I have spoken a lot about the importance of intelligence and how we seem to be constantly getting it all wrong. As proof of this, we need only look at how current conflicts are going awry.
The focussed collection of information, the transformation of that information into intelligence, the interpretation of the intelligence and the dissemination thereof to the correct people at the correct time is an art we seem to have somehow lost.
It is, however, the lack of intelligence that leads to poorly formulated strategies based on guess work. This is something strategists cannot ignore, regardless of the dimension of war they are expecting or fighting. An inability to identify threats in the medium to long term compounds the inability to acquire and position the necessary sources beforehand, thus paving the way for intelligence failures.
As previously discussed, there ought to be a continuous flow of collected information from various overt, covert and clandestine sources into the intelligence system, a system that can be likened to a large machine; the information being the fuel that drives the machine. However, for the machine to use this “fuel” correctly and effectively, the information needs to be collected.
In order for the collection effort to be channelled, focussed and managed in a correct manner, certain principles must be applied. These principles are tried and tested truths and to ignore them will certainly lead to a sub-standard collection effort. A sub-standard collection effort will most surely impact very negatively on any political or military strategy.
The principles of collection (not in order of priority) can be briefly listed as follows:
1. Planning: Correct planning will ensure that the correct information is received at the correct time and place. Planning will also ensure that the intelligence requirements are met. This assumes the 5 Ps of planning – Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Planning is an action which needs to be considered well before any deliberate action is planned. Planning will furthermore assist the collection effort in identifying strong and weak points as well as opportunities and strengths.
2. Exploitation of all Sources: All overt, covert and clandestine sources available must be exploited. These sources need to be carefully considered in order to prevent one source compromising another. Additionally, it will allow collection planners to confirm if they have sources that can provide the necessary information or if sources need to be identified and recruited. This includes all forms of liaison with outside bodies and agencies. TECHINT and SATINT are sources that require consideration but should never be viewed as the primary sources as they can effectively be used to feed disinformation into the intelligence process.
3. Time: The adage “Time spent on planning is never wasted” holds true. In essence, this requires planners and analysts to be “forward looking” and pro-active and not wait for a negative situation to manifest itself before any effort is launched. Time is required to ensure the following actions can realistically be achieved:
• Identify, recruit and train covert sources (agents)
• Tasking of covert and overt sources
• Deployment and/or positioning of TECHINT and SATINT sources
• The collection of information
• The feedback/reporting process
• The interpretation of information
• The dissemination of the intelligence product
4. Relevancy: The collection effort must be relevant to the intelligence requirement. This will ensure that time, effort and resources are not wasted. When relevancy becomes discarded, collection for the sake of collection can lead to a wastage of assets and funds. Furthermore, irrelevant information and intelligence can mislead strategists and planners.
5. Control: The collection effort must be carefully controlled to ensure economy of effort, prevent unnecessary duplication of effort and minimise compromise. Control is a prerequisite for directing sources correctly and efficiently.
6. Access: Without access, there can be no collection. Access needs to be well-planned in advance with back-up access points positioned in case of source compromise.
7. Flexibility: Flexibility will allow the collection effort to rapidly switch from one target to the next. However, without planning and access, there can be no flexibility – or at best, only limited flexibility.
Intelligence planners need to be very familiar with the grand strategy of the nation as well as the subsequent military strategy. Only then, will they be able to apply their craft efficiently and with accuracy.
To ensure this, the principles of intelligence need to be applied.