When you hear about signals intelligence or SIGINT, the first thing that may come to mind are jobs at the National Security Agency (or NSA). The different intelligence disciplines show us how complex they can be as you peel back the onion, and SIGINTers are no different – coming to the defense sector in a whole slew of shapes and varieties. Like different subsets within SIGINT, there is a plethora of opportunities serving many agencies in US defense.
The overarching SIGINT discipline is ‘collecting intelligence by intercepting signals and exploitation those signals transmitted from communication systems, radars, or weapon systems.’ This intelligence can be communications between people or communications intelligence (COMINT), electronic signals from radar that are not used in communication or electronic intelligence (ELINT), and signals detected from weapons or foreign instrumentation signals intelligence (FISINT).
A traditional SIGINT analyst will examine communications and activity, collate the collected information by compiling intelligence reports on combat, strategy, or tactical intelligence.
Information collected is usually sensitive and encrypted, so this type of intelligence can also involve the use of cryptologic analysis to decipher the messages. Some SIGINT roles incorporate translating from a foreign language – often called a ‘cryptologic linguist.’ This role in the Intelligence Community is responsible for identifying foreign communications using different types of signals equipment. For most openings, the US military, contractors and agencies are looking for level 3 proficiency from the Defense Language Institute (or DLI). DLI assesses analysts using a scale of 0-5 for both listening and speaking. A 5 essentially means you have complete fluency over the language.
- The U.S. Marine Corps categorizes this job as MOS 2691 or 2629.
- The U.S. Army ranks a SIGINT analyst as MOS 35N and a cryptologic linguist as 35P.
- The corresponding U.S. Air Force SIGINT / electronic signals MOS’ are 1N2X1 and 1N5X1 and 1N3X1 for a cryptologic linguist.
These intelligence roles are critical for US national security as the nation’s defense depends largely on information that comes from communications, and especially in foreign languages.
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