by MSG David V. Martinez Jr.
The United States’ history in large-scale combat operations has highlighted the importance of joint operations. From the Allied Forces in World War II to the ongoing operations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, joint operations continue to serve as the foundation for strategic cooperation and mutual defense. As the nature of war continues to evolve through asymmetrical operational environments (OE), technological advances, and interoperability the joint function of intelligence serves as the linchpin.
The joint intelligence process uses a streamlined set of systems and procedures to turn large amounts of data into actionable intelligence for joint force decision-makers. Current battlefield advancements and the diversity of threats require rapid decision-making by the joint force commanders (JFC). Joint intelligence allows for command and control across the range of military operations leveraging joint capabilities with flexibility and synergy. The purpose of this article is to analyze the joint function of intelligence with an extensive focus on the joint intelligence process.
Joint Function: Intelligence
The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) (2020) describe joint functions as capacities and exercises, that when interlinked, allow JFCs to combine, harmonize, and conduct joint operations. Joint force commanders utilize the seven joint functions through the range of military operations to align efforts, create understanding, and complete the mission in support of strategic objectives. Although the seven joint functions serve as a fundamental approach during operational planning. JFCs apply joint functions tailored to the operational needs and mission requirements. The joint function of intelligence remains a vital component for the success of all military operations.
JFCs incorporate joint intelligence in a cyclical rhythm through campaigns and all operational phases. Joint intelligence provides JFCs “adversary intentions, capabilities, centers of gravity, critical factors, vulnerabilities . . . and helps commanders and staff understand friendly, neutral, and threat networks.” (Joint Chiefs of Staff [JCS]. 2022a, p. XVI). Joint intelligence helps the JFC understand the contemporary OE by assimilating information and providing routine updates to commanders. The joint intelligence function allows the JFC to prioritize assets, project force posture, and set objectives within the OE. Essential to this function is the joint intelligence process, consisting of six categories that provide a foundation for operational success.
Joint Intelligence Process
The joint intelligence process consists of six subcategories of intelligence actions, “planning and direction, collection, processing and exploitation, analysis and production, dissemination and integration, and evaluation and feedback.” (JCS, 2022c, p. XX). The joint intelligence process focal point revolves around providing decision-makers within the command structure the ability to make rapid decisions through the prompt and correlated analysis of information. This ensures that the JFCs obtain the right information at the right time to actuate movement. According to the JCS (2022b) the joint force organizational structure recommends the establishment of the joint intelligence support element (JISE).
The JISE serves as the nucleus for intelligence activities, supporting both the JFCs and subordinate commands. The JISE, with the support of the JFC, applies the joint intelligence process to facilitate operational planning, mission command, and evaluation of joint operations. Information and intelligence consist of large amounts of ambivalence and unpredictability. The JISE analyzes and incorporates knowledge of the OE and tendencies to support systematic conclusions for the JFC. The first step in the joint intelligence process is planning and direction, this step remains constantly occurring throughout the operations process.
Planning and Direction
The JCS (2022c) describes planning and directions as a cyclical component that provides intelligence approaches and assessments aligned with mission requirements and the OE. The JISE develops the collection and intelligence asset hierarchy in support of the JFCs priorities within the joint operational area (JOA). This hierarchical structure for asset allocation provides the JFC with viable options that are suitable for the mission in the most effective manner. Planning and direction allow the JISE to identify and propose information requirements that support the development of commanders’ critical information requirements (CCIRs).
According to the JCS (2022c) once approved, CCIRs will identify an action or event within the OE that directly impacts command decisions. This allows JFCs to align efforts appropriately when assets become oversaturated. The CCIRs provide the JFC with a critical perspective surrounding changes within the OE, friendly, and adversary actions. For example, if a CCIR is the massing of adversary forces, the JFC can redirect assets to maintain a strategic advantage. The massing of forces within the JOA is deemed critical and prompts the JFC to make a timely decision. As planning and direction remain constant within the joint intelligence process it enables collection efforts.
The JCS (2022c) identifies collection as the acquisition of source data through systems, procedures, or forces to support the joint intelligence process. The JISE receives unfiltered information through collection efforts for processing. The JISE nominates assets to the JFC based on desired effects and priority to facilitate the JFCs collection efforts. This allows the JFC to employ suitable approaches to support collection requirements within the JOA. The ability to integrate collection efforts through all domains supports joint operations and facilitates operations at all levels of war. The JISE, with guidance from the JFC, layer collection efforts from all available assets within the OE. The layering of assets provides the JFC with continual updates within the OE.
For example, Operation Anaconda, the largest joint operation within Operation Enduring Freedom, exemplifies the importance of information collection. Kugler et al. (2009) identified information collection as one of the main components that degraded joint operations. The lacking integration of collection efforts during the operation delayed timely information and intelligence updates to all levels of command. The successful implementation of intelligence collection is imperative to enable processing and exploitation within the intelligence process.
Processing and Exploitation
The JCS (2022c) describes processing and exploitation as the interpretation and dissemination of source data for actionable decision-making, therefore supporting and informing the JFC’s common operational picture (COP). The JISE conducts analysis on information to authenticate and shape single source data for operational employment. For example, the Russian troop buildup on the Ukrainian border before the invasion demonstrated the ability to process and exploit data through geospatial (GEOINT), and open-source (OSINT) intelligence. Strobel and Gordon (2022), articulate how intelligence communities throughout the world were able to use satellite imagery (GEOINT), combined with social media (OSINT), to track and predict the movement of Russian forces. This timely processing displayed how information and intelligence provide the JFC with the ability to exploit opportunities within an OE. Accurate and timely processing along with exploitation allows the JISE to conduct analysis and production within the joint intelligence process.
Analysis and Production
Once the JISE analyzes and authenticates information it then becomes actionable intelligence and weighed against the current CCIRs. This enables the systematic review of collection efforts in support of the JFC’s intelligence needs. The JCS (2022c) describes analysis and production as the outcome-based product of authentication, for a particular audience, and provides the ability to conduct action. The JISE applies knowledge, experience, and creativity to successfully mold information into intelligence. The JCS (2022c), identifies this as actions involving integration, evaluation, and interpretation. This process compares data to a predetermined unit of measure to confirm credibility from a cognitive approach.
Once the conversion from information to intelligence is complete it is provided to JFC for implementation. The intelligence provided to the JFC provides insight to changes within the OE. For example, the Russian troop buildup as examined in the processing and exploitation section led to the development of estimative intelligence. Through the GEOINT and OSINT efforts intelligence planners were able to develop and predict Russian capabilities along with the insinuation of military activity against Ukraine. The successful completion of analysis and production within the joint intelligence process allows for the dissemination and integration.
Dissemination and Integration
The JCS (2022c) describes dissemination and integration as a cognizant approach to viewing the operational environment through rhythm and tempo to attain a prolonged operational advantage. Joint intelligence enables other joint functions such as command and control to complete joint operations successfully. The integration and dissemination of intelligence enhances situational awareness at all levels of war, guiding military operations. Intelligence provides relative and timely operational updates to the JFC and subordinate commands. The ability of the joint force to disseminate and integrate intelligence requires a holistic approach.
For example, tactical- level commanders may elevate requests for information (RFIs) regarding the OE through reporting channels. Meanwhile, the operational and strategic level can utilize systems such as upper tactical internet (UTI), and lower tactical internet (LTI) to drive intelligence updates at all levels. This collaborative environment of mutual support shapes the common operational picture within the OE and assists in developing the common intelligence picture. The JCS (2022c), describes the common intelligence picture (CIP) as an intelligence-owned holistic view of the OE derived from interpretive analysis. The CIP in conjunction with the COP increases situational awareness throughout joint operations. This is demonstrated and exercised through the flow of relevant and time-driven data. Joint intelligence serves as a vital component of successful joint operations through supporting the JFC in decision-making and enabling evaluation and feedback.
Evaluation and Feedback
All categories within the joint intelligence process revolve around a continuous cycle in support of the JFC and joint operations. The JCS (2022c) describes evaluation and feedback as a touchpoint throughout the joint intelligence process to ensure the compatibility of data for the appropriate audience. Continuous evaluation allows the JISE to support the JFC through updates of the OE during joint operations. This enables the JFC to forecast and allocate resources based on developed CCIRs in support of joint operations. Feedback enables the staff to develop and streamline processes that foster collaboration and build cohesion. This creates a synergistic environment that drives the implementation of all other joint functions.
The overarching purpose of joint functions allows the JFC to maintain a strategic advantage within the OE. Through evaluation and feedback, the JISE may develop measures of performance (MOPs) and measures of effectiveness (MOEs) for intelligence operations. The JCS (2022c), describes MOPs as the action conducted, and MOEs as did the action achieve the desired effect. The goal of intelligence is the ability to process, produce, and disseminate time-relevant data to all levels of command. Senior enlisted leaders may implement aspects of the joint intelligence process within their organizations.
Senior Enlisted Leader
The senior enlisted leader (SEL) serves in a leadership capacity bridging the gap between enlisted and officer populations. Through the understanding of the joint intelligence process, they can impact the organization through interoperability, feedback, and training. The SEL leverages interoperability at the enlisted level. This approach will develop effective communication to coordinate and cooperate with personnel from other services and agencies. The SEL can implement feedback mechanisms building open communication. The ability to foster communication through all levels of the organization prior to military operations creates a growth mindset.
This mindset creates a cohesive organization of critical thinkers enhancing lethality. The primary duty of the SEL remains developing the enlisted force through tough realistic training. The training approach should not only focus on small unit tasks, but also on increasing the knowledge within the joint operational context. Although the SEL most likely will not make strategic decisions, their role is to shape the enlisted force for future and joint operational concepts. This organizational approach, much like the joint intelligence process, remains continuous. Through evaluation and feedback, the SEL can shape the operational environment within an organization.
Joint intelligence forms the underlying base and supports all joint activities. Joint intelligence remains a vital component of operations through all levels of war and is executed through command and control. Joint intelligence provides the United States with a clear strategic advantage over its adversaries and enables commanders to win when deterrence fails. As war changes in the future, intelligence will be key to the success of joint operations and protecting America’s strategic and national interests.
Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2022a). Joint campaigns and operations (JP 3-0). https://doi.org/https://jdeis.js.mil/jdeis/new_pubs/jp3_0.pdf
Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2022b). Joint force headquarters (JP 3-33). https://doi.org/https://jdeis.js.mil/jdeis/new_pubs/jp3_33.pdf
Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2022c). Joint intelligence (JP 2-0). https://doi.org/https://jdeis.js.mil/jdeis/new_pubs/jp2_0.pdf
Kugler, R. L., Baranick, M., & Binnendijk, H. (2009). Operation Anaconda lessons for joint operations. National Defense University. https://doi.org/https://ndupress.ndu.edu/Portals/68/Documents/DefenseTechnologyPapers/DTP-060.pdf
Strobel, W. P., & Gordon, M. R. (2022, January 4). Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine is an open secret. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 30, 2023, from https://www.wsj.com/articles/russias-military-buildup-near-ukraine-is-an-open-secret-11641292202
MSG David V. Martinez Jr. is a native of Phoenix, Arizona, and enlisted in the United States Army in August of 2005. He attended One Station Unit Training as a Cavalry Scout at Fort Knox, Kentucky. His deployments include Operation Enduring Freedom (3), Kosovo (KFOR), Albania (DE-21), and European Assure, Deter, and Reenforce (Georgia).
He has served in every leadership position within the Armor community from Gunner to Troop First Sergeant. His assignments include Troop First Sergeant within the 4th Security Force Assistant Brigade, Fort Carson, CO. Troop First Sergeant and Platoon Sergeant 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, CO. Ranger Instructor, and OPFOR Platoon Sergeant 4th Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, Fort Moore, GA.
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