. 32.
3. Bradley, Richard J., Major, U.S. Army Reserve, Personal Interview,
23 March 1993.
4. Department of the Army, FM 34-3, Intelligence Analysis, Washington, DC,
March 1990, Chapters 3 and 4.
5. Department of the Army, FM 34-130, Intelligence Preparation of the
Battlefield, Washington, DC, May 1989, Chapters 2-6.
6. Department of the Army, FM 100-5, Operations, Washington, DC, May
1986, p. 46.
7. Department of Defense, Conduct of the Persian Gulf Conflict, An
Interim Report to Congress Pursuant to Title V Persian Gulf Conflict
Supplemental Authorization and Personnel Benefits Act of 1991 (Public
Law 102-25), pp. 14-1 to 14-3.
8. Echevarria, Antunio J., and Shaw, John M., Captains, U.S. Army,
"The New Military Revolution: Post-Industrial Change", Parameters,
Winter 1992-93, Carlisle, PA, pp. 70-79.
9. Eichelberger, Charles B., Lieutenant General (Retired), U.S. Army,
"The MI Corps: A Vision of the Future", Military Intelligence, October-December
1991, Ft. Huachuca, AZ, pp. 6-13.
10. Jackson, John D., Captain, U.S. Army, "Battle Damage Assessment",
Military Intelligence, October-December 1991, Ft. Huachuca, AZ, p. 19.
11. Krueger, John L., Major, U.S. Army, "Pitfalls in Combat Simulations",
Military Review, June 1992, Ft. Leavenworth, KS, pp. 20-25.
12. Macedonia, Michael R., Major, U.S. Army, "Information Technology in
DESERT STORM", Military Review, October 1992, Ft. Leavenworth, KS, pp. 34-41.
13. Stewart, John F., Jr., Brigadier General, U.S. Army, "DESERT STORM:
A 3rd U.S. Army Perspective", Military Intelligence, October-December 1991,
Ft. Huachuca, AZ, pp. 22-31.
14. U.S. Marine Corps, OH 6-1, Ground Combat Operations, Quantico, VA,
January 1988, Chapter 4, Section II.
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