Intelligence: Measuring The Infospace On The Battlefield


April 25, 2010:  In Afghanistan, many valuable lessons from Iraq are being recycled. One of the most useful items has been the intelligence collecting techniques borrowed from the civilian world. This came about in Iraq, largely because so many police and marketing professionals got mobilized for duty in Iraq, and just did what came naturally once they got there. That resulted in the U.S. Army reviving Vietnam era interests in such fundamental intelligence collecting techniques as opinion surveys. This sort of thing morphed into the Human Terrain System (HTS). This is actually a Vietnam era technique that fell out of use because so many academics were so stridently anti-military after the 1970s. But many polling and marketing pro's who got mobilized pointed out that you don't need academics to do what HTS needs. Modern marketing techniques cover it all, and academics have gladly (for enough money) provided commercial firms all the help they needed to build the best tools.

As the economy began to revive in Iraq and Afghanistan, the marketing experts (often Iraqi and Afghan expatriates returning to rebuild their homeland) soon appeared and began surveying popular opinion. This is a key tool for HTS. The rest is usually provided by local advertising and marketing planning companies. Meanwhile, more and more academics are ignoring their doctrinaire colleagues, and working for on HTS projects.

The police techniques caught on even more quickly. Four years ago, the U.S. Army released "Police Intelligence Operations," Field Manual 3-19.5. This was part of a trend that began back in 2003, when the army began changing its intelligence collecting methods, and behaving more like a police precinct. In the old days, troops collected useful intelligence information and passed it back to analysts, who studied it, and, if they found anything useful, passed that analyses back to the troops, who took action. Increasingly, army combat troops function more like a police operation. That is, the intelligence analysts get out in the field with the troops and act more like detectives, collecting their own evidence. Of course, detectives also depend on street police to provide information as well. Indeed, it's the street cop that usually gets to the scene of a crime before the detectives. Police are trained to carefully examine a crime scene, preserving it for the detectives, while recording key information that is perishable. Military intelligence troops have found that the "detective" model is much more effective. It's also more dangerous, putting intel people into combat situations. But the payoff has been enormous. Not only is more information collected, and analyzed, more quickly, but the troops have more confidence in the intel people, and are more willing to pass on what they see. The intel units have also been recruiting, and training, troops in the combat units to look for information, and get it back to the intel people as quickly as possible. To help this along, new intel "appliances" (software for laptops, or smart phones) are being provided to make it easier for the leaders of infantry patrols to instantly record useful information, and get it transmitted to an intelligence unit. Special intelligence units have also been set up that operate pretty much like a detective squad, living with the troops, and collecting and analyzing battlefield information in order to provide the combat guys with more useful, and immediate, information on what the enemy is up to, and where they are hanging out. Using these mobile teams, and better communications, military intelligence operations are changing more than they have for several generations.

The new FM 2-15.5 is intended to help commanders in future pacification operations, and for any "force protection" (defending your own bases) situations. There were many changes to army and marine intel operations because of the Iraq and Afghanistan experience, and this Field Manual and HTS are just two of the many results.





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