DOD demands faster, better cyber intell

Striking a balance between the Defense Department's dwindling human intelligence resources and its advancing information technology tools — and acting quickly on the information gathered — is essential to protecting the armed services against cyberattacks and succeeding in the war on terrorism, according to military leaders.

Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, director of Army operations, said cyberwarfare is a threat that the armed services must monitor daily because "a modern or future opponent can get into our decision-making through the cyber domain." It is especially difficult to defend against these attacks, he added, because strikes can originate from anywhere.

But the hardest part comes when that enemy is no longer online. "At some point, if the opponent is blended in with the local culture, tribe or city and is not talking on signals or with computers...then you have to gather intelligence through human sources," McKiernan told Federal Computer Week after testifying at a July 11 hearing of the House Special Oversight Panel on Terrorism. "We need to develop the full range of capabilities and the right regional expertise, and do it over the long haul."

Air Force Maj. Gen. Randall Schmidt, assistant deputy chief of staff for Air and Space Operations, said that coordinating the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance network in Afghanistan internally, and among the services, took "ingenuity and cooperation." He added that the process must be speeded up and tightened for continued success.

At a similar hearing last month before the same oversight panel, Navy and Marine Corps officials also agreed on the importance of faster intelligence and information sharing. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Emil Bedard, deputy commandant for plans, policies and operations, said that real-time intelligence sharing has improved throughout the operations in Afghanistan but is still not perfect.

Bedard said that Operation Enduring Freedom has illustrated the "reach-back" capabilities that technology provides. He used the example of an Afghanistan-based Marine commander receiving terrain, landing zone, route and the latest enemy situation data from intelligence officials in Quantico, Va., in less than four hours.

"Having direct feeds [from] the intelligence-gathering platform to the people working the mission — we need to get better at that," Bedard said.

Rear Adm. Joseph Krol Jr., assistant deputy chief of naval operations for plans, policy and operations, agreed. "Speed is [what] we need to concentrate on," he said at last month's hearing. "Our in-theater ability to operate with our allies has been successful, but needs to get better. We need more plug-and-play situations."

Rep. Jim Saxton (R-N.J.), chairman of the terrorism panel, and ranking member Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas) expressed concern about the military's ability to share information with the intelligence community, namely the CIA.

Krol said that the Navy receives information collected by spies "eventually, but we're not 100 percent sure what the source is." He added that the service works that data into operations when it can, but that process takes longer than it should because of the unknown source of the information.

At last week's hearing, Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-Nev.) asked the DOD officials for their "most significant intelligence need," and they answered that they needed to increase the development of the same technology: unmanned aerial vehicles, such as the Air Force's Predator, which has been successfully deployed in Afghanistan (see box).

"The ability to provide that asset to operational and tactical commanders, now and in the future...and put it into the hands of the warfighter...is absolutely critical," the Army's McKiernan said.

"This all points to the importance of the detection of intelligence to [the time] where it can be actioned," said the Air Force's Schmidt. "The value of intelligence is only as good as how you action it."

***

'Enduring' successes

Defense Department officials outlined several of the services' technology- aided intelligence successes in Operation Enduring Freedom, including:

* Using prototypes of the Prophet system, a new ground-based surveillance system that enables commanders in the field to intercept radio frequency signals generated by many kinds of electronic equipment.

* Trojan SPIRIT, or Special Purpose Integrated Remote Intelligence Terminal, which can carry high volumes of secure intelligence from national agencies and Army headquarters to commanders in the field. The tool was used within hours after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and has supported subsequent national security events, including the Super Bowl. A lightweight, portable version has been deployed in Afghanistan.

* The Air Force's Predator, an unmanned aerial vehicle that uses radar, a television camera and an infrared camera for surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting.

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