Intelligence Support for Military Operations

By Garlauskas, Markus V. | Joint Force Quarterly, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview

Intelligence Support for Military Operations


Garlauskas, Markus V., Joint Force Quarterly


Joint operations will demand an unprecedented level of intelligence support in the future. Like other aspects of jointness, this asset will not only require improvement but transformation. Moreover, it will require more than keeping ahead of potential enemies. If the obstructive patterns found in the system are not overcome, the gap between needs and capabilities could compromise the ability of the joint force to successfully conduct a full range of operations.

Statements by various proponents of intelligence support have created great expectations. The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) identified exploiting intelligence advantages as one of the four pillars of military transformation. Senior leaders and defense specialists anticipate that commanders will be able to receive markedly faster and more detailed intelligence on a situation, which is known as information superiority. Joint Vision 2020 states that information superiority is fundamental to achieving the necessary capabilities. Thus it is vital to examine the challenges to making that vision a reality.

The Armed Forces must assume a central role in transforming intelligence. An increased reliance on national intelligence agencies has denied control to commanders and limited input by fielded forces. Those leaders responsible for transformation must establish realistic expectations for future support based on the resources provided. In the past, military expectations have been exaggerated given the means at hand, setting the stage for failure. Moreover, transformation must create an anticipatory support system, which is prepared both geographically and functionally for various missions. Intelligence often does not adequately support military operations other than war or deployments to unexpected environments. Finally, institutional inertia must be overcome. The necessary changes can be made, but time is running out. Transformation is continuing, and expectations for support are increasing daily.

The Military Role

Some regard transforming intelligence as synonymous with military transformation, with the same dynamics, goals, and characteristics. Because of this mistaken belief, many proponents of military transformation expect the intelligence community to lead the way in the evolution of intelligence support. As Admiral William Owens, USN (Ret.), a former Vice Chairman, viewed the situation, "The U.S. intelligence community must either seek to lead and promote the on-going transformation of the military or bear much of the responsibility for a U.S. failure to seize the opportunities provided by our lead in military technologies." (1)

This approach must change or the Armed Forces may be left without intelligence support to meet their needs. National intelligence agencies--which are neither commands nor part of the military intelligence apparatus--have various customers, interests, and priorities beyond direct support to joint operations. In addition, as the National Reconnaissance Office has reported, "[A support] system designed by intelligence experts, rather than military operators, would most likely be based on the information that can be provided, and it could be ignorant of what information is actually needed for operational decisionmaking." (2)

Since the Cold War, commands have sought intelligence from outside their organizations to an unprecedented degree. Intelligence staffs on the tactical level derive limited benefit from intelligence that originates in higher headquarters because senior-level staffs increasingly turn to agencies on the national level to meet the demands of their commanders.

This change was accelerated by the Persian Gulf War. The massive requirements of the air campaign led U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) to depend on the national agencies for an unparalleled level of support. National agencies offered considerable intelligence resources, but the results were less than satisfactory.

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Intelligence Support for Military Operations
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