The Military Intelligence Vision for the XXI Century

by Major General Charles W. Thomas with Captain Cary C. Harbaugh

The 21st century brings with it new challenges and changes in the nature of warfare that precipitate a shift in how we do business in military intelligence (MI). It is our charter as the MI proponent of the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) to prepare for the future and develop systems, train personnel, and define the direction that MI must take to answer future battle requirements. In the field, the Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) units, corps MI brigades, divisional MI battalions, and others provide input to the process. The result is the MI vision. The vision becomes the focus for the future, and though it is the product of a thorough process, it is dynamic and therefore ever-changing. As with any process in the Army, we developed a mission (vision) statement to grasp the Army leadership's intent and from that blossomed the concepts behind it. The vision statement for Intelligence XXI reads:
To provide the Ground Component Commander, in a Joint environment, with a knowledge based, prediction oriented Intelligence system, supporting the commander driven requirements of an information age Power Projection Army (Force XXI) capable of land force dominance across the continuum of 21st Century military operations. At the center of this vision are quality soldiers, leaders, and civilians soldiers, leaders, and civilians whose potential is more closely realized by Information Technology assisting in the collection, production and the presentation of Intelligence, providing the Commander with an understanding of the battlefield, or environment of military operations, and the ability to dominate information.
We should look at this statement from a pyramid perspective. Figure 1 displays this pyramid graphically.
We have come a long way in how we present intelligence. Today, with greater access to efficient automation tools, we are capable of putting together clear, easily digested presentations that capture what the commander needs to know. This has not always been true. For years, S2s and G2s briefed the intelligence estimate in long form while standing in front of a series of acetate overlays with pointer in hand. The method was cumbersome and often left commanders without real understanding. It is key to success on the 21st century battlefield that our presentations be something that commanders can rapidly assimilate, and that influences the decisions they make.

Genesis of the Vision

The guiding doctrine behind the Intel XXI vision is TRADOC Pamphlet 525-5, Force XXI Operations. This document is the doctrinal articulation of the Chief of Staff of the Army's vision for the 21st century force. This guidance, coupled with the Army's Modernization Objectives, served as the basis for a series of MI conferences that included members of academia, industry, and senior intelligence experts. Their input was forwarded to the Army's MI commanders in last year's Worldwide Intelligence Conference. The results of this effort, combined with major command and field input, produced an Experimentation Plan that the Army is using as the test bed for new concepts and systems. Also, the Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (DCSINT), INSCOM, and the Intelligence Center published a combined publication (Intel XXI) to promote the vision and provide the needed focus to the Army Intelligence Master Plan (AIMP). The AIMP along with experiments, demonstrations and exercises serves as the implementation vehicle for the intelligence vision.

Force XXI Requirements

TRADOC Pamphlet 525-5 identifies five fundamental requirements for Force XXI: battle command, extended battlespace dominance, information dominance, force projection, and operational flexibility. Let me address the MI vision through the lens of these requirements.
Battle Command. Operational requirements for effective battle command are focused on the need to visualize the battlefield. Combatant commanders want to closely track forces, both enemy and friendly, and understand the environment. Further, they are looking for a way to assimilate information, especially with the extreme amounts received, in efficient ways that contribute to anticipating enemy actions. The tools the intelligence community provides help here. We can produce estimates, be predictive, and develop usable courses of action (COAs) with greater efficiency than ever before.
The intelligence part of battle command has several key elements. The first is the need for real-time access to collected information and collection systems. The speed of the 21st century battlefield demands that our analysis be faster. That can only happen with timely passing of collected information to the analyst or analysis system followed by near-simultaneous forwarding of processed intelligence to the battlefield commander. The second element is a need for predictive analysis. This requires a combination of smart human experts (accomplished by well-trained intelligence officers, noncommissioned officers, and soldiers) and the use of automated analytical tools. Finally, shared situational awareness is critical to solid battle command. Seeing the battlespace in a holistic sense a common picture horizontally and vertically presented with expert interpretation of this picture is critical.
Our ultimate goal is the production of a wargaming, mission planning, and rehearsal tool. Through this tool the commander could run COAs available to him against known enemy dispositions and order of battle that is dynamically updated as he works. Intelligence sensors would continue to feed this system, updating the intelligence picture and concurrently, the rehearsal tool. Commanders, staff, and subordinate leaders could rehearse each phase of an operation so that it becomes battle drill. The results of this comparative COA process allow leaders to select the best possible course the one with the greatest opportunity for success.
Extended Battlespace Dominance. The next requirement of Force XXI relates to the need to dominate more of the battlespace. The complexity and speed of future combat calls for looking deeper and broader. As well, the synchronization of forces in operations that are often joint, multinational, or interagency, and the orchestration of that effort demands the extension of our knowledge of the battlespace. This effort will provide support to command and control (C2), targeting, maneuver control, and information operations systems. But the challenge will be the ability to pass the information necessary to meet the demand. It will literally require bandwidth on demand to pass often immense amounts of information. The broadcast of information must be focused at tactical force levels for it to be of real use in warfighting. A wireless local area network (LAN) is expected to provide the connectivity that will make this work. To fully sense the battlefield environment, an automated collection management tool will direct and integrate sensors to continuously update and maintain clear situational awareness.
Information Dominance. Information, and its control, is essential to success in future military operations. Access to information has not only been enhanced for us by the amazing automation we have today, but for potential enemies as well. Information dominance is a condition where we know more about the battlespace than the enemy does. It is not a permanent condition, and can be lost easily. Therefore, to be successful we must regulate the information we require and deny the enemy the information he needs. We must be able to horizontally and vertically integrate information we acquire to put it to the best use. The correlation of information will produce a clearer visualization of the battlefield and put more science and less art into decisionmaking.
Information dominance will likely be of brief duration against a foe who has access to modern technology. The global information environment is accessible to all and presents unique challenges previously unseen in warfare. Battlefield intelligence is one piece of that environment but is the vital element in successful C2 warfare (C2W). C2W has three primary parts:
Force Projection. It is apparent, at least if you have been in the Army for the last five years, that our army has become more based in the continental United States (CONUS-based) than ever before. With that comes the challenge of having to project large numbers of forces into a given environment in rapid fashion. The need for intelligence is greater in these instances and the projection of intelligence forces is as important as the need for combat forces. Communications must be better integrated to allow for efficient processing and planning. Databases will have to be rapidly constructed and will rely on updating via long-haul communications from the CONUS-based support. A variety of intelligence systems accessing various databases from national to tactical level, will focus on requirements from predeployment through redeployment. Consequently, we designed an intelligence force structure to promote tactical tailoring of intelligence units and functions. This allows commanders to package the intelligence architecture they require in theater, and rely on the remainder of the structure to provide support from sanctuary in CONUS.
Operational Flexibility. The nature of operations that the Army plays a part in today mandates a flexible doctrine for use of forces. Units deploy to situations that cross the spectrum of conflict. Command relationships in joint, multinational, and interagency operations are complex and demand an intelligence architecture that can provide necessary support in the face of ambiguous threats. A more nontraditional environment correspondingly brings a greater demand for intelligence. We in MI can be ready to meet these challenges head-on. Our soldiers must be trained for the whole spectrum of conflict and know how to work closely with their joint counterparts. The land component operational focus and in-depth understanding of enemy order of battle are Army-specific contributions to any joint intelligence process. The overall joint force picture is enhanced by our ability to leverage information age technology and access the capabilities of counterparts and national-level resources.

Links to the Battlefield Commander

Our next step in completing the vision, after working through the components for intelligence in Force XXI, was to take the lessons learned from recent military operations (Panama, Operation DESERT STORM, Haiti, Somalia, Rwanda, Bosnia) and current doctrine (FM 34-1, Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Operations and more) and do a correlation with fundamental operational requirements. This produced the objectives for Task Force (TF) XXI which will be the test bed for evaluating Force XXI concepts. TF XXI's first major test will be early next year at the National Training Center. This experiment will be the azimuth check for further development and experimentation growing in echelon until Corps XXI is ultimately tested in fiscal year 1998. The four principle objectives we have identified for TF XXI are
  • Common relevant picture (a subset of the Force XXI required components battle command and extended battlespace dominance).
  • Horizontal integration (a subset of information dominance).
  • Pull intelligence (a subset of force projection).
  • Top down and bottom up access to intelligence (a subset of force projection).
    These capabilities or competencies are essential to the future of TF XXI. The common relevant picture provides the clarity, situational awareness, and grasp of the battlespace to allow the commander to shape it as he needs. Horizontal integration of information from intelligence systems provides necessary information management for C2W and our own C2. Pull intelligence reflects the Task Force's ability to access available databases (national to tactical level) from predeployment on, allowing for proper mission planning and rehearsal. Finally, top down and bottom up access to intelligence, also related to force projection, demonstrates the breadth of the intelligence architecture and its accessibility to all echelons. Properly filtered this provides an awesome capability.


    The MI Corps' future requires a shift in our core competencies to correspond to new technology and systems, doctrine, and tactics, techniques, and procedures that result from the development of Force XXI. These core competencies are
    • The presentation of intelligence: striving toward increased understanding and decreased uncertainty.
    • Honing predictive analytical skills by using modern technology to put more science into what was once art.
    • Developing professional expertise on the intelligence system (Army, interagency, joint, and multinational) because independent Army operations are a thing of the past.
    • A professional understanding of the impact of information at the operational and tactical levels of war and peace operations. The information age is upon us, it has embraced us and the rest of the world. We must come to terms with it and learn how to manipulate it.
    • Related to that, and the fifth competency, is a technical understanding of the capabilities of intelligence systems, disciplines, information systems, and automation an absolute must for the intelligence professional of the future.
    • We must learn how to effectively manage information or we will drown in it. The capabilities reflected in new and emerging technologies are enormous and each system has the capacity to deluge a commander and staff with more information than anyone is capable of assimilating. It is those that have the know-how to manage the process that will be regarded as premium players.
    The MI vision is a vehicle of change. By becoming a part of it, you can help build an MI Corps that provides a viable intelligence force capable of answering the needs of the army of the future.
    Major General Thomas is currently Commander, U.S. Army Intelligence Center and Fort Huachuca (USAIC&FH). He has previously served as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, USAREUR, and as the Deputy Director for Current Intelligence, Joint Staff and Command Support/J2 at the Defense Intelligence Agency.
    Captain Cary C. Harbaugh is the Aide-de-Camp to the Commanding General, USAIC&FH. He has been the Chief, Human Intelligence Branch, and Commander, Company A, 326th MI Battalion at Fort Huachuca, and the S2, 18th Aviation Brigade (Airborne), XVIII Airborne Corps.
    Readers can reach MG Thomas and CPT Harbaugh via E-mail at harbaugc%hua1 @huachuca-emh11.