Building a DS

MI Company

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by Captain H. Brock Harris 

Under Force XXI, the direct support (DS) companies of a divisional military intelligence battalion are charged with providing the maneuver brigade commander with near-real-time (NRT) intelligence, a capability that did not previously exist. Bringing the DS concept to fruition will require extensive restructuring of our current modified tables of organization and equipment (MTO&Es) and training plans, patience, adherence to the fundamentals of successful training, and a willingness to "think outside the box." It is difficult to discuss the concept of DS without including Force XXI technology and architecture. So much has already been written about technology that I will discuss only the technical aspects of the DS company as background information. My real focus will be on sharing some of the practical lessons learned about building, training, and retaining a nascent DS MI company.

Setting the Stage

The new DS MI company replaces the "MI company team" concept of support to meet the maneuver brigade commander's intelligence needs. No longer an ad hoc grouping of divisional collection assets, the DS MI company provides a balanced mix of intelligence disciplines that are focused on the brigade's battlespace, responsible solely to the brigade commander, and under the immediate staff supervision of the brigade S2.1 By MTO&E, the DS company is a thirty-four soldier unit, but with required attachments the total number of personnel normally exceeds fifty. To provide the supported brigade commander with a more robust intelligence package than in the past, the organization has been expanded to include the following assets:

Ground surveillance radar (GSR) operators, interrogators, and counterintelligence (CI) agents.

Previously, the MI company team and the intelligence electronic warfare support element (IEWSE), or IEW liaison officer (LNO), provided the brigade with products that were primarily based on signals intelligence (SIGINT). Through the DS company and the ACT, we now provide the commander with an NRT intelligence product that is based on multiple sources, made possible by the expanded intelligence connectivity available to the ACT (division-, theater-, and national-level feeds).2 The analytical products developed in the ACT provide a visual presentation that satisfies the brigade commander's intelligence needs.

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Figure 1. MI Company Team versus DS MI Company.

Figure 1 shows a comparison between the MI company team and the DS MI company concepts of support to the maneuver brigade.3 (Please note that although the IEW LNO position was abolished, the ACT chief or the company commander must now perform those duties. While many argue that the duties went away with the position, that argument is not valid.) The MI company commander or the ACT chief (or both) must still perform such key responsibilities such as writing the brigade IEW Annex and paragraph three of the brigade operations order, deconflicting terrain in the tactical operations center (TOC), and serving as the focal point for all of the MI assets working in the respective brigade's area of operations.

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Figure 2. TF XXI ACT Layout and Connectivity.

Figure 2 shows the ACT layout and Force XXI connectivity. The ACT cluster comprises two All-Source Analysis System-Remote Workstations (ASAS-RWS), the CGS, and the UAV GCS. These assets enable the DS company to remotely access the division's databases, gain NRT video from both the UAV element and the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS), and, by using the CGS, receive analyzed SIGINT from the Commanders Tactical Terminal Hybrid/Receive (CTT H/R). Draft doctrine for the DS MI company is found in FM 34-80-1/ST, Task Force XXI Brigade Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures, and is the source for much of this article.

Developing any product from scratch can create a stressful learning environment. What follows are some of the key lessons I learned while building a DS MI company in the 104th MI Battalion. I am sure that many will disagree with the content of this article. My comments are provided with the hope that those responsible for implementing the DS concept will be successful on the first attempt.

Lessons Learned

The relationship between the DS MI company commander and the S2 must be a good one. Establishing and maintaining successful relationships is dependent upon the efforts of those involved. The company commander must understand his role in relation to that of the brigade S2, the senior intelligence officer in the brigade. The increased capabilities found in the DS MI company exist so that we (the intelligence community) can provide a higher-quality product to the maneuver commander than ever before. According to FM 34-80-1/ST--

the brigade S2 is the focal point for these assets; the company commander executes his intelligence taskings. The DS company organization provides the brigade a level of operational autonomy needed for the close battle. The brigade shapes its vision of the battlespace by prioritizing, focusing, and directing the direct support company's organic capabilities while the company provides a command and control framework for the tactical tailoring of additional intelligence resources down to the brigade.4

The new relationship between the brigade S2 and the DS MI company requires the company commander to incorporate the S2 section's professional development opportunities on the company training calendar. The brigade S2 is better resourced, qualified, and prepared to provide intelligence training to company personnel. Furthermore, participation in the S2's training program strengthens the relationship between the two entities and establishes a common baseline of knowledge about the enemy and about systems. Some will argue that such an arrangement sets the stage for a power struggle between the S2 and company commander, but I submit that the company commander must be willing to accept risk in order to ensure future success on the battlefield. Remember, it is a team effort and the two individuals must establish a relationship similar to that of the MI battalion commander and the G2. This relationship must be constantly nurtured, and must never be allowed to fall into the "we versus they" trap. No one benefits when the S2 and company commander are constantly at odds with each other.

A clear division of labor is required. There must also be a common understanding of the division of intelligence tasks between the S2 and the ACT. This is necessary to avoid duplication of effort, and to ensure that the brigade collection and reconnaissance and surveillance plan is receiving the attention it demands. For example, I believe that the ACT is responsible for providing the brigade commander with the information he needs to make timely decisions, and that the S2 is responsible for analyzing the information provided by the ACT. The S2 must learn to trust the products that the ACT provides. At the same time, ACT personnel must understand the needs of the brigade commander and the S2. Currently, the division of labor is based primarily on the comfort levels of the S2, the company commander, and the ACT chief. Ownership of assets and task descriptions are key areas which must be understood by the brigade S2, S3, DS MI company commander, and company personnel. In time, intelligence-related responsibilities of the S2 and the ACT will be standard operating procedures (SOPs) based on approved tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP). For a doctrinal discussion of the DS MI Company, see Coordinating Draft, FM 34-10, at URL

The ACT must be part of the brigade Tactical Operations Center (TOC). The lessons that we learned from two of the three National Training Center (NTC) rotations that we have undergone since implementing the DS concept justify this concept. For NTC Rotation 96-06, we attempted to test the ACT concept but, due to a lack of equipment, training, and proper military occupational specialty structure, the experiment was less than successful. During NTC Rotation 96-10, B Company, 104th MI Battalion, was successful in supporting its assigned brigade because the S2 and the company commander had spent about a year refining the concept. Both the S2 section and ACT personnel understood the requirements and expectations and had worked together to establish a working SOP. Initially, however, the ACT was located a good distance from the TOC because its capabilities were not fully understand by everyone. When the ACT was finally collocated with the TOC, there was a dramatic increase in productivity.

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Specialist Stheiner works on the ASAS-RWS, putting together the Brigade's Digital Situation Map.

During the recently completed Task Force XXI (TF XXI) Advanced Warfighting Experiment (AWE), the ACT proved its great potential to the Army but, again, location of the ACT relative to the TOC was a key issue. During the first half of the rotation, the ACT set up approximately fifty feet from the TOC. The distance created communication problems and caused a slow-down in the flow of reporting. During the second half of the rotation, the TOC and the ACT collocated and, according to one observer/controller, the ACT's production increased five-fold.

As we have all learned over time, accessibility is key. The collocation of the ACT with the brigade TOC almost ensures that the brigade commander and his staff will take full advantage of the ACT's capabilities. There are some security issues to consider when collocating with the TOC, but the increased productivity justifies the additional security requirements.

The ACT Chief is not the DS MI company executive officer. I made this mistake, and I hope that you will not. In garrison, the ACT chief can effectively juggle many functions traditionally accomplished by the executive officer (XO). However, it is impossible for her to accomplish ACT chief responsibilities and also to attend maintenance meetings during field operations. The ACT chief must know doctrine and systems and must ensure that all ACT personnel are fully proficient in these as well. A better use of resources is to shift traditional XO functions to the operations platoon leader. This frees up the ACT chief and develops the potential of the operations platoon leader.

Full integration into the brigade staff is a must. The DS company commander is an integral part of the brigade combat team battle staff, and is required to attend a number of brigade meetings. During an average week, the commander spends a minimum of 25 percent of his time attending brigade events. The commander should send lieutenants and warrant officers to these meetings when possible, but most meetings will require the commander's presence. While attending so many brigade functions makes commanding difficult, the arrangement does have a positive payoff. In addition to the improved relationship with the brigade S2 and S3, coordinating logistics is simplified. For example, under the area support concept,5 it is now easier to arrange logistics support for company and MI battalion assets operating in the brigade area because of the established relationship between the company commander, the brigade S4, the brigade headquarters and headquarters company commander, and the supporting forward support battalion. In the past, arranging support was sometimes an overwhelming task for the IEW LNO.

The company commander must train all company officers, including warrant officers (WOs), to represent his interests at the brigade. The company commander cannot effectively command the company and serve as the intelligence LNO at the same time, all of the time. I required every company officer to participate in the brigade tactical decisionmaking process and to produce the IEW annex to the brigade order in at least one exercise. Do not make the mistake of "protecting" your officers and senior noncommissioned officers (NCOs) from this process. It is good professional development for them, and there will be times when the company commander simply cannot be present. The commander's training plan must prepare company leaders for brigade duty.

Finally, integration of CI and interrogation of prisoners of war into the brigade planning process is a must. Work with the S2 to ensure that the brigade commander and S3 understand how to effectively use the skills of these intelligence assets. Employment of human intelligence (HUMINT) assets proved to be the most difficult aspect of the brigade integration process, but having quality WOs and NCOs who could provide solid advice and guidance proved to be beneficial. Listen to these experts. They know how best to conduct their business in support of a brigade--let them.

The DS MI company commander serves two masters. Although the DS company commander is not rated by anyone on the brigade staff, he is still accountable to the brigade commander at all times. The company commander must go out of his way to ensure that the brigade commander receives a quality product--just be careful when it comes to "ownership" of the company. For example, the uniqueness of Force XXI intelligence capabilities required that the ACT deploy virtually every time the TOC deployed. If the brigade is not predictable in its rollouts, life becomes difficult for the company.

Another difficult time is during a "Red Cycle." There is a tendency for brigades to task its attachments extensively while placing minimal requirements on organic units. We fought this inequity, arguing that "separates" should not be tasked at a greater percentage than the brigade's other units. If the entire brigade is "Red," then the DS MI company also should be Red. Be careful, however, because the company is sometimes Red when the rest of the brigade, and the MI battalion, are not. This issue may seem trivial, but allowing it to go unchecked will result in lower morale and an ineffective training plan.

The bottom line in supporting your brigade is that you provide a service that the brigade commander needs. Your company will enjoy great success if you apply the commercial theory of management--the customer is never wrong--to your brigade activities whenever possible.6 It might sound a little corny, but it is an absolute must for success.

Technology training and retention. The TF XXI AWE taught us that a DS MI company must effectively use the technology it has. Attaining proficiency in the DS MI company concept is impossible unless our soldiers have a thorough understanding of computers and technology.7 Each system must have at least three qualified and competent operators: day shift, night shift, and a back-up. However, you will discover that identifying operators is not nearly as difficult as is training and retaining them. Personnel shortages, training distracters, and stabilization problems pose serious risks to assembling a solid team.

To sustain perishable technology skills, a minimum of two training days per month must be set aside solely for system training. I believe that this requirement poses the greatest challenge to the DS company commander. Most units are already short of soldiers trained in the 96B military occupational specialty (MOS). Along with placing more 96Bs into an army hungry for their skills, we absolutely must do better at keeping seasoned soldiers in the Army. Retaining trained soldiers is a problem that I see only worsening as we undergo further downsizing. The Army as an institution must begin to offer better incentives to those soldiers who become systems experts.

Far too many of these soldiers leave the Army for better pay and better lives. This trend is likely to continue in the absence of drastic action aimed at keeping the good ones in uniform. Perhaps such incentives as significant bonuses, duty stations of choice, and long-term contracts guaranteeing retirement should be offered to keep our most competent operators in uniform. We are competing with a huge, more lucrative, and more hospitable civilian environment for the same precious human resources. We must offer soldiers unbeatable incentives to ensure that the decision to leave or stay is at least a challenging one to make.


The DS MI company is a powerful tool which must be constantly fine-tuned. The TF XXI AWE proved the feasibility of the DS concept, but it also showed the need for further development and refinement of the TTP required for long-term success. The challenge is there--can we rise to meet it?


1. FM 34-80-1/ST Writer's Draft, Task Force XXI Brigade Intelligence And Electronic Warfare Tactics, Techniques, And Procedures

2. FM 34-80-1/ST.

3. FM 34-80-1/ST.

4. FM 34-80-1/ST.

5. FM 34-80, Brigade and Battalion Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Operations, (Fort Huachuca, AZ: U.S. Army Intelligence Center and Fort Huachuca, April 1986).

6. Walton, Sam, Made in America: My Story (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1992).

7. A great resource is the Warfighter's Guide to Intelligence Communications Architectures, produced by Chief Warrant Officer Two Alfred Smith of the 704th MI Brigade. This document --discussed in more detail in the October-December 1996 issue of MIPB on page 4--provides a wealth of information on most of our systems, and is available in both compact disc-read only memory (CD-ROM) and printed formats. To obtain a copy, contact Master Sergeant Brown at (301) 688-6401/8528 or DSN 644-6401/8528.

Captain Brock Harris is currently the 4th Infantry Division Artillery S2. From March 1995 until April 1996, he served as the Commander of A Company, 104th MI Battalion--the nascent DS MI company. In that capacity, he oversaw the transformation of the company from its intelligence and surveillance configuration to that of DS. His previous assignments include service as an IEW LNO, MI Battalion S4, and some thirty months in various MI Battalion S3 positions. He holds a bachelor of Business Administration degree in Finance from Middle Tennessee State University. Readers can reach him via E-mail at and by telephoning at (254) 288-3180 or DSN 738-3180.