The term “intelligence” is both misunderstood - and abused - by many. Essentially, in the military sense, it is an in-depth knowledge of the enemy that allows the prediction of the future based on current, sound and credible source-information. It is this foreknowledge that allows the prediction of the enemy’s intentions that will enable a force to adopt the correct mission profile and posture, manoeuvre its forces correctly and be at the correct place and time to overwhelm the enemy with fire.
Of course, the silly old joke that military intelligence is a misnomer is due to the fact that many who work in the field of military intelligence have no idea what they are supposed to be doing and no clue how to achieve it. Instead, they conjure up incredible source-information and make predictions from this nonsense and thus arrive at incorrect conclusions and the resultant incorrect predictions.
This leads to mission failure and a loss of credibility to the fighting forces, something we seem to be witnessing on an almost daily basis in conflicts around the world.
The ability to gather credible information is based on the ability to “see into the heart of the enemy”, know where to find the information required and to identify and utilise every available source that can gain access to the information required. The value of human sources is often sacrificed in this regard, instead making maximum use of technical or electronic collection, despite it being easily misled.
An inability to analyse where the required information can be found leads to the collection of “history” and not “intelligence”.
In order to ensure the correct process is followed in this attempt at gaining access to classified enemy material, a simple cycle, known as the “Intelligence Cycle” is followed. This cycle consists of the following basic actions:
1. Determining WHAT information is required ie defining the Intelligence Problem
2. Determining WHERE to find the information, ie what access is required and how to exploit that access. This is known as the Intelligence Appreciation
3. Collecting the information by means of sources and agents
4. Processing the gathered information by means of the Intelligence Process. This is where the information gathered is evaluated, collated and interpreted. It is at this stage that the information is transformed into intelligence
5. Disseminating the intelligence, ie giving it to those people/units that need to know the available intelligence in order to plan their operations.
6. The situation is again subject to the Intelligence Appreciation in order to locate WHERE additional information may be found and the cycle begins anew.
This process remains an on-going cycle in order to continually update the information on the enemy. It is this information and ultimately the subsequent intelligence derived from there that allows commanders to apply flexibility in their planning and adapt to changing battlefield scenarios. Intelligence is also a vitally important component to ensure that forces will not be surprised and overwhelmed by the enemy.
The main problem with many intelligence operations (apart from incompetence) is that mistakes are made during the initial phases of the Intelligence Cycle, thus resulting in the wrong intelligence targets being identified. The problem is further compounded when intelligence officers taint the collected information with their own bias instead of cold-and-clinical reporting of information. Additionally, many analysts “bend” the collected information in order to suit their beliefs and previous assessments.
By knowing and understanding the forces that oppose them, the analysts, commanders and planners will be able to make accurate Intelligence Predictions.
Poorly selected sources, the lack of human agents, agents with limited access, incorrect exploitation of sources, over-reliance on electronic or technical sources and so forth simply continue to compound the problem, leading to the incorrect evaluation and interpretation of the information. It is this flawed process that leads to poor battle plans, the loss of life and ultimately victory to the enemy. When these poorly conceived plans are implemented, no amount of battlefield bravery can rectify the damage done due to a lack of intelligence – or poor intelligence.
Intelligence ought to be one of the prime sub-actions a PMC carries out once it enters a hostile or conflict area. Without intelligence, it will not know what to expect in the area, which locals are hostile, what the language/religious distribution of the population is and so forth. Nor will it know the local customs and traditions of the peoples in the area – something that can cost it dearly.
The PMC that uses intelligence wisely will be successful in its mission but it needs to first understand the process – and application - of Intelligence in all of its facets.