Do "steady state" PIRs work in stability operations and support operations? Answering the commander's intelligence and decisionmaking needs.
"One of the most difficult things we have to do in war is to recognize the moment for making a decision. Information comes in degrees. Shall we make a decision now or wait a little longer? It is usually more difficult to determine the moment for making a decision than it is to formulate the decision itself."
--Adolf Von Schell (1)
Answering the commander's intelligence needs is rarely easy in any type of conflict. The information required by a commander in a stability operation and support operation is clearly different from the types of information he requires for a conventional conflict. FM 100-23, Peace Operations, (2) states that the intelligence needs in these types Of operations "are in some ways more complex than those of the commander conducting combat operations in war. "The 3d Infantry Division (31D) initial after-action review (AAR) stated that:
"There are several other demands on the division level [Intelligence battlefield operating system] IBOS that come with a transition to [stability operations and support operations] ... the details of infrastructure (water, power, sewage, cultural centers, mosques).... the ethnic, religious, and cultural makeup of the population is important in predicting the actions of the population."
What drives the Intelligence BOS to answer the commander's intelligence needs?
The way a commander expresses his intelligence needs in any type of conflict is through priority intelligence requirements (PIRs). However, there is a current doctrinal shortfall regarding how to use PIRs best in a stability operations and support operations environment. This shortfall may very well hamper both decisionmaking and ISR collection. Units conducting current stability operations and support operations missions in both the Balkans and Iraq have come up with tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to ensure they have intelligence requirements to drive decisions. However, there needs to be a doctrinal revision of how we should craft and use PIRs in a stability operations and support operations environment.
General Doctrine on PIRs
To illustrate this point, one needs to look at the doctrinal function of PIRs and their current use in exercises and stability operations and support operations. The doctrinal purpose and structure of PIRs have remained relatively constant over the last decade.
 "Good PIR[s] ask one question; focus on a specific fact, event, or activity; and provide intelligence required to support a single decision." (FM 34-2, Collection Management and Synchronization Planning, dated March 1994).
 "PIR[s] are intelligence requirements associated with a decision that will affect the overall success of the command's mission." (FM 34-8-2, Intelligence Officer's Handbook, dated May 1998).
 PIRs are "Those intelligence requirements for which a commander has an anticipated and stated priority in his task of planning and decisionmaking." (FM 101-5-1, Operational Terms and Graphics, dated September 1997, and FM 3-0, Operations, dated June 2001).
 The latest intelligence doctrine document does not specifically address PIRs in stability operations and support operations but does again reinforce the earlier doctrine by stating, "Answers to the PIRs help produce intelligence essential to the commander's situational understanding and decisionmaking." FM 2-0, Intelligence, 17 May 2004).
Note the common thread that the PIRs are critical to a decision. Figure 1 is an example of some warfighter exercise (WFX) PIRs that fit the above criteria.
Figure 1. Example of PIRs From a Warfighter Exercise. (1.) Where will the enemy commit reconnaissance and surveillance assets (993d SPF BDE, 3251st SPF BN, 997th CDO BDE, 327th RPV REGT) against the XX DIV? LTIOV: OPEN (2.) What is the location of OSC-1 IFC C2 and firing assets and where will they commit against XX DIV (151st ARTY BDE, 152d ARTY BDE, 155th MRL BDE, 158th MRL BDE, 311th AVN REGT, 310th AVN REGT, 313th AVN REGT)? LTIOV: H+100 (3.) Will the enemy threaten XX DIV right flank with armor brigades out of OSC-3 (234th AR BDE) and/or OSC-4 (352d/354th AR BDE) vic NAIs 14, 16, 34, and 46? LTIOV: H+144 (4.) Where and with what assets will the enemy commit a strike (114th AR BDE, 303d MECH BDE, 305th AR BDE, 234th AR BDE, 158th MRL BDE, 312th AVN REGT) against XX DIV? LTIOV: H+150 (5.) What is the disposition of the 303d MECH BDE and the 305th AR BDE and will they strike XX DIV through AA 1a? LTIOV: H+150 Key: AA--Avenue of approach AR--Armor ARTY--Artillery AVN--Aviation BDE--Brigade BN--Battalion C2--Command and control CDO--Commando IFC--Integrated Fires Command LTIOV--Latest time information is of value MECH--Mechanized MRL--Multiple Rocket Launcher NAIs--Named areas of interest OSC--Operational Strategic Command REGT--Regiment RPV--Remotely piloted vehicle SPF Special purpose forces vic--Vicinity
The type of PIRs described above work well for a major conflict or an exercise involving a robust enemy that has objectives and large forces, and who must make decisions that we can "de-synch" through our operations (see Figure 2).
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
Specific Doctrine on PIRs in Stability Operations and Support Operations
However, since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. Army has been involved more often in stability operations and support operations (Haiti, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and the later stages of Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM [OIF and OEF, respectively]) than in major conflicts. Current doctrine for stability operations and support operations does not adequately address PIR usage and construction in this environment.
Here are two examples of how field manuals (FMs) on stability operations and support operations doctrinally address PIRs:
 Special Text (ST) 2-91.1 (formerly FM 34-7), Intelligence Support to Stability Operations and Support Operations, Revised Final Draft, August 2004, states that "There may be little difference between the PIR commanders establish at the onset of stability operations and support operations operations and their PIR months into the operation."
Editor's note: ST 2-91.1 is currently being staffed for approval at USAIC & FH.
 FM 3-07, Stability Operations and Support Operations, February 2003, reinforces this by stating that "In stability operations and support operations operations, collection and production to answer PIR may be ongoing tasks. For example, PIR related to treaty verification or force protection may continue as long as the mission requires."
What happened to the stated purpose of PIRs in driving decisions? If PIRs remain the same, does that mean the commander never has to make decisions in a stability operations and support operations environment or that he makes the same decisions virtually everyday? If PIRs are no longer what drive a commander to make a decision, what does?
Use of PIRs in Exercises
To illustrate how this "steady state" PIR concept may hamper decisionmaking, let us look at some intelligence requirements used in past Stabilization Force (SFOR) and Kosovo Force (KFOR) mission rehearsal exercises (MREs). We can then look at how units have--out of necessity due to the lack of doctrinal guidance--recrafted their intelligence requirements to make them more relevant and apt to drive decisions.
In [stability operations and support operations] ... other threats may include infectious disease, regional instabilities, or misinformation.
--FM 3-0, Operations, June 2001
Throughout the course of the MRE, the unit collected pieces of intelligence to drive different operations. In one particular exercise, the unit had a great deal of very specific information regarding organized crime, smuggling routes, corrupt officials, etc., in order to prompt them to set up check points to interdict the smugglers. The morning update briefed the commanding general that, based on the intelligence received, PIR 4 (see Figure 3) had been virtually answered. The battle captain-briefer then stated he had no idea what decision that PIR supported.
Figure 3. Published PIRs for SFOR. PIR 1: What are the location and nature of any terrorist threat to SFOR units or members of the international community in MNB-N? PIR 2: Which intelligence service, special police force, AFiBK, criminal element, and/or political element is attempting to disrupt stability in MNB-N? PIR 3: What are the political organizations and leaders controlling programs to limit the returns of each faction (Bosniac, B-Croat, and B-Serb)in MNB-N? PIR 4: Which individuals or groups are involved in directing organized crime and corruption activities in MNB-N that undermine economic stability and jeopardize a safe and secure environment? Key: B-Croat -- Bosnian Croat B-Serb -- Bosnian Serb SFOR -- Stabilization Force
He was not alone since the personnel in the unit had not thought through what they would do had they actually gotten an answer to any of the "steady state" PIRs. There was no developed decision support template (DST). How can one make a DST when the PIR does not drive a decision?
Outside the MRE environment, are "steady state" PIRs as currently published even answerable? How much information do we need before we make a decision? If we look at PIR 3 as an example, there is probably a great deal of information available to answer that PIR. The anti-SFOR leaders and parties are very well known and in some cases even have their own websites. How can the commander of a military force in a stability operations and support operations action conduct a campaign against a political party? He cannot and should not be expected to do so. Units have come up with several methods to overcome the shortfall of "steady state" PIRs and the difficulty of using them to drive decisions. Some of these methods include--
 Crafting their information requirements (IRs) to drive decisions (see Figure 4 for sample IRs).
 Using "short term," "focused," or "operational" PIRs.
 Using specific information requirements (SIRs) to drive operations.
Figure 4. Published IRs for SFOR. IR 1: Where will criminal organizations attempt to transport and sell contraband in MNB-N? IR 2: What foreign service intelligence agencies are attempting to gather information on SFOR in MNB-N? IR 3: Where are PIFWCs located in MNB-N? IR 4: Where is the AFiBK in violation of GFAP and/or OHR guidelines in MNB-N? Key: GFAP -- General Framework Agreement for Peace PIFWCs -- Persons Indicted for War Crimes OHR -- Office of the High Representative
FM 2-0, Intelligence, defines "information requirements" as:
"... all of the information elements required by the commander and his staff for the successful planning and execution of operations; that is, all elements necessary to address the factors of mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops and support available, time available, civil considerations (METT-TC). Vetting by the commander or his designated representative turns an IR into either a PIR or an intelligence requirement. IRs are developed during [courses of action] COA analysis based on the factors of METT-TC." (3)
Figure 1-3 in FM 2-0 highlights the difference between these requirements: the information requirements (IRs) are "information elements required for planning and executing operations" while intelligence requirements are those "... for the Intelligence BOS to fill a gap in the Commander's and Staff's knowledge or understanding of the battlespace or threat." (5)
The examples above are of IRs that collectors can actually answer. What is more, once answered, these IRs can drive operations much more clearly than the PIRs. For example, with IR 4, if we know where the Armed Forces of Bosnia-Herzegovina (AFiBK) is in violation, SFOR can quickly launch an operation to ensure compliance. There are likely "playbook" actions that address every type of reaction to any of the above IRs.
Thus, in some units, it appears that IRs have supplanted PIRs as the vehicle to aid making a decision in a stability operations and support operations environment. However, the most common technique that units employ to overcome the unanswerable and non-actionable "steady state" PIR is by making other PIRs for specific operations. Figures 5 and 6 present examples from two different units' MREs.
Figure 5 Operation PIRATE PIR. PIR 1.1: Which border-crossing site will be used to facilitate movement of illegal weapons across the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia/Republika Srpska border? Action: Inform MNB(N) Operations immediately. LTIOV: 101200A SEP 03 PIR 1.2: Will the white VW van (License #Z14398) cross the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia/Republika Srpska border into TF North or TF South's AO? Action: Inform MNB(N) Operations immediately. LTIOV: 101200A SEP 03 Key: AO -- Area of operations MNB-N -- Multinational Brigade-North TF -- Task Force Figure 6. PIR for Mosque Dedication. PIR 1: What are B-Serb obstructionists doing to halt the mosque dedication effort in Bratunac? PIR 2: Will Bratunac Deputy Mayor Dragan Nikolicvic actively obstruct the ceremony? PIR 3: Will members of the Swords of Zvijezda crime organization work with B-Serb government officials to obstruct the mosque dedication? PIR 4: Will crowds of more than 20 B-Serbs assemble? PIR 5: Will individual B-Serbs be carrying arms (pistols, rifles, knives)?
These PIRs serve the purpose for the short-term operation by providing clear, focused, and answerable intelligence requirements that will drive the decisions and operations of that SFOR force. However, using "operational" or "focused" PIRs creates other problems for units.
Once a unit publishes "operational" PIRs, they have likely doubled the number of PIRs on which their organic intelligence assets must collect. Units do not usually have enough intelligence assets to collect on all their intelligence requirements; that is why we have PIRs to focus those precious assets on only those most critical intelligence requirements. Once a unit has another set (or two in some cases) of "operational" PIRs, it becomes unclear at the headquarters and the subordinate units how they will assign intelligence assets against the "steady state" and "operational" PIRs. Which "steady state" PIRs take a back seat to the new "operational" PIRs? Do we rank order both sets of PIRs and assign assets based on the PIRs' priority within that composite list? These are difficult questions that do not have simple answers. The Battle Command Training Program (BCTP) team has observed units in Balkans MREs and in the Balkans struggling to determine how to collect against up to 12 current PIRs. There will not ever be enough assets available to answer that many PIRs.
Using SIRs to Drive Operations
Another technique that units have used to ensure that their "steady state" PIRs drive operations is ensuring that they always list PIRs with their SIRs. FM 34-2 defines "SIR" as a: "... description of the information required to answer all or part of an intelligence requirement. A complete SIR describes the information required, the location where the required information can be collected, and the time during which it is to be collected. Generally, each intelligence requirement generates sets of SIRs."
The unit then color-codes their SIRs with, for example, red meaning that an answer to that SIR will drive a specific "playbook" type of operation and blue would drive further collection, continued tracking, or both. The following is an example of a PIR and its SIRs:
PIR: Which paramilitary groups are supporting the current insurgency in the 521D area of operations (AO)?
 SIR: (Blue) What routes do the groups use?
 SIR: (Red) Where are they storing their weapons and ammunition?
 SIR: (Red) Where are their safe houses?
 SIR: (Blue) Which religious leaders do they follow?
 SIR: (Blue) What are their means of communication?
 SIR: (Blue) Who are the leaders of the paramilitary groups?
In this example, it is very clear which pieces of the rather vague PIR are both answerable and actionable.
Those are three different TTPs that units currently engaged in stability operations and support operations are using to ensure that intelligence drives maneuver. None of these examples adhere to the standard, doctrinal definition of PIRs, but despite some difficulties, units are finding ways for intelligence to drive operations.
The purpose of this article is not to say that the information in "steady state" PIRs are not useful, they are. They contain information that keeps the commander informed of any changes to the environment where he is operating. Those PIRs do not, however, contain adequate specificity to drive operations and are so broad that the units will likely never be able to answer them.
Perhaps "steady state" PIRs in a stability operations and support operations environment should be given the role of broad indicators that will identify when a certain element of the environment is "out of the norm." If we go back to our earlier example of "steady state" PIRs, we know that there will be demonstrations, organized crime activities, etc. Does the commander really want to know when that level of activity is out of the range of normal? Think in terms of how we used to monitor the Inter-German Border (IGB). We knew that we would always have gunnery and maneuver training on the other side of the IGB and we collected on that. Nevertheless, what we really wanted to know was when that level of activity was either above or below a normal level of activity. "Steady state" PIRs should have that type of role.
The commander's information requirement in a stability operations and support operations action is very complicated. The commander must have information on actual enemy combatants and threats to the command as well as such specific stability operations and support operations requirements as the status of electric power and school construction. Still, in every environment, the commander must have an intelligence system that gives him clear intelligence that drives operations. "Steady state" PIRs do not provide the vehicle for that.
Some may read this article and decide that there cannot be a perfect doctrinal solution to all problems and that units seem to have found a way to make intelligence work for them in their particular stability operations and support operations environment despite a lack of doctrinal guidance. This is a valid point; however, the methods they are using conflict with published current PIR doctrine. This should not be the case.
The U.S. Army has been continually involved in one or more stability operations and support operations actions for many years. It is time for doctrine to codify the best way for commanders to craft their PIRs and decisionmaking in a stability operations and support operations environment.
Editor's note: FM 2-0 defines "intelligence requirements" as: "... those requirements generated from the staff's IRs regarding the enemy and environment that are not a part of the [commander's critical information requirements] CCIR (PIR and [friendly forces information requirements] FFIR). Intelligence requirements require collection and can provide answers in order to identify indicators of enemy actions or intent, which reduce the uncertainties associated with an operation. Significant changes (i.e., branches and sequels) with an operation usually lead to changes in intelligence requirements." (4)
(1.) Von Schell, Adolf, Captain, Battle Leadership (Quantico, VA: Marine Corps Association, 1988).
(2.) Editor's Note: FM 3-07, Stability Operations and Support Operations, dated 20 February 2003 replaced FM 100-23, Peace Operations, dated 30 December 1994.
(3.) FM 2-0, Intelligence, 17 May 2004, page 1-11.
(4.) Ibid., page Glossary-9.
(5.) Ibid., page 1-10.
Lieutenant Colonel Joe Nelson is currently the Senior Intelligence Observer/Controller on Team A, Battle Command Training Program. His most recent assignment was as G2 Operations Chief, 1st Cavalry Division and his previous assignments included G2 Operations Officer, III Corps; Chief, CJ2X, Headquarters, Stabilization Force (SFOR): and $3, 303d Military Intelligence Battalion. LTC Nelson was a resident graduate of the Command and General Staff College. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Northern Kentucky University and a Master of Science degree in General Studies from Central Michigan University.
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|Title Annotation:||priority intelligence requirements|
|Author:||Nelson, Joseph A.|
|Publication:||Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2004|
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