In my previous posting I had a brief look at the Intelligence Cycle, a process many speak of but often neglect. This process can be likened to a huge machine that uses information as its fuel. But, this process can either be a highly valuable asset – or a lame duck.
But apart from knowing this process exists, what sources of information are available to feed this process and how are they determined and guided?
It is important to know that there is a vast difference between “information” and “intelligence” - the former being raw, unprocessed data and the latter collated and evaluated information from the different available sources.
The information-feed from sources can be likened to the fuel that drives the intelligence machine. Without sound and credible information – there can be no intelligence process. It then simply becomes a matter of “garbage in, garbage out”. In order to prevent a garbage-like scenario, the identification, selection and exploitation of sources is paramount.
Whereas the PMC operating in a hostile environment will not be able to access the same type of sources as a sophisticated armed force, it can, nevertheless, access a large amount of different sources to provide the information-feed into the intelligence machine. The methods of collection are categorised as either overt or covert. Sources on the other hand can be directed, non-directed or casual.
These information sources can be briefly listed as follows:
1. Space – ie satellites,
2. Aerial – ie aerial observation platforms
3. Ground – ie reconnaissance, GSR, FCR and so forth
4. Maritime – ie ships, boats, etc
5. Underwater sensors, especially at choke points
6. Agents – both penetration and infiltration
7. Electronic warfare – ie radio, telephone, facsimile and email intercepts
8. Open literature – open sources in the public domain
9. Allied forces operating in close proximity
10. Prisoners-of-war, especially those recently captured
11. Defectors from the enemy’s intelligence services
12. Established data base that has been built-up over time
13. Local population who are resident in the area of operations and so forth.
It is of great importance to the intelligence staff of the PMC to focus their efforts on the available sources and to correctly task and guide these sources where possible. Without correct guidance, tasking and leading, the sources will fail to provide the required information and ultimately, this will lead to an intelligence failure.
Intelligence failures are not necessarily only due to the poor identification and exploitation of sources but also due to a lack of knowledge on the target area and the peoples who reside there. Intelligence failures can also be the result of arrogance and a belief that the opposing forces are unsophisticated, untrained and therefore unable to wage war effectively.
It is this arrogance of superiority that has led to many forces being unable to correctly assess their opponents on the field of battle – and has, in turn, led to higher than expected casualties and ultimately defeat.
Identifying and exploiting the available sources prior to entry into a hostile area is the key to any successful military campaign. Failure to do so is the key to defeat.