Army making strides in intell

The Army's intelligence capabilities are improving steadily thanks to new technologies paying dividends in the field and an unprecedented amount of collaboration with Defense Department and national intelligence community colleagues.

But the service and its partners are still a long way from being able to quickly process, analyze and act on the approximately 1 billion pieces of intelligence information that come in daily, and technology is only part of the solution, according to Army officials.

During the ongoing war on terrorism, the Army has had to contend not only with collecting intelligence spoken and written in numerous foreign languages, but it also has dealt with information in laptop computers written and encrypted in those languages, said Lt. Gen. Robert Noonan Jr., deputy chief of staff for intelligence.

"It's not only their diaries, but laptops, and we have to use computer forensics to break into that," Noonan said during an Oct. 21 panel discussion at the Association of the U.S. Army's annual meeting in Washington, D.C. "Most of these guys don't give us their passwords."

The Army would like to be able to turn the intelligence gleaned from the laptops, written diaries and oral interviews around as quickly as it does with signals intelligence, "but we can't do it," he said.

Noonan said the Army is focusing much of its science and technology research and funding in areas that can help the service accomplish that goal, including robotic sensors, automated language translators and systems for fusing the various forms of intelligence being collected.

Maj. Gen. Keith Alexander, commander of the Army's Intelligence and Security Command, said analysts handle about 500 messages per day. The question of how to ramp that up to close to 1 billion per day has demanded that the Army team with its defense partners and develop new ways of fusing the various systems that feed into the national intelligence picture, he said.

The Army is working with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency on developing a total information awareness system that combines strategic analysis with knowledge discovery to promote collaboration among users worldwide. Total information awareness incorporates transactional data systems, biometric authentication technologies, intelligence data and automated virtual data repositories, and the agencies are working on building a "mediation layer" that allows all the databases to link together, Alexander said.

"We've taken an automated approach, set up different alarms and began to let things flow," he said, adding that the Army's immediate goal is a 10-to-100-fold improvement in its intelligence capabilities by the end of this year, and a 10,000-fold improvement by the end of next year.

Alexander acknowledged that the goal is ambitious, but said the service has already had some success combining intrusion-detection and visualization tools, decreasing analysis time from 1,000 hours to one minute. "We'll spend the next two months learning those tools — [because] that's what we need to solve counterterrorism problems."

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