Intelligence: May 4, 2004

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The campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq have provided U.S. Army intelligence units with a rare chance to operate under combat conditions for an extended period of time. Based on the experience so far, the intelligence troops have come up with a wish list of things they believe are needed.

-More UAVs, especially ones that can be used by the smallest units (down to infantry platoons.) Special Forces A Teams (twelve troops) already used them, with great success. But UAVs are used at all levels, not just because it takes the load off intelligence units, but because it allows combat units to collect more information, which when fed back to intelligence units, provides the intelligence analysts with a better idea of whats out there. 

-Better capabilities to detect and listen into cell phone networks and email systems. Its become quite common for cell phone systems to be still functioning when American troops are still fighting in the area. The enemy finds that the cell phones are an excellent form of communication for them. Tapping into that can be a major battlefield advantage. But new equipment, and troops trained to use it, are needed to get into cell phone networks under combat conditions. 

-More and better software for dealing with the increasing amount of data being collected, especially visual data from the growing number of video cameras (in UAVs, aircraft, ground vehicles and even on infantrymens helmets). But the mass of text information has proved to be an obstacle as well, because current search tools are not fast and efficient enough to allow analysts to sort things out quickly enough to help troops in the combat zone. This is also embarrassing because commercial operations already have more effective search and data mining software. So the fix here is mainly one of getting commercial software that already exists. 

-Unattended (autonomous) ground sensors have been around since the 1960s and have gotten more reliable and sensitive. But there are not enough of them today. The Special Forces has been particularly successful at using these sensors, mainly because the Special Forces operates with very few people in the field. So they are always quick to try automated devices that make them more capable, while not requiring more people. These autonomous sensors communicate with wireless signals that can easily be passed on to intelligence units. This means that data collected from a large number of these sensors can provide intelligence analysts patterns of enemy behavior that individual units using the sensors wont notice. But it all depends on getting a lot of the sensors out there. The combat units want them, and if there is also communications systems that can pass the sensor data back to intelligence units, everyone will be better informed.

-Theres not enough communications capacity, especially satellites, to support all the new stuff. Video feeds from all those cameras is the biggest problem, and the near future is going to be a time of rationing capacity. It may be years, if ever, before there is enough capacity for everyone and everything.

-Theres a need for more HUMINT (human intelligence, spies and prisoner interrogations.) There is not enough of this because not enough money has gone into training linguists and intelligence officers who know how to set up an agent network in a foreign country. Intelligence officers in Iraq had to improvise, and realized how valuable HUMINT was, and how unprepared the army was to take advantage of it.

 


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