Intelligence in a Data-Driven Age

Published in: Joint Force Quarterly 90 (July 2018), Pages 4-9

Posted on RAND.org on July 13, 2018

by Cortney Weinbaum, John NT Shanahan

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In a foreseeable future, battles may unfold using weapons and tactics that the United States is ill-prepared to detect or counter. Today's ballistic missiles take tens of minutes to cross an ocean, but tomorrow's hypersonic weapons may take merely minutes. Urban warfare could occur in hyper-connected cities where overhead sensors provide limited value, while ubiquitous ground sensors provide too much data for analysts to mine. In the cyber domain, by the time an operator detects a "launch," a weapons package may have already reached its target and achieved its desired effect. Attacks against satellites, economic attacks, and covert influence campaigns can all occur undetectable to the human senses until too late. The vector, volume, velocity, variety, and ubiquity of data are disrupting traditional tools and methods of national security policy, operations, and intelligence. The scope of such disruption will only grow and accelerate. Under the adage that "information is power," society has created technologies capable of creating volumes of structured and unstructured data so large as to overwhelm all previous forms of analytic tradecraft and pattern recognition. As part of their recommendations from the January 2017 public meeting, the U.S. Defense Innovation Board asserted that whoever amasses and organizes the most data—about ourselves as well as our adversaries—will sustain technological superiority. Failure to treat data as a strategic asset will cede precious time and space to competitors or adversaries.

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