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The New Craft of Intelligence: Achieving Asymmetric Advantage in the Face of Nontraditional Threats

Authored by Mr. Robert D. Steele.

February 2002

60 Pages

Brief Synopsis

This monograph is the third in the Strategic Studies Institute's "Studies in Asymmetry" Series. In it, the author examines two paradigm shifts--one in relation to the threat and a second in relation to intelligence methods--while offering a new model for threat analysis and a new model for intelligence operations in support to policy, acquisition, and command engaged in nontraditional asymmetric warfare. He concludes with an examination of the Revolution in Military Affairs and the need for a Revolution in Intelligence Affairs.


Both the Cold War threat paradigm and the Cold War intelligence paradigm are dead. A new integrative paradigm for achieving asymmetric advantage in the face of nontraditional threats is needed in the face of both nontraditional threats and nontraditional sources and methods. This can be done by devising and exploiting new intelligence sources and methods.

The old threat paradigm emphasized strategic nuclear and conventional forces associated with a government, with static orders of battle, linear in development and deployment over time. They were employed in accordance with well-understood rules of engagement and doctrine, were relatively easy to detect in mobilization, and were supported by generally recognizable intelligence assets.

The new threat paradigm, in contrast, is generally nongovernmental (or a failed state), nonconventional, dynamic or random and nonlinear in its emergence, with no constraints or rules of engagement. It has no known doctrine, is almost impossible to predict in advance, and is supported by an unlimited 5th column of criminals, terrorists, drug traffickers, drug addicts, and corrupt individuals. It is, in a word, asymmetric.

The old intelligence paradigm relied heavily on secret and very expensive technical collection against one main target, the Soviet Union. Such information-sharing relationships as existed within the national and military intelligence communities have been both secret and on a bilateral basis.

The new intelligence paradigm must embrace and cope with the information explosion, and especially the explosion in multilingual digital information, while also managing to obtain truth on the ground from every clime and place through direct observation by trained Army Foreign Area Officers (FAO).

This new craft of intelligence requires that four quadrants of knowledge be fully developed, in an integrated fashion. Only one of these quadrants is secret. The first exploits the lessons of history; the second develops web-based means of sharing the burden of achieving global coverage; the third harnesses the full distributed intelligence capabilities of the entire Nation; and the fourth utilizes spies and secrecy to great effect.

With the new craft of intelligence well in hand, with a new strategy that understands the continuum of personnel skills needed from homeland defense to overseas power projection, the Army may be ready to consider radical changes in how it recruits, trains, equips, and organizes the active, reserve, and National Guard forces. If we have entered a period of total war, with no front lines, it may be that the Army should devise a new “total force” concept for asymmetric operations on the homefront and overseas.

The monograph recommends several initiatives for Army leadership. They are: establishment of a homeland defense intelligence program, including a homeland defense analysis center and community intelligence centers in each state or commonwealth; a digital history and captured document project and processing center; and four major regional open source activities responsive to both the theater commanders and general national security needs. Additional initiatives include a web-based global information-sharing consortium to reduce the cost and time associated with global coverage activities of threats of common concern, and especially nontraditional asymmetric threats; and, close collaboration with Joint Forces Command to create a generic analytic workstation and a generic open source intelligence training program suitable for homeland and overseas partners.

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