The U.S. Army is preparing to expand its intelligence workforce
by as many as 15,000 officers during the next several years.
The move, which is intended to provide field commanders with on-the-spot
intelligence, not only will require additional manpower, but also
a sweeping overhaul of Army training and education programs that
were fashioned for the Cold War.
With intelligence units now deployed on average one year out of
two, the stress is taking a toll on the force, said Lt. Col. Stephen
Iwicki, Army deputy director for actionable intelligence. “Retention
is falling in high-optempo units,” he said in an interview.
Battalion intelligence staffs in Iraq have doubled in recent months,
from four or five analysts to 10.
The number of soldiers and officers assigned to brigade intelligence
staffs is expected to soar from 51,000 today to 66,000 by 2011,
as the Army reorganizes its 10 divisions into 43 self-sustaining
“modular” brigades. The largest increase, of about 9,000,
will be in the ranks of “humint,” or human intelligence
specialists, who rely on their own wits and knowledge of the local
culture to identify the enemy, rather than on information collected
by sensing devices.
Other occupations forecast to grow in demand are unmanned aircraft
operators, electronic signals intelligence specialists and data
analysts, said Iwicki.
Cuts to intelligence budgets following the end of the Cold War
and outdated training programs left the Army ill equipped to contend
with “irregular” enemies such as the insurgent guerillas
it is fighting in Iraq, Iwicki noted.
During the past two years, the Army has launched a number of efforts
that are aimed at making up for gaping holes in intelligence training,
he added. A case in point is the upcoming opening of the University
of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
The program will cover three major areas: cultural awareness, red
teaming (learning how to think like the enemy) and open-source intelligence
Red-teaming courses will start in October and will last 18 weeks,
Iwicki said. The Army funded two courses a year and is setting up
a distance-learning curriculum as well. Non-Army participants will
be allowed a small percentage of the slots available, he said.
The ultimate goal, set by Gen. Peter Schoomaker, Army chief of
staff, is to have a red-team trained officer in each brigade staff.
It will take at least four to five years to get there, Iwicki said.
Each team will have about 20 people.
To assist U.S. commanders in Iraq, meanwhile, the Army Intelligence
and Security Command assigned four groups of experts, known as “tactical
over-watch” teams, to become a sort of 911 service for troops
in the field, Iwicki said. Each team of about 20 includes uniformed
Army personnel, intelligence civilians and contractors. The 3rd
Infantry Division has been testing the concept since August. “They
provide relevant tactical support 24 hours a day,” Iwicki
said. “The 3rd ID is happy with the support.”
In creating these teams, the Army is recognizing that, with limited
access to classified intelligence, commanders in Iraq have become
dependent on information that is collected and scrutinized by analysts
working from secret facilities in the United States.
Although tactical commanders are benefiting from improved information
systems that they control from the battlefield, such as mapping
technologies and imagery databases, they rely on analysts based
in Fort Belvoir, Va., to provide sensitive intelligence that only
is available on classified networks.
In acknowledgment that the intelligence available to U.S. forces
often can be inadequate, Stephen Cambone, the undersecretary of
defense for intelligence, recently approved the opening of a joint
intelligence operations center that is scheduled to be up and running
in Iraq this summer.
The center will be responsible for “collaborative intelligence
analysis,” Iwicki said. “We need to get everyone working
on a common network … down to the battalion command post level.”
In a dispersed battlefield such as Iraq, it is not enough for commanders
to know what is happening in the area they oversee. They also need
a broader picture of what’s taking place elsewhere in the
country, Iwicki said. To make it easier for soldiers to report information
during patrols or other reconnaissance missions, the Army plans
to field 1,000 handheld computers, known as “commander’s
The Army purchased 75 prototype CDAs last fall, and sent them to
Iraq. But soldiers found that the devices were not rugged enough,
nor were they as useful as they could be, Iwicki said. “The
beta version was working OK, but we found another system that was
better, with better capabilities.” The prototype CDA, made
by General Dynamics Corp., will be replaced by a new version—a
commercial handheld computer called Tacticomp, made by Inter-4 Corporation.
The new system will be in production in June.
“We plan to buy 1,000 to make it available at the platoon
level,” Iwicki said. “It’s a more rugged box.”
Unlike the earlier CDAs, which are equipped with individual satellite
communications antennas, the Tacticomp devices are grouped in a
wireless local-area network, which makes them more functional for
small units. In an area covered by a platoon, for example, most
of the devices are wireless and talk to a master switch, which has
a satellite communications capability, Iwicki explained. “It’s
a better system overall.”
Tacticomp already is being employed by the U.S. Special Operations
Command. Under a project called “Pathfinder,” SOCOM
funded a prototype intelligence network that feeds video from loitering
small unmanned aircraft—called Raven—down to company
commanders, platoon leaders and platoon sergeants equipped with
the handheld computers. Adam Fields, a senior Army engineer who
worked on Pathfinder, said that, during a recent exercise at Fort
Benning, Ga., commandos touted the utility of a wireless network
that also is rapidly deployable.
The Army intends to purchase one Tacticomp for every platoon, Iwicki
said. There are nine platoons in each combat battalion, “so
every time the platoon goes out on patrol, they have a CDA,”
he said. A larger, tablet version stays in the command post.
The next step is to make sense out of the data. While analysts
process reams of intelligence, that information is not always useful
or comprehensible to tactical commanders. “Fusion is our biggest
technology risk,” said Collin Agee, director of Army intelligence,
surveillance, and reconnaissance.
Simply stated, fusion is about taking pieces of information and
“putting the puzzle together,” Iwicki said. “The
challenge is that there is too much data,” which is both good
and bad news. “We want more information, but we need better
tools to manage it.”
Army analysts have met some degree of success with XML tagging
technology, which works like Google. “Fusion has been a challenge
for years,” Iwicki said. And things are likely to get worse
as the Army moves toward fielding the Future Combat Systems, a complex
network of vehicles and sensors. An internal study showed that each
FCS brigade will cough up 178,000 reports in a single mission. The
Army has yet to come to grips with how to merge that information,
he said. “It’s complex.”
Another area where intelligence has proved unsatisfactory is urban
reconnaissance, Agee told a defense industry gathering in Arlington,
“We are starting to study that very hard,” Iwicki said.
Army doctrine for decades has been wedded to the notion that commanders
will bypass a city, surround it and wait the enemy out. “We
know we can’t do that any more,” he said.
Also complicating matters for intelligence analysts is the shortage
of reliable translators.
“We are overwhelmed by the translation challenges in Iraq,”
One option the Army is contemplating is to set up a “1-800-linguist”
hotline that would make a pool of Arabic linguists in the United
States available for translation services, Iwicki said.
Many of the translation problems, he explained, result from a lack
of understanding of the culture. In Arabic, for example, there are
more than 20 ways to spell Mohammed. An intelligence analyst trying
to gather information on a certain Mohammed would query a database
and get 2,300 hits, but more than 28,000 hits if all the different
spellings are included.
Underpinning the Army’s strategy to give commanders more
useful information about the enemy is to train every soldier to
be a better observer and reporter, Iwicki noted.
The Defense Department has spent billions of dollars over several
decades developing smart munitions that can hit targets with pinpoint
precision, but has not focused on turning “soldiers into sensors,”
and teaching them intelligence gathering and reporting skills, he
added. “We also have to train commanders on how better to
communicate requirements to soldiers, and not just hand them a list.”
The Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth is in charge of developing
an “every soldier a sensor” training program, Iwicki
said. “Every school will teach that, from basic training on.”
Part of what makes soldiers valuable intelligence collectors in
Iraq is their ability to gain the trust of the locals, noted Sen.
Carl Levin, D-Mich., ranking minority member of the Senate Armed
Upon returning from a recent visit to Iraq, Levin said that, based
on conversations with commanders, he concluded that even though
the insurgents employ shrewd tactics, troops generally “feel
a lot better about their capability to gather intelligence,”
because there is “greater willingness on the part of the community,
including the [formerly pro-Saddam] Sunnis, to come forward with