Cover: Military Intelligence Fusion for Complex Operations

Military Intelligence Fusion for Complex Operations

A New Paradigm

Published Jul 23, 2012

by Ben Connable


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Research Questions

  1. What is the nature of the U.S. military's current approach to analyzing complex counterinsurgency environments, and what are its specific drawbacks?
  2. How can the U.S. military move toward a new model for intelligence analysis based on a more holistic, fused approach?
  3. What are the advantages and challenges to instituting and carrying out holistic, all-source, fused analysis in support of counterinsurgency operations?

In the hostile, complex, and chaotic counterinsurgency environment, people can support the government and the insurgency to varying degrees at the same time — and be similarly resentful of both. Identifying all but the unequivocally irredeemable as an "enemy" and labeling anyone wearing a government uniform as a "friend" not only creates a false paradigm of human identity, but it also artificially bounds the U.S. military's options for influencing a population during a counterinsurgency operation. Analyzing complex environments, such as Iraq or Afghanistan, through simplified approaches that incorporate color-coding and enforce a strict division of analytic specialties can lead analysts to make unhelpful and logically unsound assumptions about human identity. Color-coded, enemy-centric analyses also reinforce the inaccurate and unhelpful notion that the enemy and society are separate constructs in the counterinsurgency environment, or separate subsystems (or groups) within a larger societal system. On the contrary, what is needed is an all-source, holistic, fused approach to analysis that takes into account sociocultural ambiguities. This paper proposes a paradigm shift in how intelligence is combined for analysis and how the product of that analysis can provide a more complete picture of counterinsurgency operations for commanders and other decisionmakers. The concept of behavioral intelligence analysis discards the old method of color-coding in favor of a spectrum of hostility. In other words, analysts would work from the assumption that all actors might have the capacity to behave in a way that is more or less conducive to the U.S. military's objectives in a conflict.

Key Findings

The U.S. Military's Current Approach to Intelligence Analysis Is Not Appropriate for Complex Operations.

  • The U.S. military relies on an intelligence analysis approach that describes operational environments as separate groups, color-coding the actors (e.g., enemy, population, host-nation forces) in a way that distorts identity and misleads commanders.
  • In terms of personnel and outcomes, color-coding segregates intelligence specialties and undermines effective targeting of populations for various types of interventions (i.e., efforts to encourage certain behaviors and discourage others).
  • These divisions are endemic in the intelligence collection process and thus make it extremely difficult to fuse intelligence sources later, during the analytic process.

A Paradigm Shift in Fusion Analysis for Complex Operations Is Needed.

  • A new paradigm, "behavioral intelligence analysis," can provide a more complete picture of counterinsurgency operations and sociocultural factors for commanders and other decisionmakers.
  • This new paradigm is not without challenges: Such a change in the U.S. military's approach to analysis must also be accompanied by changes to the analytic workforce and an understanding that objectives will likely be limited by resource and institutional constraints.


  • The U.S. military would benefit from discarding its current approach to intelligence analysis for complex operations, which prioritizes color-coding and the channelization of intelligence specialties, in favor of an all-source, holistic, fused approach based on the concept of behavioral intelligence analysis.
  • The military should consider three basic options for implementing this new approach, each with its own advantages and drawbacks: incorporating the new approach on a case-by-case basis, creating a special class of analysts who are trained specifically to approach operations holistically, or making changes throughout the force to eliminate the old approach in favor of the new one. This last option will have the greatest potential to remedy the problem of color-coding, but it will also require the greatest amount of change.
  • The military must consider the limitations of personnel training and resource constraints as it decides whether and how to move forward with implementing the approach described here.

The research described in this report was conducted within the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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