ISR Collection Management in the BCT during COIN

Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Collection Management in the Brigade Combat Team during COIN

Three Assumptions and Ten "A-Ha!" Moments on the Path to Battlefield Awareness

by Lieutenant Colonel Scott A. Downey and Captain Zehra T. Guvendiren, Small Wars Journal

ISR Collection Management in the BCT during COIN (Full PDF Article)

We found traditional CM and subsequent analytical methods inapplicable to our fight, but realized that we had to develop systems which met CM needs within counterinsurgency (COIN) to maintain our relevance to our lower and higher echelons.... Our most unconventional initiative was to have our PIR span the full spectrum of BCT Operations, essential when fighting in a COIN environment.

Collection Management (CM) has long been considered the bane of any intelligence officer's existence, even in the days of force-on-force doctrine when intelligence operations were much simpler than they are today. Those of us in the S2 section of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 1st Cavalry Division operating in the Karkh Security District (KSD) of Baghdad, Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) 06-08, felt no differently about CM when we took over our area of operations (AO). We began those operations with three basic assumptions:

  • That CM was somehow an irrelevant, if not exactly a dinosaur of Cold War intelligence art.
  • That enemy focused priority intelligence requirements (PIR) would drive our knowledge management (KM) system.
  • That after five years of war we would find a KM system in place that met the commander's needs in counter-insurgency (COIN).
  • War like life is a journey of discovery and the flaws in those assumptions revealed themselves in ten "A Ha!" moments during our journey. We found traditional CM and subsequent analytical methods inapplicable to our fight, but realized that we had to develop systems, which met CM needs within a COIN environment to maintain our relevance to our lower and higher echelons. After six months of development, we implemented an improved CM cycle that optimized our unit capabilities and mitigated our weaknesses - one that supported our balanced lethal and non-lethal operational tempo. Improving our CM cycle compounded our successes within our unique, high-density, urban AO. We combined doctrinal and non-doctrinal approaches to ensure our PIR were linked directly to the BCT Commander's decision points, and his desired effects. Our most unconventional initiative was to have our PIR span the full spectrum of BCT Operations, essential when fighting in a counterinsurgency (COIN) environment. Even though our experience was highly specific, the lessons we learned are universal and can be applied to any operational environment.

    ISR Collection Management in the BCT during COIN (Full PDF Article)

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