Priority Intelligence Requirements

The following is a reprint of a memorandum I wrote to MG(R) Stewart while in command of the 501st MI Bde. It explains my thoughts on Priority Intelligence Requirements.

SUBJECT: Priority Intelligence Requirements

1. Sir: We enjoyed your visit immensely. As always, we learned a great deal from you. My officers thoroughly enjoyed your OPD; we talked about your points throughout the 12 days of UFL. I thought a lot about our interaction with you throughout UFL. Wanted to get back to you with a few thoughts about a subject you asked for our thoughts on -- priority intelligence requirements (PIR).

2. PIR problems. We agree with you that priority intelligence requirements present a very real challenge for the Army -- combat arms and intelligence alike. I fear we (corporately) remain in need of some repair in this area of thought and action. The intellectual process is simple to think about, but very complex to execute. I agree with you that we must do better. My thinking on the subject follows.

3. Collection management and analysis/synthesis. The collection manager must depend on detailed help from analysts to provide specifics needed to leverage collection systems effectively. This is a crucial relationship -- we shouldn't separate analysis and collection management functions and organizations. Steerage of the collection system has to come from folks who know and understand the opponent's order of battle, communications, thinking, protecting activities, doctrine, warfighting ethos, and so forth. Moreover, the collection manager must search for and develop effective combinations of collection assets and synchronize them over time to achieve synergy, coherence among assets, and meet required timelines of operators.

4. Dynamics. The timelines come down to two dynamics. The first dynamic involves planning and executing the collection plan to obtain information at NAIs of the IPB process, to confirm or deny hypotheses, activities, actions of specific units over time, and to provide tactical/operational level of war indications and warning. The second dynamic is the most important -- collection managers must synchronize collection activities in space and time to answer the commander's questions, provide key reads, provide information for making decisions at decision points, and identify high payoff targets (HPT) in target areas of interest (TAI). Operational planning and execution must drive this process, which our Army calls the creation of combat power effects through execution of the DST or attack-guidance matrix. The commander's J3/G3 must not only understand but MUST OWN the DST/attack guidance matrix. The commander's J2/G2 provide information to assist in making decisions and confirming or denying hypotheses; however, the concept of how to employ combat power coupled with and pointed by information clearly lies within the lane of the commander and his operators. Very quickly, we can comprehend the relationship between the collection plan and satisfying PIR. This relationship serves as a vital aspect of setting and shaping the tactical and operational level of war conditions so essential to creating tangible and intangible combat power effects. So far in this discussion, some constants have surfaced as imperatives for satisfying information requirements. They include:

5. Our problems. Unfortunately, our system doesn't work as well as we would like. As we've found over the years:

But there's more if we burrow down to the heart of the problem. The essence of our problem is that we, for the most part, don't think holistically. That is, we generally think about things or events in isolation rather than as being part of a larger or smaller whole. Instead, we must learn to think of things, such as PIR, as being related to other things or wholes, smaller and larger. We must learn to think holistically in our PIR development, collection planning, analysis, synthesis, and prediction to provide useful information on the modern battlefield. More specifically, we haven't synthesized the collection problem into a whole. Since the battlefield is a whole that we can break into discernible chunks for ease of understanding and management, the collection problem has to focus on the whole and its discernible chunks too. From the commander's vision and concept come information gaps. The gaps represent part of a battlefield whole. The intelligence system's role is to satisfy the information requirements, reduce the gap, and understand the whole.

6. The ideal state. In a perfect world, intelligence professionals want several characteristics to describe collection and analysis systems.

7. The hard part. We can accomplish the above with lots of mental work and practice through extensive training. But when collection agencies receive their tasks, the truly difficult part of the process begins.

8. Related attempt to help taken from theory and put into practice. A little over two years ago I wrote an article proposing analytical and collection processes for satisfying commander's PIR for Military Intelligence magazine (January-March 1992 issue). We used the process to drill collection management execution in UFL. We found a break in flow (thinking and tasking) attributable primarily to three reasons.

Ideally, we've concluded very flat, no-boundary, matrix organizations and groups would work best for thinking about and collecting to satisfy priority intelligence requirements. We believe ASAS can help us in the mechanical process of fusing, which is to my way of thinking, an aid in the mental process of synthesis and tracking bits and pieces of information. Also, I believe human beings use only 10-15% of intellectual capacity but that we can get another 5% through good training and education. We're working the issues here and trying to inculcate what we learn into the fabric of the organization.

9. What MI can do. Doctrinally, the links among IPB, attack-guidance matrix, collection management, and analysis/synthesis are somewhat weak. We should have built a more obvious and stronger case for these relationships in FM 34-1. I haven't reviewed the draft manual on analysis/synthesis nor collection management and synchronization, but hope we have articulated a powerful, easy-to-understand relationship. I also believe those who manage collection assets don't understand the importance of good analysis, synthesis, and theory of wholes and that we don't do a good enough job in asking the customers who receive our information if it meets their requirements. We must do better. Along with answering the mail, so to speak, we must help commanders realize what our collection and information systems can and can't do. We believe there's a fine balance between what we must do to ensure we meet our customer's information requirements and educate them on the limits of technology. We don't want to exaggerate a capability or imply a widget can do something more than possible but also don't want to downplay the capabilities of widgets because we haven't figured out how to use them.

10. Abstractness of our approach. We realize the abstractness of a holistic theory of the battlefield and intelligence collection, thinking about wholes, and thinking through synthesis. Nonetheless, we still believe these notions accurately portray our environment and our universe. Our movement into the future, let alone our credibility as a BOS, depends on adapting our way of thinking to what the information age so vividly implies. With hard mental work, collection managers and analysts can understand and use such processes. We must work together to repair our collection and analytical linkages with the commander's PIR -- you from the training institution, and we from the field. ASAS can help with strengthening the nexus among collection management, analysis/synthesis, IPB -- attack-guidance matrix/DST. Systemically, we don't believe we should ever separate analysts from collection folks. If I had my way, they would sit side by side in a symbiotic relationship like Siamese twins.

11. Conclusion. Thank you for asking us to think about this issue. The experience has helped us think better and it also helped us improve the way we operate today. I'm not totally comfortable with the way we go about some of the processes of our business. PIR indicator analysis and collection to satisfy those PIR are two I'm particularly worried about. I've worked on the problem over the years, dabbled here and there, won some, lost most efforts to fix or repair in my lane. Regardless, I believe I'm correct in what I've discussed as a possible approach and a way to nudge our thinking into the next century. We have a plan to work the issue but certainly need your help from three perspectives.

The bottom line is that if we can't show MI's mission relates to commanders' information requirements, concept of operations, and center of gravity analyses -- PIRs -- we could become irrelevant. This is a danger the entire intelligence community has been discussing. Our very real need is to ensure that what we do relates to what our consumers want. In the case of Army intelligence, all of us must work hard to show an audit trail to PIRs and produce information useful to commanders. We wanted to provide our thoughts on PIR since you mentioned it during your visit. I look forward to hearing from you; we want to fix the problem and get on to other issues. This specific issue, though, is fundamental to our profession essence and thus deserves our serious thinking.