Intelligence Analysis Vs Operational Analysis – A New Paradigm for the 21st Century

The events of 9/11 changed the entire landscape of who the enemy is and how to fight them. Unfortunately, some in the Intelligence Community (IC) clung to the old ways of doing business. The hope was to mold the enemy into our antiquated way of thinking, instead of adapting to the new threat. Our reliance on technical intelligence was little help when the enemy blended into the neighborhoods of the people that we were protecting. However, our other collection abilities have changed in mid-stride and we are realizing an influx of new capabilities. Unfortunately, it will take time to yield real results. New collection capabilities mandate new intelligence capabilities to support the overall mission. That support needs to be driven by analysts who can develop a real or near real time capacity to enhance operations.

Traditionally, the old way of doing business was focused on intelligence analysis. The analyst assembled the “big picture” for the decision maker. The decision maker had questions about the enemy/threat and needed to find answers that could yield critical decisions on how to conduct operations in a manner that would enhance mission success. The analyst would concentrate on questions concerning the enemy’s composition, movement and intentions. In the last century, most of this was done through technical collection, which directly affected the analysis capabilities of the individual. As systems routed the electronic messages into the computer of the analysts, there was little need for the art of analysis. Analysis became a series of button mashing and cleaning up databases to ensure a clean picture.

Unfortunately this reliance on technology took us down the wrong path as current enemy operations are not conducive to technical collection. The new threat consumes American media and studies our capabilities to mask their own operational capacity. The fast pace of the threat operational cycle does not allow for our cumbersome intelligence process to respond quickly enough for effective interdiction. Intelligence is processed up for the decision maker and then disseminated back down to those who need the information to include the collectors/operators. This information up intelligence down thinking is part of the problem that we face.

A more relevant information flow would dispense analysis at the lowest level on a parallel track with the decision maker track. The analyst is typically the first one to view the information to determine whether it is of any intelligence value. Instead of using it for the big picture the analyst should now look at how to leverage this for use in any and all operations. This is a radical change to the use of analysts and this is now being implemented in certain situations within the IC. Unfortunately, we find that analysts are usually unprepared for this new mission of real time intelligence support.

The intelligence analysis must adapt the idea of the big picture to make direct impacts on multiple levels. This type of thinking comprises Operational Analysis, placing the analyst as a fulcrum point within the organization. The analyst must be well versed in all areas of operations that happen at their particular level. In particular, the analyst must pay particular attention to supporting current collection efforts. Delving even deeper into the collection effort, the analyst must understand the intricacies of the Human Intelligence (HUMINT) spectrum of operations. The analyst has always worked at identifying intelligence gaps, thereby stimulating questions for the interrogator, debriefer or overt collectors. Working hand in hand with the HUMINT collector would allow the analyst to process critical intelligence that is needed for the success of a collection operation and lead to the identification of new opportunities and targets. With access to the rest of the IC, the analyst can recommend other intelligence collection operations to be used for mission success. The reach out capability of the analyst to multiple IC and public databases gives the collector an added advantage that did not exist prior to the invasion of Iraq. The analyst is well placed to understand the environment, the collector mission and the current situation to provide the Operational Analysis support.

However, the analysts’ role should not be limited to only collection operations. The analyst can also help direct targeting, surveillance, Force Protection measures, Operational Security and other combat and HUMINT operations. This new paradigm for infusing the analyst in to the entire HUMINT spectrum admittedly places the analyst between the operational and intelligence realms. However, by educating the analyst in the new paradigm, the analyst will be able to provide timely assessments beyond the scope of the decision makers’ current requirements.

Adopting the new paradigm of Operational Analysis, will allow us to be prepared for the challenges and threats of the 21st century. Unfortunately, under the current realities, this type of analyst training occurs piecemeal and mainly in the field. The philosophy of cutting edge analysis has not been widely adapted and still hampers our efforts for mission success.

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