Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

An Evolution in Intelligence Doctrine

Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

An Evolution in Intelligence Doctrine

Article excerpt

The Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Mission Type Order

Every day, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets complete a variety of missions but not necessarily in an effective way. Over the past several years, the Department of Defense rapidly expanded ISR assets and missions, responding to a directive of 2008 from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that established the department's ISR Task Force and commissioned it "to provide resources needed now on the battlefield" as a means of keeping US forces safe worldwide.1 Although quick to field ISR platforms like the MC-12, with its heavily used full-motion video capability, the task force does little to address inadequate collection-management processes that hinder timely and relevant ISR operations.2 However, over the past several years, the Air Force's ISR operators developed the ISR mission type order (MTO) to overcome impractical and constrictive tasking procedures rooted in doctrine and inflexible theater guidelines that detract from the gains in hardware. As articulated by joint leaders of the past and present, predominant collection-management processes ignore the fluidity of asymmetric operational environments filled with "enemies who are adaptive, decentralized and able to hide in plain sight."3 The ISR MTO, a more flexible alternative to the traditional ISR tasking method, is a proven and effective corollary to the traditional process, providing timely and relevant collection to supported units while offering higher headquarters (HHQ) flexibility in the application of scarce ISR assets.4 The Air Force must ensure that both service doctrine and joint doctrine, as well as current tactics, techniques, and procedures, continue to reflect the benefits of undiluted, layered, and responsive ISR operations offered by MTOs.

Doctrine: The Heart of the Collection-Management Problem

The traditional collection-management system suffers from two primary shortcomings: (1) collection requirements management, the authority to determine what the ISR assets will collect, based on priority, and (2) collection operations management, the authority to determine which assets will collect requirements and how they will collect those having priority.5 Rooted in joint doctrine from 1996, execution of these two management authorities under the traditional tasking process strangles innovative and effective ISR operations.6

For example, in Operation Enduring Freedom, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Joint Command (UC) exercises collection requirements management while Air Forces Central, under the combined force air component commander (CFACC) exercises collection operations management.7 The IJC prioritizes thousands of requirements garnered from subordinate organizations and matches them to assets already at its disposal. If the command cannot meet internal requirements with "organic" ISR assets, it submits priority items to the CFACC for theater-level airborne ISR collection.8 Until recently, the CFACC's execution of collection operations management drew criticism because tasking and collection for theater-level ISR did not supply the timeliness and relevance needed by supported ground commanders.9 But collection management starts with requirements, thus implicating both parties- and not simply for theater-level ISR operations.

Traditional joint ISR tasking doctrine calls for ranking all of the collection requirements.10 Consequently, the IJC and its subordinate organizations, as well as the CFACC staffs, create numerical ranking systems associating specific numbers with individual requirements nominated for collection by theater ISR assets.11 Collection managers use these priority numbers (e.g., 100, 200, etc., from higher to lower priority) to match needs with ISR assets. For instance, on a list of 1,000 collection requests, the top 200 may consist of "priority-100 targets," usually the first to have assets assigned to them. …

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