Bound for Failure
In the brief introduction to a review of the book, Very Special Intelligence, Dolphin noted that the successful tactical doctrine of using combined intelligence and combat troops in tightly organized teams was being seriously diluted by the U.S. IC (read CIA, DIA, NGA and NSA) who were moving to fold the intelligence elements involved into the bureaucratic mainstream and to automate the intelligence processes involved.
As I noted in an earlier article (The Triumph of Tactical Intelligence) U.S. Forces engaged in counter-insurgency operations (COIN) in both Iraq and Afghanistan have developed an innovative tactical concept, which Dolphin noted was based on research and development work done at the U. S. Naval Post Graduate School by a team under General Dell Daily. The essence of this concept is the High-value Target Teams (HTT) which integrates special operations forces fighters with military and civilian intelligence analysts into tightly organized teams in which immediate tactical intelligence is essential to identifying so called high value targets (usually individuals) and guiding war-fighters to their locations. This apparently was not a case of intelligence support being provided by folks sitting far from the action phoning in information, but of intelligence support being very much part of the operation itself with the war fighters. At a recent hearing of the House Armed Services Committee on Special Operations Forces, Michael D. Lumpkin, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense said, “USSOCOM [U.S. Special Operations Command] and the CIA currently coordinate, share, exchange liaison officers and operate side by side in the conduct of DOD overt and clandestine operations and CIA’s covert operations.”
(See 2012-2-20 Manhunting: A Methodology for Finding Persons of National Interest; Secret Weapon: High-value Target Teams as an Organizational Innovation); and The Future of U.S. Special Operations Forces: Ten Years after 9/11 and 25 Years After Goldwater-Nichols.
Now the exact nature of how this intelligence-special operations combination actually works apparently is classified. Yet there are some aspects of the intelligence process in this kind of situation that can be inferred: Anthropological intelligence may be used to provide broad target knowledge (see Solving the People Puzzle; Cultural Intelligence and Special Operations Forces by Dr Emily Spencer 2010); Technical Intelligence (SIGINT/IMINT) may be used to locate target bases and other target information; HUMINT and surveillance may be used to track target and determine target details (e.g. number of armed followers, dangers of collateral damage etc.); and details from reconnaissance, IMINT, and surveillance may be used to prepare tactical and operational maps. All of this has to be done quickly and accurately. The analysts involved must cooperate and exercise their unique expertise to get accurate information needed to the war fighters. The result of all this must be reports very similar to the ‘Tactical Reports’ used during the Vietnam War that is direct support to the troops in harm’s way without the usual staff vetting serialization and other activities dear to the bureaucratic heart.
The problem with direct intelligence support to fighting troops is that to the risk adverse, mistake fearing, and ill-informed management/staff bureaucracy at the top of U.S. Intelligence Agencies it represents an out of control problem to be solved. The fact that the HTT apparently have enjoyed remarkable success makes the ‘problem’ all the more urgent. Their solution is what Dolphin alluded to and is unfortunately is typical of how innovation and success at the working level have been treated in the IC for at least forty years.
The intelligence components of the HTT are being buried in Memorandums of Understandings (MOUs), Policy Directives, Staff Guidelines, and Rules on Collaboration all designed to protect the institutional sanctity of parent agencies in case of some unknown catastrophe. Of course the great paper trails produced from all this also provide the illusion that the managers are directly involved in ‘managing’ the successful activity that their subordinates have initiated, although their actual knowledge of such activity may be minimal. These same managers also have pursued the Golden Fleece of U. S. Intelligence: the information system (computer) whose algorithms will perform intelligence research and analysis far better than any mere human. Then there can be assurance that the vital task of “connecting the dots” will be the responsibility of preprogrammed machines and managers won’t have to worry about incompetent or untrained analysts.
The bureaucratic dilution of the successful HTT concept has happened to many previous successful activities over the last forty years of my experience. It is one of the pathologies that afflict U.S. Intelligence today.