The Army is creating a database for U.S. commanders in Iraq to
archive and distribute intelligence on suspected insurgents.
absence of a consolidated database of information on alleged insurgents—such
as their biometrics and personal backgrounds—has hampered
efforts to accurately identify and arrest terrorist suspects, officials
“We need to enhance our intelligence capabilities,”
said Lynn Schnurr, technical advisor to the Army deputy chief of
staff for intelligence.
In January, the Army will begin deploying a “joint intelligence
operations capability” in Iraq, Schnurr said. The JIOC will
consist of a web-based catalog of information that soldiers at the
battalion level can access from high-speed workstations.
One reason why U.S. troops have not been able to substantially
weaken the insurgency in Iraq is that they don’t have a good
grasp of the identity of the individuals they capture, Schnurr said
in an interview.
“This fight we are in is really about individuals …
knowing who these individuals are … tying them to events and
to whom they are associated,” she added. U.S. soldiers in
Iraq are fighting a war, but are also doing police work. “Intelligence
work in Iraq is about conducting criminal investigations.”
Schnurr is leading a project dubbed “Every Soldier a Sensor,”
which focuses on making soldiers more aware of the value of the
information they collect in daily raids and patrols, and the need
to feed that information into a central database. “Today,
we have a lot of good data, but it’s echelon focused—not
To facilitate the flow of information into the database, the Army
will supply intelligence units and tactical commanders in Iraq with
handheld computers. Up to 500 Tacticomp personal digital assistants
will be shipped this fall, said Schnurr. Soldiers will be able to
send text, voice and video directly into the JIOC database, where
the information will be analyzed and disseminated throughout the
theater of operations. The Army plans to buy as many as 1,000 handhelds,
which cost about $11,000 each.
The PDA will have a “bio-cam” plug-in device so when
a soldier comes across a suspect, he can take a picture of his face,
fingerprint him and send the information to the JIOC database via
satellite, said Schnurr. “It’s critical to have biometrics
on these individuals.” Visual identification is unreliable
because suspects often change their appearance dramatically, as
well as their names, she said. “If you look at the picture,
he doesn’t look like the same guy” who may have been
captured before and released because there was no recorded evidence
of any previous criminal activity.
“The ability to network all our sensors and provide every
unit better access to all reporting can revolutionize the way we
view the battlefield,” said Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top
U.S. commander in the Middle East, in an April 2005 statement.
In a war such as Iraq, however, these high-tech solutions are not
the answer, asserted Daniel Gouré, senior military analyst
at the Lexington Institute, a defense industry think tank in Arlington,
“This is the misapplication of Western post-industrial technology
to a Middle Eastern pre-industrial setting,” he said. A project
of this caliber is going to make contractors lots of money but it
is questionable whether it will help beat back the insurgency, Gouré
Iraq is a true “two-block” war, where the makeup of
the enemy and the conditions change from one section of the country
to another, Gouré said. A central database is, theoretically,
a good idea, but it’s not likely to accomplish much, he asserted.
Army Lt. Col. Yvette Hopkins, who served as an intelligence officer
in Iraq, said the JIOC is a much-needed tool, particularly at the
The JIOC will help keep soldiers informed, she told National Defense.
“Now, the information has to go through multiple echelons.
With JIOC, the soldier is alerted directly.” But that doesn’t
mean that soldiers should be overwhelmed by loads of data, she cautioned.
“Although I’m increasingly surprised by how much information
these young soldiers can keep in their brains.”
Hopkins, who is now Army deputy director for actionable intelligence,
said the war has prompted changes in the way the Army organizes
and trains intelligence units.
The service will be adding 9,000 troops to its current intelligence
force of 45,000, she said. They include a mix of active-duty, reserve,
and National Guard officers and soldiers.
“We’ll beef up the battalion intelligence shops,”
said Hopkins. “That’s where the fight is happening,
at the battalion, company and platoon levels.”
Intelligence units also will train and deploy with operational
units rather than in isolation, said Hopkins.
The Army Intelligence School at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., will offer
culture-specific training to units preparing to deploy to Iraq.
“We are teaching leaders to be more culturally and linguistically
aware,” said Hopkins.
While the Army continues to fine-tune plans for intelligence reforms,
commanders in Iraq increasingly have become convinced that the most
valuable intelligence is likely to come from Iraqi troops who receive
tips from the locals.
Army Maj. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, commander of multinational force
northwest, in Iraq, said last month that troops in his area were
seeing a slight decrease in improvised bomb attacks partly because
they were getting better intelligence.
“We continue to get a large number of tips from the Iraqi
people to help us discover them [improvised explosive devices] and
get the word when they’re putting them in,” Rodriguez
told reporters. Troops under his command have seen IEDs go down
in number as well as in sophistication, he said. “For example,
there have not been as many buried and camouflaged, covered or concealed
as had been in the past.”