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NRO's outreach program for tactical units.

We've all been there. Every so often, a Mobile Training Team (MTT) appears at your headquarters. You and an assortment of your colleagues are herded into a classroom. There, you're met by a crew of clean-cut, well-rested, too well-fed briefers in suits from somewhere within the D.C. "Beltway". They bombard you with Death-By-Powerpoint on the latest technique/system/capability/grand idea which the Army and/or the Department of Defense Intelligence Communities have dreamed up. Their goal: To "Empower" You!

As the slides fly by, and the colors and the words on them become one unending blur, you find it hard to concentrate. There's too much information coming at you, and it's coming too fast to absorb. And, in the back of your mind, you know the First Sergeant is cruising around the motorpool, looking to see whose section hasn't finished their checklist of items on the "Things To Get Done Or Else" list.

The "Pros from inside the Beltway" promise to leave all their briefing materials behind, along with their business cards. And, all you have to do is go through all this material after they leave, come up with any questions you have, and give them a call. No sweat, right? Just do it the next time you have some spare time on your schedule. Problem is, in today's Army, there really isn't such a thing as "spare time." Especially if you're in a pre-deployment cycle.

The sad but well-known truth is that much of the well intentioned and worthwhile pre-deployment training fails to really sink in with the training audience. The folks who really understand the material (the aforementioned "Pros") can't stick around to go over it in detail so that you have time to study it and really learn it. And, your unit's noncommissioned officers are so busy with ... well, life in today's Army! They don't have the time to study the material and really learn it to the level where they can properly train their troops. As a result, much good information never gets past the briefing platform. It never is fully grasped by the soldiers who can use it.

One way to fix that problem: Allow the unit to practice what it's just learned. With that in mind, we hereby introduce the Deputy Directorate for Mission Support (DDMS) Distance Learning Program. The DDMS is the primary outreach organization for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The NRO operates our government's primary Imagery Intelligence (IMINT) and Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) reconnaissance satellites. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the images and SIGINT intercepts collected by NRO satellites are used extensively by Army commands, at both the operational and tactical levels. With the new communications systems available to the modernized Brigade Combat Team (BCT), such as the Global Broadcast System (GBS) and TROJAN SPIRIT II, brigade and battalion S2 staffs will have exponentially greater access to the many types of data-both raw information and finished intelligence products-routinely derived from NRO collection.

However, it's hard to efficiently and thoroughly use an asset that you really don't understand. DDMS's after-action reviews from Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom continue to show that many S2s and all-source analysts don't understand how NRO systems can support them in tactical operations. The S2s and their Collection Managers (CMs) who write the Specific Orders and Requests (SORs) that are eventually transformed into IMINT, SIGINT and Measurement and Signals Intelligence (MASINT) taskings will better perform this task if they fully understand what the NRO can (and can't) routinely do to support the warfighter. If a BCT S2 section really grasps how "spy satellites" can (and can't) answer typical PIR/IR, it can then:

* Write SORs that contain indicators which NRO satellites can really collect. This will in turn reduce the volume of future calls from Division/Corps CM's to S2s, in which the CM asks if the S2 really thought he/she could see that with a satellite.

* Better anticipate the intelligence questions that National systems can't answer. Those "gaps" in our understanding of the enemy which the NRO cannot close will then have to be covered by another system (e.g., unmanned aerial system, Long Range Surveillance Detachment), or go unfilled altogether.

* More efficiently use organic IMINT and SIGINT collection systems (UAS, PROPHET) in conjunction with the National platforms.

Training Support Options

To help S2 sections "grasp" what NRO systems can do in support of tactical operations, DDMS offers two basic kinds of training support:

1. Platform briefings that describe NRO's capabilities and limitations when supplying data to the typical Army warfighting headquarters.

2. A practical exercise (PE), that simulates the kinds of questions a BCT S2 faces when using NRO Systems data. In the PE, students are presented with a brigade mission scenario. They also receive a series of SORs from their "division" headquarters which the BCT S2 has been tasked to answer. Students then determine the extent to which NRO IMINT Systems can or cannot answer the division SORs. (1)

DDMS conducts MTTs to all units scheduled to deploy (and as funds permit, it will visit other units). The training teams can conduct the briefings and the PE during the same visit if the unit has the time and can corral its S2 sections for training. (Note: The PE is designed for S2s and all-source intelligence personnel. Your MOS 96D Imagery Analysts already know the material covered in the PE).

But as we all know, most units can't devote several days to a series of briefings and PEs. Hence, this PE is set up so that DDMS can conduct it remotely for the unit. All you need is a computer accredited for SECRET level information, a STU-III speakerphone, and a projector.

Here's how it works:

* The unit contacts DDMS and schedules a mentor to administer the PE.

* The mentor emails the first part of the PE via SIPRNET. It contains the scenario background and the PE requirements.

* The unit collects all the soldiers to be trained in one place with access to a STU-III speakerphone.

* The DDMS mentor calls in and briefs the PE to the students. Preferably, the unit has displayed the PE on a screen for all to see, or has given the students copies, so they can follow along as the mentor briefs the PE.

* The unit hangs up and completes the PE. For each of the SORs tasked from "division", they:

** Determine which of the SORs can be answered by NRO systems data, and which ones cannot. For the ones that satellites can answer, determine which systems they would ask for and why.

** Write two to three SORs to be sent to the "Division G2", requesting NRO support.

* The unit emails via SIPRNET the answers to the mentor, who reviews/critiques them and sends them back.

* At a time that's good for the unit and the mentor (on the same day or on a different day) the unit calls back on the STU-III.

* The mentor goes over the PE results, critiques their SORs, gives the "school solution", and answers any questions.

Admittedly, this is not the same as having the mentor in the same room with your students. But, this method is a lot easier to accomplish. It takes less manpower and costs less than an MTT. And, a unit can schedule the PE at a time that suits its busy schedule. The PE can be repeated as many times as necessary, as long as the DDMS mentor is available (and mentor availability has never been a problem in the past.) IMINT subject matter experts at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center have vetted the PE and determined that it addressed the kinds of questions that brigade S2s currently face in the Global War on Terrorism.

Students who attempt the PE should have had some NRO Support to Military Operations (SMO) training beforehand. Ideally, the unit will have first completed a DDMS/National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) Imagery and the 3rd MI Center MTT, and will use the distance learning PE for sustainment training. However, if necessary, DDMS can send the MTT briefings via Fed Ex[R] to the unit and present them remotely, if the unit can't support an onsite MTT. To schedule a PE, or to get more information, contact the DDMS Army Services Team, at (703) 808-6181/0212, DSN 898.


(1.) Currently, the outreach activities of NRO/DDMS, in conjunction with NGIC's 3rd MI Center, emphasize IMINT. The Army Technical Control and Analysis Element (TCAE) has the lead for most pre-deployment SIGINT training as part of the National Security Agency National To Tactical (NTT) training program.

Donald Smith, an NRO contractor, is the NRO's field representative to Fort Huachuca, Arizona. He spent nine years on active duty; six in Field Artillery and three in Military Intelligence. He retired from the Army Reserve in 2005 as a lieutenant colonel after ten years of Reserve duty with the JCS J2, Pentagon. Mr. Smith is one of the NRO's lead concept developers for National Technical support to the CTCs. He can be reached at (520) 533-0026; DSN 821-0026 or via email at
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Author:Smith, Donald
Publication:Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin
Date:Oct 1, 2006
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