Directing Intelligence Operations III

The G2's Intelligence Synchronization Plan

by Major John F. Lady

Editor's Note: See the July-September 1995 issue of the Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin for Directing Intelligence Operations I and II.
Intelligence synchronization first established itself as a useful technique in 1991 during Operation DESERT STORM when the G2, Third U.S. Army, employed it with great success.1 Intelligence synchronization first appeared in Army intelligence and electronic warfare (IEW) doctrine in 1992 with the publication of FM 34-8, Combat Commander's Handbook on Intelligence. This idea did not receive much doctrinal emphasis, however, until FM 34-1, Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Operations, and FM 34-2, Collection Management and Synchronization Planning, in 1994. These manuals introduced intelligence synchronization and related terms like the intelligence synchronization matrix (ISM). Unfortunately, these manuals have focused primarily on a by-product, the ISM, without explaining the planning process that must precede an ISM. Effective intelligence synchronization requires the G2 to develop and execute a synchronization plan.2
How well does the Army conduct intelligence synchronization? Former Chief of Staff General Gordon R. Sullivan (Retired), delivered this indictment in September 1992, "We often fail to follow up on PIR, leaving key intelligence questions unanswered."3 Although he wrote these words before the 1994 manuals appeared, three years of Battle Command Training Program (BCTP) Warfighter Exercise (WFX) observations confirm his comment's continuing relevance. Only the effective application of intelligence synchronization planning will render General Sullivan's comment forever obsolete.

Defining Synchronization

Intelligence synchronization contains both a purpose (to support decisionmaking) and a product (the delivered answer). FM 34-2 provides this definition on page 2-4, "Intelligence synchronization is the process that ensures the intelligence system provides answers to intelligence requirements in time to influence the decisions they support." The G2 synchronizes the intelligence effort to provide tailored products that satisfy priority intelligence requirements (PIR)4 by the commander's suspense.
The intelligence synchronization process describes the method by which the G2 satisfies individual intelligence requirements. While it requires actions in each step of the intelligence cycle, it does not replace the cycle. The G2 normally will employ a phased approach to intelligence synchronization (see Figure 1). For PIR 1, he may be executing step five of the intelligence cycle (disseminate). For PIR 3, the effort may be focusing on step one (plan and direct). The G2 should not expect to operate concurrently in the same step of the intelligence cycle for all PIR. The decisions that the decision points (DPs) support typically require products at different times.
Just as intelligence synchronization includes a purpose and a product, it excludes several ideas. As FM 34-130, Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield, states, intelligence synchronization "is more than simply ensuring that collection systems of various sorts are operating 24 hours a day."5 Intelligence synchronization is more than a trendy phrase. It orchestrates the action of each G2 element and supporting IEW assets to provide required products in the specified timeframe. It comprises the very core of the G2's role in the unit.

Developing the Plan

The intelligence synchronization plan describes how the G2 will satisfy a single intelligence requirement. Each PIR requires a separate intelligence synchronization plan. An information requirement supporting a decision may also require an intelligence synchronization plan.
The G2's intelligence synchronization plan must consider all five steps of the intelligence cycle. However, the G2's intelligence synchronization plan need not address tasks for those steps done outside the section. The following paragraphs address those steps applicable to the G2's intelligence synchronization planning process. Figure 2 is an example of an intelligence synchronization plan worksheet.
The commander must drive intelligence synchronization. Without his involvement in the process, the intelligence synchronization effort will probably fail. He accomplishes this vital task in two ways:
The commander explains the required intelligence by specifying the scope he wants in the report. This guidance may include these categories: geographic area, specific units, types of units, anticipated events, or other relevant factors. Additionally, he may limit the length of the report.
If possible, the commander also states the time at which he expects to make his decision. He should specify how old the intelligence can be before it no longer supports his decisionmaking needs. He also should say whether he wants interim updates (and, if so, when) or everything in one report.
Before stating how he wishes to receive the intelligence, the commander should consider both the product format and his location at the anticipated time of receipt. Does he require a verbal report, a written report, a graphic product, or some combination of the three? Does he want anyone else to receive the same report? His expected location at the time of decision will also influence the format of the report. If he expects to be away from a command post when making his decision, for example, he should require a verbal report.
These requirements of the commander might appear formidable, particularly under the time pressures that usually accompany tactical operations. Yet, intelligence synchronization is for the commander. It describes the process by which the G2 gives him the intelligence he needs, when he needs it, and in the form that he will find most useful. There is, therefore, no substitute for the commander's involvement. The commander may find it wise to establish a standing operating procedure (SOP) which formalizes his requirements. Likewise, the aggressive G2 should anticipate and recommend as many components of this guidance as possible.
The G2 completes the intelligence synchronization plan based on the commander's requirements. Essential planning tasks include-
The intelligence synchronization plan details the steps necessary to deliver the required intelligence on time to support the DP. To quote FM 34-1, "The plan includes the collection, processing, and dissemination required to support each intelligence requirement."7
Ideally, the G2 will have already recommended the PIR during wargaming and has obtained the commander's approval. If not, the G2 must accomplish this task first. Rapid approval of PIR facilitates equally rapid indicator, SIR, and collection plan development.
The ACE chief begins his part of the intelligence synchronization process by identifying resources to accomplish the task. How many analysts must develop the products? If automation systems are available, how many must support answering this PIR?
The designated analyst then develops indicators and SIRs that he expects to answer the PIR. If the unit has automation systems, SIRs form the basis for event alarms to alert the analyst to key incoming reports. The ACE collection manager also uses those SIRs to develop the collection plan. He should attach a number to each SIR8 when converting it to a specific order or request (SOR) for collection tasking. This step highlights the significance of incoming reports for processing.
The collection manager begins to develop the collection plan for the PIR by evaluating assets. Which assets are available? Based on the commander's suspenses, which of those assets could receive tasking, collect, and report soon enough for the ACE to conduct analysis and prepare the product in time? Based on this evaluation, the collection manager selects the best assets to conduct the mission.
While deciding which assets to task, the collection manager develops the ISM. The ISM serves as the tool by which staff officers confirm intelligence support to the commander's decisionmaking requirements and plans when to provide reports. The ISM, as depicted in Figure 3, should contain the following elements:
Each ISM should address only one PIR. It should depict relevant collection assets which the collection manager has tasked or requested to answer the PIR on the matrix. The ACE collection manager may show how the assets are tasked by listing the SIR numbers tasked or requested from each asset, or by showing how many SORs he has sent to the asset.
Typical problems observed in ISMs during BCTP WFXs center around the lack of linkage between the collection assets and the PIR portrayed. This lack manifests itself in several ways:
The G2 should obtain the commander's approval of the collection plan as soon as it is complete. While obtaining this approval, the collection manager should discuss any collection requirements that non-organic collection assets or organizations must satisfy. The commander thus becomes aware in a timely manner of critical gaps in the collection. He can then fight for essential support from non-organic assets that higher echelons have denied through routine request channels. The commander's approval then frees the ACE collection manager to task or request collection.
If the commander approves the collection plan, the G2 should also seek his approval of the intelligence synchronization plan. In this manner, the G2 backbriefs the commander on his plan to provide intelligence products in support of the commander's decisionmaking requirements. Intelligence synchronization planning now becomes execution.

Executing the Plan

Only the senior G2 officer on duty (G2 Operations or ACE chief) should supervise execution of the intelligence synchronization plan. The ACE collection manager is probably best suited to prepare the synchronization plan. However, the G2 should not require him to supervise the plan's execution. The collection manager is not the best person to supervise synchronization execution because the intelligence synchronization plan requires contributions from soldiers outside the collection management "shop." Consistent BCTP WFX observations have revealed that when the collection manager supervises its execution, the intelligence synchronization effort normally ends with the SOR.
After the collection manager submits the SOR, ACE analysts monitor incoming reports. Collection assets greatly facilitate report processing if they have attached SIR numbers to each outgoing report. If the ACE lacks automation systems with an event alarm capability, SIR numbers become the best means by which to identify reports relevant to the intelligence synchronization plan (and thus require expeditious handling).
The commander's guidance has described how and when to produce intelligence reports. The G2 must decide who will approve and release those reports. Can the senior person on duty send the report to the commanding general or must the G2 personally approve the report?
As the time for dissemination approaches, someone must confirm the commander's location and the means of dissemination. The plan's dissemination component must address who will give the report to the commanding general, particularly if he is not at the main command post. Nothing short of a personal delivery will suffice. If the commander desires multiple reports, then the production and dissemination steps become interwoven. Each report requires a verification of receipt.
Who else should receive a copy of the report given to the commanding general? Perhaps the unit SOP should require transmission of a warning order to units affected by the commander's decision. This order would review the status of the decision under consideration and provide the associated intelligence report.
Once the G2 provides information to the decisionmaker and satisfies the PIR, that particular intelligence synchronization plan has run its course. The collection manager now must update the collection plan, and delete those taskings associated with the satisfied PIR, in order to refocus affected assets on unsatisfied requirements. The G2 must learn if the commander approved any new DPs that will require intelligence synchronization support.


The process of intelligence synchronization begins with the commander's PIR to support decisionmaking. This synchronization effort matures into a plan that coordinates G2 and ACE activities within a stated timeframe. The plan concludes with one or more products to answer the supported PIR. The ISM should play a useful role in the process but never divert the G2's focus from production that will meet the commander's information needs.
Army doctrine has embraced the intelligence synchronization process. This process requires a plan. Without an effective intelligence synchronization plan, timely answers to PIR will elude decisionmakers. As we grapple with and solve the challenges of the intelligence synchronization plan, we will achieve new levels of performance in providing timely intelligence support to the commander.

The author gratefully acknowledges the helpful insights of Major Kenneth Watras and Chief Warrant Officer Three Joseph Okabayashi in developing this article.

1. Brigadier General John F. Stewart, Jr., "Operation DESERT STORM, The Military Intelligence Story: A View from the G2, 3d U.S. Army," April 1991.
2. For insight into synchronization planning from the collector's viewpoint, see Captain Timothy J. Moynihan's "MI Battalion Synchronization Matrix: Tactical Tool for the Commander and Staff," Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin, Vol.19, No. 1, January-March 1993, 38-41.
3. General Gordon R. Sullivan, "Delivering Decisive Victory: Improving Synchronization." Military Review, Vol. LXXII, No. 9, September 1992, 8.
4. The G2 may employ intelligence synchronization to answer information requirements whenever those answers are required at particular times. I have emphasized PIR in this article by choice.
5. FM 34-130, Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield, 8 July 1994, 1-11.
6. FM 34-1, Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Operations, 27 September 1994, 2-17.
7. Ibid, 2-20.
8. FM 34-2, Collection Management and Intelligence Synchronization Planning, 8 March 1994, 3-26.
Major Lady is the Senior Intelligence Observer and Controller for Operations Group A, BCTP. Readers can reach him at (913) 684-9929/9820 or DSN 552-9929/9820.