by Brigadier General John W. Smith

This issue of Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin focuses on intelligence support to Bosnia. As Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR approaches the one-year mark, there will be a flurry of observations about lessons learned that will probably include the need for new doctrine, improved interoperability, etc. While the Ah-ha! light may come on for the first time in a few areas, some problems thought to be new will simply be a re-hash of old problems. Collection management and Air Tasking Order (ATO) coordination problems come to mind as likely candidates to emerge from Bosnia as old problems in new clothes.
How can this be? Are we not savvy enough to learn from those who have preceded us? The answer, of course, is "yes." We've got great equipment and smart, well-trained people. The sophistication of today's intelligence operations, compared to capabilities of a decade ago, are eye-watering.

Essential SASO Planning Factors

Some might argue that providing intelligence in a Bosnia-type scenario is different different from a mid-intensity environment like Operation DESERT STORM, different from Somalia or Haiti. Others might argue that the principles of intelligence support are enduring regardless of the operation and differ only in detail. Regardless, there are certain aspects of planning for intelligence in stability and support operations (SASOs) which deserve special emphasis if that support is to be effective.
First is the critical importance of getting the big idea." It is vital, I believe, that both the senior intelligence officer and his commander have a frank discussion and a shared understanding of the nature and scope of the intelligence that will be mandatory for mission success. Will intelligence be required for near-real-time support to targeting carried out, for example, by Apaches (unlikely in a SASO environment)? Will intelligence be required to learn the identity and track the location of terrorists or other units or personalities who pose a threat to the friendly force? This type of intelligence support seems more likely. Regardless, commander-to-intelligence officer dialogue is paramount during planning as it is the single best opportunity to breathe coherence into the intelligence effort. Some lessons which have been learned from other SASOs as well as some that will probably be learned again from Bosnia may, however, only be Trojan horses non-issues posing as problems due to the lack of clarity in planning.
The second factor of critical importance is the attention that must be given to tailoring the force to support the mission. In a mid-intensity conflict, one would expect to deploy everything in the motor pool; after all, those types of operations drove the design of the force structure. That is not the case in most SASOs. Why would a deploying MI force emplace a robust signals intelligence collection capability to work against a threat who is ill-equipped to communicate? Yet, periodically we see lessons learned about how a unit or piece of equipment did not perform well when logic would have argued for leaving the capability at home. Is this the case with Joint STARS?

(Editor's Note: See Lieutenant Colonel Agee's Joint STARS article on page 6 of this issue of MIPB.)

A corollary to not deploying what you do not need is the importance for the senior intelligence officer to guard against thinking which says in essence, If I don't own it, it must not be a player. Repeatedly since Operation DESERT STORM, intelligence operations have benefited immensely from support provided by elements like the NIST (National Intelligence Support Team) precisely because it and other supporting elements like it enable access to national or other-Service-produced intelligence that is beyond the G2's or J2's ability to obtain directly. Perhaps most notable in this category is human intelligence (HUMINT) absolutely vital to the success of every SASO but not generally available without the reporting that comes from the Central Intelligence Agency or the embassy's attach‚.
Interoperability or architecture is, of course, a third factor that deserves a great deal of attention in planning for intelligence support to SASOs. Not only are equipment and communications key, but so, too, are databases the raw material laboriously saved and catalogued over time without which predictive intelligence and definitive answers to the commander's hard questions are impossible. Although interoperability or architecture issues typically prompt the vast majority of lessons learned, they are especially key in SASO intelligence operations because of the near certainty that we will not only be operating with other U.S. Army intelligence organizations, but with other Services and countries as well. In many cases, equipment interoperability disconnects will not be remedied overnight. However, hardware issues should not be used as a crutch to avoid seeking clarity and simplicity in procedures or creating databases areas that with some thought can add real value to a coalition intelligence operation, or alternatively bring it to its knees. Though not technically part of interoperability, but certainly central to the ability to operate is the issue of information sharing. While seemingly only of peripheral interest, information sharing will be an issue for the intelligence officer in a SASO. This will occur one hundred percent of the time so it must be addressed at the onset. Not sharing information with an ally (even a new one) is a non-solution. Information is what the intelligence officer brings to the table as part of what it takes to build trust with our coalition partners. A word of caution though: be prepared to champion your cause the bureaucrats will trip you up at every opportunity.
Finally, a fourth factor which deserves special emphasis in SASOs is the threat. It is no less important than knowing the threat in any other military operation; what is key is to focus on the unique things about the threat as it pertains to the SASO mission. In the four-power peace observer force (United States, Chile, Brazil, and Argentina) that oversees the peace along a 100-mile jungle section of the Peru-Equador border, some aspects of the threat are preeminent. Weather and landmines, for example, are issues that are immediately relevant to observer force protection. Because potential Peruvian and Ecuadorian unit redeployments from garrison might signal a return to hostilities, it is also important to consider this possibility in assessing the threat. Yet, in carving up the intelligence workload, the task of monitoring the larger issue of potential force mobilization might very well be conducted from sanctuary in this case, by the J2 at United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). A clear understanding of what aspects of the threat are uniquely relevant to the mission can facilitate effective structuring of the intelligence support mission for success from the onset.


The number of things which can influence the effectiveness of intelligence support to unconventional military operations such as Bosnia is seemingly limitless. However, the point of this discussion has been to suggest that what appears to be a lesson learned or a problem may not be just an equipment or doctrinal shortfall, but in fact, flawed planning or inadequate conceptualization of the effort.
The views above are offered both to stimulate and provide a framework for your own thinking. As you read the articles which follow, you will encounter a number of issues. Answer to your own satisfaction whether the issue under discussion is really a problem deserving a long-term fix or simply a reflection of a lack of hard-nosed thinking and coherent planning.
I look forward to hearing your comments. I think it is important that we be able to talk frankly about the challenges that we face in the SASO arena. Send E-mail to me at [email protected]
Prior to assuming his current position in October 1995, Brigadier General Smith was the Director, Intelligence Directorate (J2), SOUTHCOM, in Panama. He has commanded the 207th MI Brigade, VII Corps in Germany and later in Saudi Arabia during Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM; the 104th MI Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colorado; the 1st MI Company, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas; and the Pittsburgh Field Office, Region III, 109th MI Group.