Manage is a good word

This is a picture of happier slower days.

Those happier slower days have gone now and we need to adjust to a new environment, one in which we must manage more information at far higher levels of resolution than ever before. I use the word ‘manage‘ deliberately – it has had a bit of a thrashing over the last decade or so, especially in the military, where management is a term reserved for stuff that people out of uniform do e.g. ‘…they’re just a manager…‘ Well, girls and boys, if you can’t manage, then it is unlikely that you will ever be much chop at command or operations. Here’s what one source thinks ‘manage’ is:

In 2005, the USMC’s Michael Scheiern posited that a shift from platform-based tracking to individual-based tracking and was pretty positive that, in terms of the complex contemporary operating environment, this was realistically achievable. But, here we are in 2010 already, with knashing and wailing over yet another failure of intelligence. The problem, as I see it, is that we simply don’t want to change: despite the thousands of lives and billions of $$ expended in this war, too many people are still too wedded to the nice safe days of the Fulda Gap and nowhere is this more apparent than in military information  management (which, by the way, is NOT the realm of the 6 community any more than it is that of the 2 weenies).

Over on the CAC COIN Blog (which I have been somewhat remiss in not visiting more often), there is an article entitled I Know Something You Don’t Know: Intelligence and COIN which touches on this topic, inspired by the 25 December Undies Bomber. Not only should be ensure “…every civil servant/diplomat/aid worker a collector…” in addition to “…every soldier a collector…”, we should be extending this to ‘every one an analyst‘ as well. This means that everyone out in their respective field must be sufficiently  trained and aware of their environment to act, when needs be, upon that information that, so far, we only what them to collect. And, by the way, “…every soldier a collector…” is not a theory as stated on the CAC blog – it is doctrine and as such should, indeed must, be part of the training regime.

One of the reasons that we are still not getting into this (after EIGHT years of war!!) might be those alluded to here on Coming Anarchy, or more specifically, this Wikipedia page referenced in the CA article. I’d never heard of Baconian method (not that that means much) – I have heard of bacon jam though – but it identifies four obstacles (idols) in considering a problem:

  • Idols of the Tribe (Idola Tribus): This is humans’ tendency to perceive more order and regularity in systems than truly exists, and is due to people following their preconceived ideas about things.
  • Idols of the Cave (Idola Specus): This is due to individuals’ personal weaknesses in reasoning due to particular personalities, likes and dislikes.
  • Idols of the Marketplace (Idola Fori): This is due to confusions in the use of language and taking some words in science to have a different meaning than their common usage.
  • Idols of the Theatre: This is the following of academic dogma and not asking questions about the world.

Sound familiar? Seen any of these in YOUR work place? Perhaps even subscribed to one or two yourselves…?

This is the problem – we talk up the need for learning organisations, lessons learned, better information and intelligence but here we are – having just bumbled through someone trying to blow up a plane with his undies… But as much as the intelligence world may be long overdue for a shake-up, we also need to have a good hard look at the rest of the organisation and ask ourselves just why it is that we have to rely on the ‘2’s (sounds a bit like Battlestar Galactica: the 2s versus the 6s….) for analysis instead of applying some common dog common sense ourselves…uh-oh it’s that old Information Militia thing again. I think that intel weenies and command geeks together need to get out on the streets and see what police officers do and how they do it in thinking things through on the spot…what was it we found in the COIN Review? Oh, yeah…intelligence in the COE may be closer to CRIMINT than that required for conventional high-intensity operations e.g. the Fulda Gap…

Interbella asked the question: What’s in the price of bread? Changing how we look at intelligence may help with the answer…


3 thoughts on “Manage is a good word

  1. I really like that Idols system. They’re all listed in Heuer’s Psychology of Intelligence Analysis but this is a nice way to categorize them simply.

    I think there’s a great deal of value in getting “int weenies and command geeks” out into the field (be that the streets or the field) but would note that the CRIMINT model suffers from (at least) two flaws:

    1) The fetish of the tactical. In the U.S., very little intelligence effort is spent in either the strategic or predictive realms. It is overwhelmingly tactical. They’re good at the tactical stuff but it’s reactive and you almost never see law enforcement get ahead of threats. Much of the small amount of effort which is put into strategic or predictive analysis is poorly done, subject to serious politicization or some combination of the two.

    2) What I term ‘Tom Clancy Syndrome’. I don’t know if it’s the proliferation of entertainment focused on intelligence, the increase in access to information or some other factor(s) but it seems like anyone who has ever cracked the cover on a spy book seems to think they are a proficient analyst and just as qualified as everyone else in doing intel. It’s compounded by the fact that many analysts are treated as glorified secretaries and the assumption is that if you aren’t carrying a gun you can’t really add anything of substance.

  2. I think that the overwhelming tactical and responsive (as opposed to reactive) focus of CRIMINT is largely nature of the beast. In the good old days of the Fulda Gap and 8th Guards Army, we won’t really worried about what every other man and his dog were doing and were had a pretty clear idea of what 8th Guards Army’s intentions were; in fact we probably didn’t really care that much about what was happening below brigade level and certainly not at squad level and below. We had a fairly good idea about those things that would make 8th Guards Army react and if a couple of NCOs got involved in a bit of biffo on pay night, we didn’t care – if we even knew…

    The complex world of the COE brings the fun world of CRIMINT to the military: we’re no longer facing a logically-structured opponent that generally acts as a coherent part of a whole; we face adversaries (not even opponents really) who may be motivated for any one act by politics, criminal advantage, boredom or Mrs Adversary switching off sex til the lawns get done. You can’t predict this sort of thing, even though we are well aware that the effects of Mr Adversary detonating himself outside pick-an-embassy due to domestic sexual frustration may be similar globally to 8th Guards stepping across the start line.

    What CRIMINT does really well is respond post an incident and can often very rapidly shape a respone based upon evidence, MOP, etc at the scene. A couple of years ago I was involved in a major investigation here after the Army Museum was robbed – a classic whodunnit and even today the Police say that there was little if any indicators (even with 20/20 hindsight) that this theft was even a possibility. I was totally impressed though how, from a standing start, the Police rapidly developed an intel picture that was gradually coloured in as the crime itself created waves in the national criminal pool, leading the the recovery of the VCs in a little over 2 months and the arrest of the offenders six months later.

    Where a more organised criminal threat exists, I do think that law enforcement agencies still do pretty well in targeting those organisations – the drive against organised crime in the 60s and 70s is probably one of the better examples – and the UK comprehensive approach to the IRA et al in the 70s and 80s is probably the best example ever of a collective and coordinated approach to a large and very sharp criminal organisation. I am continually amazed that any takfir jihadist would be dumb enough to attempt an act of terrorism in the UK because the odds are staked so high against them. The Brits may have had a few issues shrugging off the ghosts of Malaya and focussing on today’s conflict, but then definitely have it all in one sock when it comes to the intel side of domestic counter-terrorism.

    Just as there is much that the Police can learn from the military in COIN/CIA methodologies and TTP for high-end tactical use of force, there is a similar amount that we can learn from them re intel processes for the COE. which brings us back to the start point of this blog entry and that is the need for the intel community to put the Fulda Gap, 3rd Shock Army, and 8th Guards Army back in the box and focus on the needs of the CURRENT environment.

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