Fixing Intel

Yep, you better believe it’s broken alright…

Neptunus Lex has comment on the recent paper by Major General Michael T. Flynn, the Deputy Chief of Staff, Intelligence (CJ2), for ISAF since June 2009, entitled Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan. My comments on Lex are below:

…A good grasp of the specific operating environment is a requirement for anyone in or supporting the theatre, not just the intel crews…Iraq is not Afghanistan is not East Timor is not Sierra Leone – it’s way more complex than the good old days of the Cold War and the Fulda Gap (those who remain enamoured of small maps, big arrows, and linear plans being known as Gapists) and I just wonder if intel training and doctrine has actually caught up? The reason I ask, is that this is not the first time this particular gripe has come up, and I also wonder if we are making sure that we have the right people filling the intel slots i.e. intel is not being used as a drop off area for those who have issues elsewhere? This whole thing of cultural awareness is not new and it should be as embedded in mission prep training as tactics and blowing stuff up…

I went home for Christmas and my Mum had boxed up a bunch of my old books to take home with us. I was sorting through them with my brother-in-law and he pulled out what I had always thought (for decades) was just an old social studies text book on Libya and Tunisia – until he had a look at the inside cover and found that it had been produced by 2 NZEF before they helped kick Rommel out of North Africa. Apparently the production and distribution of such publications within the div was SOP back then – EVEN IN A CONVENTIONAL CONFLICT…so have we lost something along the way in the succeeding 65 years…? I know that both the US Army and Marines have produced theatre-specific cultural awareness publications for Iraq and Afghanistan but it seems from Flynn paper the general awareness of the theatre still isn’t there.

When we reviewed COIN doctrine a couple of years back, one of the insights that leapt out of the findings was that the COE required fusion of far more disparate information from a far broader and disparate range of sources than ever contemplated for conventional high intensity conflict e.g. the Fulda Gap. Unfortunately, under the current structures, the responsibility (and blame) still comes down upon the 2 community for information planning, fusion, interpretation and dissemination and maybe this is what we have to change…? Maybe we all need to get into the 2 game a little more…?…

I’m not sure if it is gratifying or simply sad that this war has been going on for over eight years and this penny is only dropping now…Part of the issue is trust – we like the old hierarchical information systems because they are safe and comfortable and each level add another layer of security but they are also too slow and unresponsive for what we face today. We talk and talk and talk about empowering commanders at the lowest levels to make decisions and get on with the job but then we repeatedly scrimp on the training necessary to develop these skills.

Another issue is ownership – some people don’t like sharing, because knowledge is power and/or because if decisions based on their information go wrong, it might be their fault – is that how that nutcase got to be on a Delta flight on Christmas Day? Well, welcome to the big time…this is it…this is war whether we like it or not and the time for playing silly office games is over.

The last issue for this morning’s rant is accepting that times change and that we need to change with them – if not change may happen around or over us…yes it is possible that Putin might run amok and send Third Shock Army streaming across the German Plains towards the Fulda Gap – in which case the Gapists should have just enough time to scream “told you so!” before the juggernaut rolls over them – but that’s probably not very likely…more likely is that the current mess operating environment will remain much the same for the next decade or so at least and THAT is what we need to be configuring ourselves for now: getting to grips with the realities of dealing with complexity and uncertainty because they are here to stay…

5 thoughts on “Fixing Intel

    • Another great site that was killed off in a fit of bringing everything back inside the wire. The lesson, I think, is always to squirrel away your own copies of any online information that is special to you.


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  3. I’ve sadly removed the link to Neptunus Lex’ website that opens this post. After Lex died in 2012, no one had admin access to the site and it was closed down by the hosting service. Fortunately some of Lex’s post has been recovered through the Wayback machine and these are published here @ The Lexicans


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