Intelligence dissemination system providing new capability


JFCOM (Joint Forces Command) has proposed a new Real-time ISR system by 2008. ISR is an abbreviation for "Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance." It is part of C4ISR, which is itself a part of information operations generally. C4, in this case, is "Command, Control, Communications, Computers." When you add the two parts together, C4 & ISR, you get a mental model of how the military thinks about the information needs of the warfighter. (These things can be broken out in several ways; you'll people talk about C3I by itself, or C2I, or, as here, just ISR.)

The idea here is to develop a system, which warfighters can access, that will provide intelligence reports and SR data on a nearly to-the-minute basis. It doesn't take much imagination to see the benefit of having access to updated sat imagery, yesterday's reports from the DIA that may touch on your target, and maybe a scouting report from Marine Recon.

It seems to me that there are two critical challenges, one pratical and one technical. The practical challenge will be getting the intelligence aspects of this up to speed--intelligence products are analysis as much as information, and the analysis has to be done before the product is ready to be disseminated to the end-user. There will always be in any intelligence ops a competition between the desire to get these things out fast ("Hurry up with that report from al-Anbar province--we've got a series of ops there at 0200 Zulu!") versus getting things right ("Last week's reports were so rushed that we didn't notice two critical flaws, with the result that we lost men."). Putting things into a computer pipe increases the pressure for speed--think about how much less patient you are for news in the age of the Internet v. when you had to wait for tomorrow's morning paper ("Why aren't the results from the Belmont up yet? That race was over five minutes ago!"). Further, the analysis will have to be increasingly clear--they are talking about dissemination direct from DIA, not to a trained field intel officer, but to the tank-driver or platoon commander. Their needs will require clarity of analysis (in a hurry!). Keeping the balance will be that much more challenging under these twin pressures.

The technical challenge is security. Putting all this information on tap in one platform will mean that a security failure is devastating. Should an enemy (say, Chinese hackers) manage to access the system, we'll find ourselves in real trouble, real fast. Keeping on top of that will be the work of giants.

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