Intelligence community facing challenges with human intel

18 May 2005 | - Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample

The Defense Intelligence Agency is facing several challenges, especially in the human intelligence community, an expert in this area said here May 17.

Speaking at the 2005 C4ISR Integration Conference, Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Michael Ennis, deputy director of human intelligence for DIA, said there are problems in the HUMIT community when it comes to following procedures and employing personnel.

C4ISR is an acronym for Command, Control, Communications, Computer, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance. The theme of this year's conference is "Actionable Intelligence for the War Fighter and Decision Maker."

"HUMINT is not a business for young folk -- I mean really young people, immature, inexperienced -- to come into," he said. "You have to have a degree of maturity, and we're finding that in Iraq and Afghanistan right now.

"We need to make sure that the people we train are trained well and have a certain degree of experience, maturity," he said.

Ennis, who was promoted to major general today, also said that when conducting human intelligence "proper procedures" must be followed, and that too has been a problem.

"We need to make sure that what (information) is collected is reported. We need to make sure that the sources we develop are recorded so we're not tapping the same source twice. We need to make sure that the process is followed of getting that information up into the higher echelons of command, so that it can be seen and shared by everybody," Ennis said. "And that's not always the case right now."

Yet another difficulty the intelligence communities in the Defense Department and other government agencies are facing is the ability to find information, he said, citing a need for better technology to collect data and track information.

"It is in so many places, and so many data stores, and so many locations that we simply don't have access to data ubiquitously throughout the intelligence community," Ennis explained. "And therein, I would argue, lies our biggest challenge.

"If we want to continue to advance at the pace, at the proportional pace that we have advanced in the past, we're going to have to find new paradigms for getting out and searching for information and bits of knowledge," he added.

Ennis suggested several steps to solving this problem.

The first part, he said, is attacking the data -- "tagging it and organizing it in such a way that it can be discovered."

Using the music-download service "Napster" as an example, Ennis said the second step is that the department needs a distributed search capability, much like the powerful search engines that exist today to allow data "to be discovered and exposed so that we can access it and, with that distributed search capability, go up and find it."

"It's the biggest hindrance that we have right now," he said.

However, he added, "The capability is out there. We just have to focus as a community."

The general said it upsets him when "intel people get 'beat up' for a lack of actionable intelligence."

"There is all kinds of actionable intelligence out there, but it's having that force near with adequate strength nearby that can act upon it," he said.

In addition, he said, military officials needs to have the authority "at a low enough level" to execute in a timely manner and to "react to or act upon the intelligence that is received."

"We had many occasions in Afghanistan where we had intelligence that the bad guys were going east over the hills into Pakistan, but we didn't have a force close enough by that could actually interdict and strike those fleeing," he said

In another instance near Camp Rhino in Kandahar, Ennis said, the military had the intelligence an the forces in place to strike against the "bad guys." However, he said, the "decision authority" rested in Washington, D.C., or Central Command Headquarters, thousands of miles and many hours away.

"By the time we finally got the approval, after all the lawyers had gone through it and said, 'This is okay,' there wasn't a bad guy to be seen," Ennis said. "They were gone."
Headquarters Marine Corps