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Challenges facing a multifunctional engineer battalion intelligence section.

As the war in Afghanistan concludes, more is being asked of the units still fighting there--a phenomenon that is typical near the end of a long military campaign. This article describes the effects of this phenomenon on one engineer unit from the perspective of its intelligence (S-2) section, with a focus on how engineer battalions can better prepare deploying personnel who will be working with S-2 sections.

As a combat effects engineer battalion headquarters, the 20th Engineer Battalion has adapted its training and equipment to prepare for a deployed mission that is different from its original mission. Deployed with short notice to Regional Command-South to support Operation Enduring Freedom, the battalion mission became that of a multifunctional engineer battalion responsible for construction effects and mobility assurance for theater level-controlled and operational environment (OE)-specific routes. For a small S-2 section, which was authorized only two military intelligence specialists, this new mission set translated to the OE equivalent of a division. While the battalion S-2 section did not have the full responsibilities or resources of a 90-member division analysis and control element, functioning with a staff of only two school-trained military intelligence specialists was a distinct disadvantage. The section was able to acquire another lieutenant to help increase the analysis and overall capacity of the section. It is highly recommended that other engineer battalions acquire more intelligence capacity before deploying.

The company intelligence support team (CoIST) offers intelligence support at the company level, which is a huge advantage when companies are not colocated with their higher headquarters. Among its functions, CoISTs provide routine intelligence requirements such as patrol prebriefs and debriefs at remote locations. Formulated at the battalion level, prebrief and debrief formats become a collaboration of efforts throughout the OEs as additional threats are identified and disseminated. CoIST training before deployment presents its own challenges, especially for separate brigades and Army National Guard units. While units within brigade combat teams usually have CoIST training scheduled well before deployment, individual company deployments often require an ad hoc training schedule. CoIST training for these units is often scheduled whenever time is available, rather than in conjunction with significant predeployment training exercises. The result is that a new and perishable skill may not be used for several months between conducting the training and performing the mission in-theater. Predeployment planners should try to incorporate CoIST training into their major training exercises to improve their teams. When this is not possible, smaller CoIST training sessions are offered in-theater. Team members should attend these sessions whether or not they conducted predeployment training.

There are multiple Internet-based, data-mining tools to assist intelligence analysts and CoISTs. While the military intelligence program of record remains the Distributed Common Ground System--Army, it is rarely available in engineer battalions and is nonexistent at the company level. Because this system requires extensive training and is lacking in many units, intelligence collection requires a more practical approach. There are civilian intelligence analysis systems that can be learned quickly and used by personnel without prior intelligence training. Some of these programs are built to enhance collaboration between the battalion S-2 section and CoISTs. This increases, streamlines, and enables the intelligence warfighting function within the engineer battalion. Field service representatives for those systems are available to conduct training and assist CoISTs during the relief-in-place process.

Another useful force multiplier has been the addition of a contracted civilian counter improvised explosive device (C-IED) analyst team that was developed for the Afghanistan theater of operations in 2010. The team provides the warfighter with multiple sources of expertise in C-IED and counterinsurgency analysis and operations. It is usually composed of an all-source analyst, a human intelligence analyst, and a collection manager. While not all teams are fully staffed, the addition of their experience increases the knowledge and productivity of the entire section. The team's combined expertise and knowledge of data-mining systems increase understanding of the dynamics involved along the routes. This increases the capability for predictive analysis, which is fundamental to assured mobility. The presence of the C-IED intelligence analysis team quickly ramped up the organic analyst capabilities of the 20th Engineer Battalion. This resulted from the team method of training the complete process of multidiscipline intelligence operations and the resulting analysis, rather than simply providing a "black box" product.

Surveillance is an integral and often contentious component of the intelligence collection process which presents additional challenges for an engineer battalion that provides general support at the regional level. As a multifunctional engineer battalion operating in numerous OEs, the 20th Engineer Battalion was not an OE owner. Therefore, it was near the bottom of the queue for acquiring surveillance assets. Optical change detection assets allow predicative analysis before route clearance patrols conduct missions. Likewise, persistent surveillance and overhead collection platforms allowed the battalion to hold ground by ensuring that routes remained clear for longer times after missions were complete. The extensive experience with collection management and the overall asset awareness of the C-IED intelligence collection specialist allowed the battalion to acquire surveillance outside the experience level of the usual battalion S-2 section. To meet routine surveillance requirements while on patrol, route clearance patrols used theater-provided equipment such as Puma[TM] and Raven[R] unmanned aircraft to enhance their situational awareness of the battlefield. Since these assets are not part of normal engineer company equipment, the operator's introduction to them is usually during a deployment, which means that training must be scheduled and conducted after arrival in-theater. While this is an inefficient method, the dividends to commanders and patrol leaders are worth the investment of time and personnel. Units should ensure redundancy in trained personnel for each route clearance patrol since it is such a laborious process to become proficient at operating these assets.

While thorough coordination between internal components is critical in any S-2 section, it is especially important in a multifunctional engineer battalion. Because of the support relationships that the battalion has with numerous OE owners, short-notice taskings appear far more frequently than in other units. As enemy targets on the battlefield appear and disappear, so do time-sensitive missions. Thorough intelligence analysis and product development are required for the intelligence preparation of the battlefield. The S-2 section must be integrally linked with the battalion operations and construction management sections. Construction project activities constantly shift as priorities change because of evolving requirements in multiple OEs. Standard meetings are not enough to meet the requirements; it is necessary to conduct constant dialogue with these sections and to maintain a presence on countless distribution lists to stay informed of changes. This allows the S-2 section to manage its own internal production to ensure that commanders have timely and accurate intelligence to use in planning and executing their missions.

A vast amount of information is learned during a deployment, sometimes at a high cost. It is essential that these lessons, products, architectures, systems, and processes continue during the handover from one unit to the next. The outgoing unit must have a systematic knowledge management system in place to ensure that incoming personnel can pick up the mission in stride. Knowledge management is an ongoing process that requires finesse, deliberate organization, and constant supervision. Armed with tools such as Palantir[R], Microsoft SharePoint[R], and a shared network computer drive, the S-2 section must store this information in a way that is easy to locate, access, and understand. Naming conventions, proper classifications, and standing operating procedures are needed to create this organizational framework.

However, knowledge management is not the job of one person. The entire team must understand its importance and execution to ensure that the next unit can maintain the processes that work and to preserve institutional knowledge. Another recommendation is to ensure that information is stored (or at least a copy is maintained) on networks accessible to follow-on units before deployment. While most business in Afghanistan is conducted on the Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange (CENTRIX) system, most engineer units do not have access to CENTRIX in garrison. It is crucial to ensure that products, situational reports, and formats are transferred to networks that these units can access, ensuring that they understand the situational environment before they deploy.

By Captain Bradley W. Diebold

Captain Diebold is the intelligence officer for the 20th Engineer Battalion. He holds a bachelor's degree from Western Illinois University and is a graduate of the Intelligence Captains Career Course.
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Author:Diebold, Bradley W.
Publication:Engineer: The Professional Bulletin for Army Engineers
Date:May 1, 2013
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