by Major General Charles W. Thomas

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By the time this article is in print, I will have reported to a new duty station and Major General John D. Thomas will be the Commander of the Intelligence Center and Fort Huachuca. He will bring a fresh perspective to intelligence and electronic warfare (IEW) operations in the future and provide the same great leadership to the MI Corps that he has to the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) during the past three years.

Before departing, I wanted--as succinctly as possible and from my perspective--to outline where Army Intelligence is heading in terms of 21st Century military operations. Let's begin with potential future threats. I think most of us can agree that the likelihood of another conventional force-on-force conflict like Operation DESERT STORM is low. Analysts generally agree that the overmatch advantage of U.S. combat capability will preclude this scenario from a replay. The operative term here is "overmatch"--without it, what would prevent a regional power like Iraq or North Korea from exercising this type of military option? What is more likely to inflict many U.S. casualties--short of nuclear war--than a full-scale conventional warfight? It follows that conventional overmatch will be an essential element in any U.S. warfighting strategy, although this may be the least likely scenario we face.

Perhaps the most likely future action will be repetitive, humanitarian relief and peace support operations, low-intensity campaigns in complex terrain, or terrorist threats of mass destruction in urban areas of the United States. All are possible, even more probable than the conventional heavy-unit fights described earlier, but maybe not as likely to have as rapid or serious an impact on U.S. vital interests or to inflict the same level of heavy casualties. This laundry list of military possibilities leads me to the conclusion that we probably won't be able to do it all as well as we would like, so we ought to figure out our priorities and prepare for them as efficiently as possible.

I cannot overstate the need to retain our conventional fight overmatch. We must use some of our available forces to do this and employ others to handle lesser operations against peace support or low-intensity requirements--but all must have the capability for mutual support in any major commitment. I think this is the operational direction in which our nation and military are heading and it's necessary for the intelligence community to stay in step. That is what we've tried to do over the past several years through heavy involvement in the Army's experimental axis that includes advanced warfighting experiments (AWEs), Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrations (ACTDs), and participation in the Army After Next (AAN) wargaming process. These experiments and studies have given us venues with which to test concepts and systems like new versions of the All-Source Analysis System (ASAS), the Common Ground Station, Analysis and Control Team (ACT) Enclave, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), Tactical Control Stations, Ground-Based Common Sensors, and others.

Now here's where I need to make an important observation: none of these systems are built as stand-alone collectors or processors. They have mutually supporting roles and all of the processors were designed to do only one thing: to make the analytic and presentation processes easier. They don't replace analysis, especially predictive analysis; they augment it. They provide more science to the art of analysis and decisionmaking. This said, remember that trained and ready MI soldiers who can collect and process (includes analysis) effectively remain the essential element for success in our business. We have redesigned the training system at Fort Huachuca to accommodate this requirement. In addition, we're building a force structure that can incrementally adjust to handle changing threats, technologies, and resource realities.

This means a force structure that uses resources from space to mud--a tactical force that's only large enough to satisfy a combat commander's needs for organic support. It can reach back for the rest--perhaps to an INSCOM organization that provides counterintelligence and human intelligence (CI/HUMINT) support, leverages a purpose-built National Security Agency resource to satisfy an operational need, or to a Defense Intelligence Agency database to provide context to a G2 estimate. We can do some of this now--and the experimental axis we are on with the larger Army is helping us to understand and plan to do it even better in the future.

This is where you, the "field," come into play. You have a critical role in vetting this process--the individual pieces and the whole architecture. If you have better ideas about how we should handle and resource tactical CI or signals intelligence missions, for example, let us know. However, I offer one suggestion: never make the mistake of assuming that there are a lot of wholly new ideas out there. Many smart MI professionals have gone before us and there's not much that hasn't been tried. What we must do is to learn from the past and package new technologies with new concepts and the right employment tactics. Then we test, modify our TTP (tactics, techniques, and procedures), bounce it all against resource realities, change doctrine, and train soldiers to use it all.

From all this emerges an architecture and a force structure. By the way, it is a force structure that must include the Reserve Component more comprehensively than ever before. The emerging architecture is integrated thoroughly with the Army's tactical command and control system and the joint community--and with our allies as much as possible. None of this is simple or error free, but whatever force structure emerges must truly be tailorable and modular. I believe our A-series Tables of Organization and Equipment (TO&Es) have us moving in that direction. Experimental efforts and studies are helping us decide just how much of each intelligence and EW function needs to be done at each level of command, from company to joint force commander. This is an evolutionary thing that we do. To attempt a "revolutionary" leap could easily send us spinning off into a void not filled by the larger Army or reality. Still, despite the errors inherent in any anticipatory change, I believe we are moving in the right direction.

Real future challenges remain in determining MI's role in this concept we call information operations, and in determining what we need and can afford in terms of new technologies that truly enhance the human dimension of warfighting. I am convinced that the only way to begin to understand these things is to build that which we have always lacked in the Army: realistic simulations that provide the level of detail to genuinely replicate MI systems and processes in exercises and experiments. Extant simulations like the Battlefield Intelligence Collection Model (BICM) and Tactical Simulation (TACSIM) do not provide the resolution necessary to do this. I believe initiatives like the Combat Synthetic Training Assessment Range (Combat STAR), FIRESTORM (Federation of Intelligence, Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Targeting Operations and Research Models), and the IEW Tactical Proficiency Trainer (IEWTPT) are moving us in the right direction. From them will emerge the functions we need in the Warfare Simulation (WARSIM) Intelligence Module (WIM). The fact is, however, that until we can realistically drive the battle command process with high-fidelity intelligence processes, commanders will not understand the true value and limitations of the intelligence system and we will have hard time arguing for new concepts and systems. Our simulations development initiatives must remain a very high priority, and they must include the least automated of the intelligence functions, CI and HUMINT.

Let me conclude, for now, by reminding you that ours is a most demanding profession--but one full of rewards for professionals who understand the nature of conflicts as they evolve and what we can do to prevent them or win them. Neither happens without the kind of intelligence that makes U.S. combat power effective at every level of command. That is our job, I'm proud of the way we do it, and equally proud of the way we are deliberately learning to do it better.