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Indications and Warning (I&W)


Part 1

"No one was ever killed by a fast noise." [Guidance from an early combat pistol instructor who impressed upon me that speed and accuracy were inseparable. So it is in all disciplines.]

Central to the CENTCOM Indications & Warning (I&W) validate Iraqi civil war, Indications and Warning (I&W) form an essential element of military Information Warfare (IW) along with attack and defense capabilities, targeting, and battle damage assessment (BDA). I&W affects far more than military operations and Operations Other Than War (OOTW), a notable example being the CERT Coordination Center dealing with vulnerability and incident analysis, and enterprise survivability in the face of computer security threats. I&W is central to predictive analysis yet is too often missing in commercial risk analysis.

Indications are observables of an evolving system that is only partially revealed to the analyst, e.g., fast breaking, fragmentary news. Only when the system is fully revealed are Indications understood in terms of their individual cause and effect, e.g., an After Action Report or the historical record. Too often do I see Indications listed as a checklist, stripped of their systems context without the means to value one Indication above others for a particular analysis. This note speaks to themes I think critical to good I&W analysis.

FM 34-1, dtd Jan 94 defines Indicator as:

Positive or negative evidence of threat activity or any characteristic of the AO [Area of Operation] which points toward threat vulnerabilities or the adoption or rejection by the threat of a particular capability, or which may influence the commander's selection of a COA [Course of Action]. Indicators may result from previous actions or from threat failure to take action.

Neil Garra runs a colorful but useful site for the S2, or intelligence officer, that will give you the basics here and here. Then look at State Collapse and Ethnic Violence: Toward a Predictive Model.

I tilt to the view shared by many terrorism analysts that terrorism presents an especially difficult challenge to the intel community, a challenge marked by lack of massively better humint and the contextual understanding of local conditions to interpret that humint. I believe that the challenge can benefit from better analytic tools, but nothing can substitute for a competent analyst capable of non-linear thinking with an eye for the outlier datum. Analytics that blunt that ability lead to disaster.

The Military Intelligence Officer Basic Course describes the difficulty in predictive analysis:

The challenge of predictive analysis is that it is both difficult and risky. The Military Intelligence Officer must stretch his or her intellectual resources to the limit to conduct predictive analysis, and still runs the risk that events predicted will not come to pass. This difficulty and risk apply less to the production of capabilities intelligence. As a consequence, there is a tendency to avoid predictive analysis and stick to beancounting. The bottom line, however, is the Commander needs to know enemy intentions as well as enemy capabilities [especially so] when the Commander initiates an action or when the enemy poses a vital threat to friendly forces.

Never easy in combat operations, successful prediction demands even more attentive analysis in Operations Other Than War (OOTW) as there is either too much or too little data, i.e., too many dots or not enough dots to define a pattern changing over time.

The enemy of good I&W, Denial and Deception are almost always present to confuse the opponent's analysis. Here is a summary of deception tactics and strategies, with some thoughts on counter-deception drawn from the 2004 US election campaigns:

The centrality of Boyd's OODA Loop

Indications are generally perishable and demand a high clockspeed in order to get ahead of the adversary's planning - and in Iraq that is often multiple adversaries, each pursuing their own agenda and targets. The I&W cycle must contract so that it operates inside the adversaries timing, otherwise you are in the business of Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA), a nasty catch-up game. LTIOV, or Latest Time Information of Value, takes on new meaning.

One of the best examples that both defines and explains the use of the Observe, Orient, Decide, Act Loop in a fluid 4GW environment is Fourth Generation Warfare & OODA Loop Implications of The Iraqi Insurgency.

Systems mindset and mental models

All analysts should study Russ Ackoff. Start here and dig deeper: Applying Ackoff's rules of system interdependency, Part I and Ackoff on Reductionism and Expansionism, Part II. The Berlin Wisdom Model describes a knowledge gaining process essential to an analyst. Analysts are often required to make sense of a system of which they have an insufficient understanding. They often lack an awareness of the most appropriate mental model, formal or informal, by which to study it. Commenting on the evolving nature of modeling systems, Coensys' Chadna wrote:

  1. Appropriate modeling requires that the modeler understands and is proficient in all techniques. If all you have is a hammer.......
  2. Use the paradigm that is the most natural fit to the aspect/characteristic being modeled ( I would use SD [Systems Dynamics] for modeling diffusion of scents, while using agents to model people looking for food in the food court [or navigating battlespace], the food preparation assembly line might be best modeled using DES [Discrete Event Simulation], use the state charts to trigger process exceptions)...
  3. You could start with a SD and/or a DES model and selectively turn some entities into agents based on the need for differentiation or autonomy/agency in behavior. Every step you take, you can evaluate to see whether you see something that is new and interesting in the behavior - if not, maybe you need to look at some other aspect…

The changing nature and subtlety of Indications

Back to the Basic Course, Indictations in OOTW are "observable or discernible actions that confirm or deny enemy capabilities and intentions" divided into a hierarchy of:

  • Imminent/Immediate Threat indicators: "threat actions of an immediate nature, both violent and non-violent. These are highly perishable and the emphasis [is] on force protection"
  • Preparatory Threat Indicators: "threat planning which must be done before executing an attack (or other mission)"
  • Secondary or Circumstantial Threat Indicators: "threat activity among the population or the environment"

If it were only so easy. Paramilitaries and autonomous, loosely coupled groups can assemble without the logistics and maneuver tail common to conventional combat forces. And when the adversary's weapons are common task to task, it is difficult to isolate preparatory indicators that tell the analyst "specifically what is being trained or what equipment the threat is being trained to use."

They get it more correct in defining the secondary indicators as the disappearance of things, i.e., things or personnel have gone missing (We love to say that, "The Hole is as good as the Donut.") and "intangibles such as fear or joy among the population." They get it right in noting that the "analysis of secondary indicators [requires] in-depth knowledge of the local culture, habits and customs and must also take into consideration history, society, geography and climate to fully understand their importance or value." And we sent brigade after brigade into Iraq without so much language training as to say hello in Arabic. Worse, units often called their Arab US nationals acting as translators, sand niggers. Whoops.

Part 3 to follow, Too small, too few, too sparse, too irregular, too contextual

Nong Ye
Arizona State University
Final Technical Report
September 2005

An OODA Loop Writ Large - 4GW and the Iraq War
Comment #534
Defense and the National Interest
December 23, 2004

Fourth Generation Warfare & OODA Loop Implications of The Iraqi Insurgency
G.I. Wilson, Greg Wilcox, Chet Richards
December 2004

By Scott K. Swanson
Military Intelligence Corps Association

Homeland Security: Intelligence Indications and Warning
By guest analyst Lt. Col Kenneth A. Luikart, USAF
Strategic Insights, Volume I, Issue 10 (December 2002)

Focusing Intelligence
Part 1 - Formulating useful PIR
Neil Garra
The S2 Company

Focusing Intelligence part 2
Building SORs
Neil Garra
The S2 Company

January 01, 2000

VIRTUAL INTELLIGENCE: Conflict Avoidance and Resolution Through Information Peacekeeping
by Robert David Steele
Virtual Diplomacy, United States Institute of Peace
Washington DC, April, 1997

Toward a Functional Model of Information Warfare
L. Scott Johnson
Studies In Intelligence Vol. 01 No. 1, 1997

State Collapse and Ethnic Violence: Toward a Predictive Model
Pauline H. Baker and John A. Ausink
Parameters, Spring 1996, pp. 19-31

Employment of Indications and Warning Intelligence Methods to Forecast a Potentially Hostile Revolution in Military Affairs.
Brent A. Morgan
SEP 1995

Military Intelligence Officer Basic Course
Fort Huachuca, Arizona 85613-7000
February 1995

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Strategic Risk Public  Terrorism Public  


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