Information collection failures that lead to 'discovery learning': this article was first published in ARMOR, April-June 2015, Fort Benning, Georgia.
"Before I can develop the ground maneuver plan I need to know what the enemy is doing." It's a sentence echoed by operations officers during every scenario conducted at our Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Hohenfels, Germany.
Intelligence preparation of the battlefield is the intelligence officer's primary task during mission analysis and serves as the catalyst, synchronizing information collection (IC) with a ground maneuver plan throughout the duration of the military decision making process. The IC process at face value seems simple enough: staff provides analysis in the form of the commander's critical information requirements (CCIR), thus enabling the commander to make informed operational decisions. But we have noticed that in most decisive action training environment (DATE) rotations at JMRC, regardless of unit type-whether light, heavy or motorized-or nation of origin, units fail to plan and execute an IC plan that supports the commander's decision making process.
Why? Though not all encompassing, most shortcomings of IC planning/execution can be attributed to the following failures:
* Not defining the operational framework.
* Producing convoluted IC overlays.
* Not understanding organic IC capabilities.
* Not prioritizing assets.
* Executing inadequate staff coordination.
The result of these inefficiencies often leads to unnecessary discovery learning as the unit crosses the line of departure with little situational understanding of the immediate fight. The following five problem sets describe established patterns we regularly see during rotations at JMRC. Each provides a starting point for discussion. The intent is for each unit to acknowledge these common shortcomings and provide a unit-tailored solution based on composition, disposition, and mission to set the conditions for success.
Problem Set 1: Defining the Operational Framework
Army doctrine on unified land operations states that "Army leaders are responsible for articulating their visualization of operations in time, space, purpose, and resources." (1) This is accomplished through the development of a standardized operational framework that is consistent throughout all echelons. There is a direct connection between defined framework and its application to the development and execution of an IC Plan. Most units' intelligence sections analyze the mission in a framework that most closely resembles the "Deep-Close-Security" framework. According to this framework, "areas of operation can be divided into three distinct parts: support area, close area, and deep area." (2) Throughout the remainder of the article we will use this framework to discuss observed trends.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
Most units view their assigned area of operation (AO) in a homogenous manner resulting in little to no delineation between the deep and close fight. This view cripples the ability of IC planners to visualize the battlefield. Ultimately, without a clear understanding of the operational framework, units inevitably develop and execute an IC plan with three seams that the enemy exploits to gain a marked advantage. Seam 1: The Battalion "Close Area." At the battalion level, the primary friction point lies in the belief that all critical information requirements (IRs) are located within their deep area. In addition, units assume that subordinate elements will execute counter reconnaissance patrols without direct tasking. This leads to all organic IC efforts focused too far forward, to the furthest extent of the brigade's close area. Consequently, the battalion fails to both develop and task organic IC assets/capabilities to collect on close proximity named areas of interest (NAI), with a specific focus on enemy reconnaissance elements. These actions create "Seam 1" as depicted in Figure 2. The result is the enemy has complete freedom of movement around the unit's main body, with unrestricted surveillance and observation of indirect fires.
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
Seam 2: The Battalion "Deep Area" vs. the Brigade "Close Area." Brigades and battalions struggle to define their individual roles and responsibilities for collection between their respective close and deep areas. This is the basis for Seam 2 depicted in Figure 2. Battalion and brigade operations and intelligence personnel rarely synchronize IC efforts. This lack of coordination often results in a combination of three outcomes:
1. Duplicated efforts. Brigade and battalion establish NAIs and task organic elements to collect information at the same geographic location. Often this is represented by a battalion tasking organic reconnaissance assets to observe the same area that brigade is covering with an aerial IC platform.
2. Echelon prioritization. IC overlays are developed and executed at both the brigade and battalion level without discussion, understanding, or rehearsals. Consequently, neither echelon comprehends the prioritization of NAIs, but merely assumes that templated NAIs will receive coverage. Unfortunately, rarely does NAI prioritization at the brigade and battalion match. As a result the brigade does not collect on a critical (event driven) NAI from the battalion perspective.
3. The deep focus. Units tend to position their reconnaissance assets to the furthest extent of their deep area. Additionally, units do not have sufficient reconnaissance efforts to cover in both width and depth. The result is Seam 2, a gap in coverage between the rearmost elements of the unit's reconnaissance effort and the forward edge of the unit's main body. Depending on the depth, it may constitute a gap in both time and space. For example, an enemy echelon may pass through deep brigade or echelon above brigade reconnaissance assets and, because it is not handed off to battalion scouts or other assets, it essentially disappears in the seam and is not observed again until it arrives in the battalion's forward edge of the battle area hours later. Worse, the enemy may appear again only in our rear or flanks (Seam 1), having taken advantage of the third seam.
Seam 3: Adjacent Unit Coordination. Successful operations include adjacent unit coordination. IC planning is no different. Units often state the need to synchronize their movements, fire plans, and sustainment requirements but rarely share CCIR, IC overlays, or current enemy assessments. Instead, they rely on their higher headquarters and digital platforms like Blue Force Tracker, Command Post of the Future, and the Distributed Common Ground System-A to create common understanding. Absent from the process is direct verbal or face-to-face interaction. Most intelligence sections routinely fail to establish effective primary, alternate, contingency, and emergency communications plans leaving each subordinate organization operating as an isolated unit. This issue is amplified when working within multinational task forces that operate on varying mission command and communications systems as witnessed at JMRC. This lack of direct synchronization creates Seam 3 which runs parallel along unit boundaries. The enemy anticipates this failure, seeks to identify the seam, and then exploits it by committing its main attack on this axis.
The Nonlinear Environment
Defining the operational framework within a nonlinear environment is conceptually much harder for most organizations. The frustration is often multiplied as the brigade and battalion focus of reconnaissance is overlaid over most of the same terrain. As depicted in Figure 3, it becomes clear how multiple aerial assets become layered within the same geographic footprint.
[FIGURE 3 OMITTED]
The Army's experiences during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) are mostly built on a nonlinear operational framework. This nonlinear and static environment forced units to use IC assets to look internally on their AO. This enabled subordinate units to first accept, and second expect, an abundance of nonorganic aerial IC platforms. Indirectly, this led to brigade assets collecting on multiple battalion and brigade NAIs from the same airspace at near-simultaneous time.
These experiences built a perception that IC platforms could answer multiple IRs within multiple areas during a single flight with minimal coordination. This caused a paradigm shift toward a substantial decrease in IC tasks directed at organic maneuver elements to include battalion scouts. The Army has yet to transition back toward recognizing the finite aerial resources and their placement in the brigade and battalion reconnaissance efforts.
Ultimately, the Army will continue to fight wars in both a linear and nonlinear operational framework. Each provides opportunities and limitations. Units must recognize how these frameworks affect their tasking of IC platforms.
Problem Set 2: IC Overlay Inadequacies
"The tasking and directing of information collection assets is fundamentally linked to the development of the IC overlay." (3) In DATE, intelligence sections routinely produce IC overlays that are not tied to satisfying CCIR, convoluted and lack focus, and not phased over time.
The foundation of an effective IC plan starts with a coordinated effort between the staff and commander to develop CCIR. Establishing priority intelligence requirements (PIRs) allows the collection manager to focus efforts on finding information that will ultimately drive a decision. However, commanders rarely take ownership of this process, resulting in the adoption of a higher echelon's CCIR or intelligence officers (S2) creating their own. The residual effect is felt in the IC overlay as NAIs are chosen based on terrain analysis and templated enemy locations rather than critical events that drive decisions.
An efficient IC overlay is clear, concise, and easily understood. In most rotations units struggle to adhere to these principles. The most identifiable shortcoming is the inability to delineate IC overlays between echelons. Often these products have countless NAIs that lack a specific focus, exceed IC collection capabilities, and are not tied to the specific units plan (brigade NAIs on a battalion IC overlay). In plain sense, the entire AO becomes an NAI. Consequently, units are overwhelmed and do not prioritize resulting in a failure to task collection assets on critical NAIs.
The initial IC overlay developed to support an operation needs to adapt as conditions change. However, units fail to develop IC overlays that are phased over time as their operational focus changes (defense, offense, wide area security). The common practice involves the application of NAIs across the depth of the AO based off assumptions from initial mission analysis. This results in units creating "enduring" or "legacy" NAIs with the belief that their relevance is applicable to all phases of the operation. Ultimately, if the IC plan is not updated, it is no longer relevant after the first day of the operation.
Problem Set 3: Missed Opportunities with Organic and Multinational Capabilities
Units often fail to effectively utilize their organic IC assets. This is predicated on deployed experiences which have conditioned units to use aerial platforms rather than ground elements. Indirectly, operations officers are focused with planning and lose sight how and to whom specific IRs were tasked.
Organizations often have a myriad of units with specific capabilities that have been attached or reside within their organic footprint that could support the reconnaissance effort. These elements range from Air Force Joint Tactical Air Controllers (JTAC) to forward observers to the basic Infantryman. Each of these carries its own capabilities that can be applied to specific IRs within the IC Synchronization Matrix. What units often fail to realize is that more than one unit is capable of answering CCIR. More importantly, we fail to disseminate CCIR effectively and efficiently to those myriad assets that could provide the answers. A common example often observed at JMRC is described below.
The battalion S2 develops a specific information requirement with an accompanying indicator of 3 or more BMPs traveling through a mobility corridor within a valley. This information will answer a PIR that determines what avenue of approach the enemy main body will use for its attack. In addition, the PIR will also drive a decision by the battalion commander in regards to his counter attack plan. In the execution of the battalion IC plan, this PIR is often tasked to the forward most element-the battalion scouts.
In most circumstances, Air Force JTACs are employed within the battalion scout element in an effort to streamline the prosecution of targets through type I or type II close air support (CAS) control during force-on-force engagements. The attached JTACs are very capable of answering this same mission critical PIR. However, rarely are the JTACs tasked to collect on, or are aware of, the unit's PIRs. This lack of awareness results in JTACs that do not understand the battalion's critical IRs. Information gathered is ultimately conveyed as a situation report (SITREP) rather than an answered PIR. This method relies on the training of the radiotelephone operator's to extract relevant information and inform unit leadership.
Another significant oversight is the incorporation of multinational partners. Often units arrive at JMRC with a predisposed list of limitations for their multinational partners. U.S. units must not focus on their multinational partners' constraints but rather their capabilities. An example of this is when U.S. units focus on their multinational partners' limited night vision devices, which hamper movement at night, as an excuse to relegate their role to insignificant tasks. Instead leaders should consider how to leverage their counterpart's strengths wherein they are viewed as contributors rather than inhibitors.
Lastly, units rarely establish a system that efficiently utilizes the individual Soldier as an IC asset. CCIR is only known by leaders with the expectation that they will receive reports from subordinates, decipher the information, and transmit the appropriate answer to designated PIRs. In practice leaders rarely have the capability to track all of the PIRs and filter reports from subordinates to answer them. Soldiers that understand PIR can become the filters and report answers rather than SITREPS. This will prevent excess traffic on the radio and enable company leadership to focus where required.
Problem Set 4: Asset Prioritization and Retasking
Leaders continue to rely on their counterinsurgency experiences as the Army transitions to DATE scenarios at JMRC. Most previously deployed leaders have a shared experience relating IC assets to a false sense of ownership or tasking ability. This understanding is built upon the surplus of theater IC assets that were present during OIF and OEF. Contingent to this experience is the execution of most immediate reconnaissance operations by "pulling" IC assets rather than using organic elements. Pulling IC assets was accomplished by applying the immediate CAS request to IC platforms-establishing the immediate IC request. Inevitably units had success at receiving support for scantily planned reconnaissance efforts due to an abundance of IC assets.
The net result of this process was subordinate units that do not develop a distinct, focused IC plan utilizing organic IC assets. Additionally, units lack the ability to forecast and request higher level capabilities to satisfy IRs that cannot be met using organic platforms. JMRC observers/controllers/ trainers (O/C/Ts) have observed units that plan under the assumption that if they find a brigade priority target they will receive higher level organic asset(s) (Shadow) to continue to develop the intelligence. Ultimately they believe, "If we find it, they will come."
The failure of headquarters units to provide the required prioritization and oversight for IC is the reverse result to the immediate IC request. Just as a battalion was able to "pull assets," brigade now had the means to re-task. This ability has a detrimental impact to the development of the IC Synchronization Matrix. Organizations no longer feel the need to designate assets by time to prioritized NAIs. IC fundamentals such as cueing, mixing, and redundancy are not incorporated into asset management. Instead the IC Synch Matrix resembles more of an asset request template due to the fact that allocated platforms rarely collect on the NAIs in which they were requested. These assets are almost always re-tasked as soon as they arrive on station.
Ultimately units must understand that assets, to include IC platforms, are a finite resource. Battalions and brigades must clearly prioritize NAIs that satisfy CCIR. The dissemination of prioritization, both higher and lower, is vital to preventing IC assets from being "re-tasked." An absence of prioritization prior to the fight will continue to increase higher units' appetites to "pull" IC platforms to fill immediate needs as they arise during the fight.
Problem Set 5: The Need for Staff Collaboration
"The operations officer, based on recommendations from the operations staff, tasks and directs the information col lection assets." (4) The concept that IC is a collaborative process involving the entire staff is codified in doctrine and should be accepted by all leaders. However, most battalions continue to struggle with the practical application of cohesive IC development leaving the battalion S2 as the sole proprietor of the task. The compounding effects of this decision result in the absence of NAI prioritization in accordance with the ground maneuver plan, limited organizational understanding of the IRs tied to each NAI and, most importantly, subordinate organizations that are not specifically tasked to collect on critical NAIs that drive operational decisions by the battalion commander.
The phrase "intelligence drives operations" is commonly accepted throughout the Army. Information collection is critical in making this phrase a reality. Throughout this article we have identified five major shortcomings that prevent organizations from internalizing this mantra. Leaders need to acknowledge these common pitfalls to drive unit tailored solutions. The success of the mission depends on it. zg
(1.) ADRP 3-0 Unified Land Operations, 19.
(2.) Ibid., 20.
(3.) FM 3-55, Information Collection, 39-42.
(4.) Ibid., 1-2.
by Captain Raymond A. Kuderka and Captain Andrew H. Eickbush
CPT Kuderka is currently an MI Captains Career Course instructor at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. His past duty assignments include Intelligence O/C/T at JMRC, MICO Commander, 3/1 Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Knox, Kentucky; Battalion AS2, 1st Ranger Battalion, Hunter Army Air Field, Georgia; and Battalion IC Coordinator, 2-27 Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry BCT, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. His military education includes North Atlantic Treaty Organization Staff Officer Course, MI Captains Career Course, and MI Basic Officer Leadership Course. CPT Kuderka holds a BA in Criminal Justice from The Citadel.
CPT Eickbush is an O/C/T with JMRC. His past duty assignments include Commander, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 4-25 Field Artillery, 3/10th Mountain, Fort Drum, New York and AS3, 4-25th Field Artillery. His military education includes NATO 101, Joint Firepower Course, Field Artillery Captains Career Course and Field Artillery Basic Officer Leadership Course. CPT Eickbush holds a BS in Industrial Engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.
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|Author:||Kuderka, Raymond A.; Eickbush, Andrew H.|
|Publication:||Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2016|
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