Intelligence: August 1, 2005

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The U.S. Air Force is having some problems with its intelligence efforts. First, there are the lingering problems of  shifting from a Cold War, to a war on terror,  mentality. The air force intel communitys influence is also being undermined by the glass ceiling over its intel colonels. No one will say, officially, why fewer intel officers are being promoted, but is seems to have a lot to do with the perceived decline in the need for the rather large Cold War era air force intel establishment. Back then, there was much need for careful analysis of the Soviet Union, to identify and find critical targets. But now the need is for the ability to find time critical targets. During the Cold War there was a need for massive capability to generate orthorectified, precise coordinates for thousands of targets. Today, smart bomb technologies  like DPSS and DAMASK, make getting the weapon on target cheaply a very easy thing to do. But now the need if for an air force intelligence capability for finding the  targets in the first place. In the Department of Defense, there is agreement that the war on terror has produced new challenges for the intel community. The war on terror makes intelligence collection and exploitation more important than ever. But the Air Force is losing its intelligence expertise. A record number of talented, career intelligence colonels (23), are retiring this year. The main reason appears to be the glass ceiling they face in trying to make general. While the U.S. Air Force's career intelligence officers have good promotion opportunities up to full colonel, that stops when it comes to getting promoted to general rank. In the last five years, the Air Force has selected only one career intelligence officer for promotion to brigadier general. Following the retirements of two generals with intelligence backgrounds earlier this year, and another planned on November 1st, only three of the Air Force's 274 or so general officers will have come up through the ranks doing intelligence work. When the Cold War ended, there were 14 intelligence generals. In contrast, there are now four air force generals with a personnel background, and five with a finance background.

 


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