Intelligence capabilities within the Pentagon need to increase their focus on behavioral and social intelligence rather than technology, according to a report by the independent Defense Science Board Task Force. The report also notes that intelligence capabilities are too often misunderstood by senior leadership and ignored by commanding officers.
As a result, U.S. intelligence is not suited to support the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and unprepared to predict and react to conflicts like the recent Middle Eastern uprisings, according to the DSB’s Counterinsurgency (COIN) Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Operations report.
The study surveyed more than 100 defense, intelligence and nongovernment officials in the fields of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Some senior officials interviewed had little understanding of battlefield intelligence, other than what they collected from drone aircraft. Other officials didn’t know the difference between counterinsurgency and counterterrorism.
“What we were so shocked by was the number of people inside the Pentagon at very senior reaches that didn’t understand any of this,” said one official familiar with the deliberations, as reported by Stars and Stripes. “A commander needs information and he needs to understand the story of what’s going on, on the ground. And that is a massive, massive challenge that the intelligence community has fallen short on.”
For nearly a decade the Pentagon has expanded intelligence capabilities in Afghanistan, but have not applied them consistently, the group found. Although ISR gets “considerable lip service,” most senior civilian and military leaders were more interested in popular drone aircraft to answer intelligence requirements. This produces more immediate effects rather than “longer term, foundational information for population-centric operations,” the report said.
The report suggests the Defense Department needs further information to understand the progress of counterinsurgency including: monitoring whether local officials sleep in their districts; tracking new business loan rates and percentages of people holding title to their land; monitoring exotic vegetable prices and the risk of trucking goods and cash along dangerous roads; knowing trucking company kickback fees and taxes paid to the government versus the insurgent shadow government. The report noted a need for more on-the-ground intelligence capabilities including the social and behavioral science capabilities deemed critical to counterinsurgency.
While most senior officials, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, support the expansion of intelligence resources, lower-ranking personnel appeared not to understand fundamentals of how intelligence should be processed, analyzed, and used. Gates has repeatedly called on Congress to speed up additional ISR funding for warzones despite budget constraints.
“The enormous cost of not fielding these capabilities is clear today,” the panel said. “It’s a price the U.S. is paying in lives and in national treasure.”