Small Wars Journal

What’s INSCOM For? A Brigade Commander’s Perspective.

Thu, 04/26/2018 - 8:44am

What’s INSCOM For? A Brigade Commander’s Perspective.


Ingrid A. Parker


When considering the purpose of INSCOM, I think we, as an organization, serve the US Army (1) to sustain, retain, improve, and optimize intelligence tradecraft, (2) to build intelligence and individual readiness, and (3) to set the theater. To do this, the HQ INSCOM designed the various Military Intelligence Brigades, Theater [MIB(T)] and their subordinate battalions while fastening the brigades to a mission and Area of Operations (AO). By umbilical chording a brigade to a geographic area, it allows the brigade to become the subject matter expert for that region while simultaneously building capacity, which is specific to an AO. In addition, certain AOs offer unique geographic capabilities, which I think are likely considered in the MIB(T) organizational design, too; for example, regional enablers, partners, and other organic capabilities are likely some of the factors in the size determinations of the MIB(T). Other probable considerations are: (1) What is the minimal package for a MIB(T)?; (2) Can the MIB(T) federate to extend the intelligence apparatus?; and (3) What are the missions and AO priorities in the National Military Strategy and the Department of Defense (DoD)? The answers to these questions (and probably many more) inform the decisions for intelligence resourcing as well as the associated staff to run an intelligence enterprise.


Like the other MIB(T)s, the 470th Military Intelligence Brigade is customized to an Army Service Component Command (ASCC) and mission, so when I took command, I assessed MIB(T) organizational design and current capacity. I delved into the intelligence architecture, the collection assets, the subordinate battalion configurations, future Modification Table of Organization and Equipment (MTOE) and Tables of Distribution and Allowances (TDA) growth, organizational efficacy, and other intelligence assets within our footprint. In my assessment, the architecture was only partly functional, due to the lack of institutional knowledge to guide a complex system. Second, we are still conducting legacy collection missions that continue to create inflexibility (e.g. the inability to lift and shift) for collection against current threat streams. Third, several data streams continue to hit the floor and do not add to the over intelligence picture and therefore, do not obtain full dissemination as well. Consequently, the brigade still disseminates several intelligence products via email (point-to-point), hence this information does not add to the Common Intelligence Picture (CIP), unless manually inputted. Last, individual readiness or Soldier hardiness was somewhat lethargic – as seen in APFT failures, high non-deployable rates, suicide ideations, poor job satisfaction, and wore out commentary in command climate surveys. To address the gaps and shortfalls, we developed a “Way Ahead” with supporting Lines of Effort (LOE) to build and guide intelligence combat power. Our LOEs are:


  • LOE1: Individual and Intelligence Readiness [e.g. inspirational leadership, fitness, intelligence gunnery, Soldier Readiness Processing (SRP), and medical readiness]
  • LOE2: Modernization [e.g. apparatus synchronization, new business practices for technological innovation, knowledge management strategy, the creative use of non-traditional collection, TCOP, Athena, and S303 Reporting]
  • LOE3: Optimization [e.g. Priority Intelligence Requirement (PIR)-driven intelligence enterprise, Area of Intelligence Responsibility (AOIR), Intelligence Handover Lines (IHL), capture data that hits the floor in the intelligence enterprise, and define reporting thresholds for the Brigade]
  • LOE4: Mission Federation called Platform San Antonio [e.g. The re-instantiation of the TCAE and pilots with external partners to include supporting the 505th MI BDE, a database partnership, data sharing agreements, and an information sharing partnership with adjacent commands through an improved architecture]


To implement our LOEs, we needed to provide direction and guidance to the battalion commanders and brigade staff for the optimization of the intelligence apparatus while working on individual and intelligence readiness. To move quickly (as commanders only have 2-years), we immediately issued guidance in several venues [e.g. face-to-face, working groups, meetings, and Operation Orders (OPORD)] to the Battalion Commanders and other subject matter experts (SME) within the brigade in order to “get after it” quickly. Some agenda items were “Easy Wins”; such as, the consolidating the federated and delegated mission into one larger mission area, creating Technical Control and Analysis Element (TCAE), ensuring the use of reporting vehicles, and restoring the interfaces in the intelligence architecture (e.g. the RSS feed from HighPoint to DCGS-A and DIB publication). These small improvements (or foundational activities) put into motion the modernization efforts within the intelligence enterprise, capitalizing on new instantiated tools within the architecture, too (e.g. HighPoint).


Unlike maneuver units, intelligence combat power is different and takes a combination of hard and soft skills to address the full gambit of intelligence and individual readiness. That meant, we needed a full-spectrum strategy to address organizational challenges. To demonstrate the direction and guidance to our organizational leadership, the Soldiers and civilians of the 470th Military Intelligence Brigade wrote a series of articles, indicative of how we are building intelligence combat power in the brigade to (1) to sustain, modernize, improve, and optimize the intelligence enterprise, (2) to build intelligence and individual readiness, and (3) to set the theater. It was necessary that subordinate leaders understand their piece of the overall strategy towards organizational improvement. Like all organizations, some improvements were “Easy Wins” and quickly achieved because (1) the subordinate leader (or SME) understood and quickly implemented their piece of the plan or (2) the improvement simply required identification of the problem to fix it. Other improvements are moving slower and require continual oversight, hence the challenge of command. Even so, improvements to date have been remarkable and I want to highlight some of the stellar work that will be published by Small Wars Journal over the next week. Summaries of these articles and initiatives follow:


Setting the Theater: A Critical Intelligence Function: In 2015, setting the theater was defined as a proposes defining setting the theater as “the broad range of actions conducted to shape the operational environment, deter aggression, and establish the conditions in a theater of operations for the execution of strategic plans.” Setting the theater is simply a way of thinking about operations that include a wide range of activities in support of Phase 0 and Phase 1 requirements in the joint phasing construct that all lead toward specific condition-setting objectives. By MAJ James Chester.


Deployable Intelligence Support Element in Support of the Army Service Component Command: The DISE has to be tailorable and scalable based on the contingency and requirements of the JTF HQ it is supporting. A Humanitarian Assistance/ Disaster Relief (HA/DR) contingency led by the Interagency, a wartime forcible entry option executed unilaterally by the United States, and a Multinational Joint operation focused on maintaining stability all have very different intelligence requirements. By LTC Christopher Synowiez and CPT Kyle Gordy.


Suicidal Ideation Assessment Among Intelligence Professionals: The idea of death is disturbing.  More disturbing still, is the idea of suicide.  Consequently, suicidal ideation (SI) is probably one of the most difficult challenges Army leaders grapple with.  In this generation of the Army, SI trends across every echelon of the force have generated countless studies and program.  However, despite the ubiquitous nature of this dynamic, its unique impact on intelligence professionals should be of particular interest to Army leaders.  In response to an uptick in reported SI in the 470th MI BDE, the BDE CDR directed the BDE Chaplain and Military and Family Life Consultant (MFLC) to develop a survey and assessment tool for her formation.  That survey was piloted in the BDE’s HHC on 21 DEC 2017 and is currently being conducted in subordinate battalions. By Chaplain (Major) James Covey.


Improving the Dissemination of Army Finished Intelligence to the Tactical Force Using Highpoint: 470th MIB(T), in coordination with U.S. Army South was the second Army unit to use a WCMS known as Highpoint; the first being 780th MIB/U.S. Army Cyber. Highpoint started as a USEUCOM initiative and has now spread to more than 25 organizations. Almost every CCMD and MIB(T)/ASCC are now using this service. The WCMS uses graphic user interfaces (GUI) that make the upload process simple and efficient. The WCMS has streamlined our all source intelligence production in the 470th MIB(T), as we have moved all finished intelligence production up to JWICS. Once a product is approved and if classification permits, it is disseminated down to multiple domains in a variety of formats allowing the customer to easily access the data on their preferred domain. By CW3 Martin J. McCloud.


The Complexity of Sustainment: Home and Abroad: Identifying gaps and placing key sustainment components into and organization using command relationships is a staff’s responsibility that should not be overlooked when moving beyond the garrison. The Military Intelligence Brigade MIB(T) support structure unlike any Brigade Combat Teams (BCT) are not equipped with organic support elements to sustain the organization outside of the Garrison environment. Forward logistics element, brigade support battalions, and sustainment brigades are military organizations that integrate with the strategic level proponents when deployed beyond the garrison environment. By MAJ Hildred Mathews.


Returning the Technical Control and Analysis Elements for Theater Signals Intelligence Support: One of the first things Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) did after its creation was to conduct an echelon above corps (EAC) intelligence organization and stationing study.  It was this study that recognized the need to provide cryptologic support to tactical military intelligence units.  To answer this requirement, INSCOM fielded technical control and analysis elements (TCAE).  These TCAE’s were found at every echelon but played a vital role at what was then called the MI brigades at echelons above corps (EAC). In the past, each of the ground component commands had a regionally aligned TCAE (e.g. Army South TCAE, or AS-TCAE). By Mr. Scott Hammon.


Challenges of the INSCOM Military Intelligence Brigade (Theater) Headquarters and Headquarters Company: Unlike a line company, the HHC is not constituted of platoons, but of primary and special staff sections that essentially work for the higher command, whether it be battalion, brigade, or higher.  As a company-grade officer, I think that commanding a Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC) challenges a captain like few other jobs. By CPT Christopher Phalan.


Building HUMINT Capacity Using Live Environment Training: This operational training gap manifests itself as junior HUMINT Soldiers who cannot perform the fundamental elements of the 35M Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) to standard in a real-world environment.  Initial entry HUMINT Soldiers are not routinely given the opportunity to hone their craft in Live Environment Training (LET) scenario’s because company commanders often elect to hold these Soldiers back from foundry training opportunities to perform administrative tasks (staff duty, motor pool maintenance etc.) in garrison. By MAJ Joshua Tompkins.


The Importance of Priority Intelligence Requirements to the Army Service Component Command (ASCC) and the Intelligence Apparatus: Most Military Intelligence Brigades, Theater [MIB (T)] have an Analytical Control Element (ACE) and Collection Battalion supporting the Army Service Component Command (ASCC). In order to focus the intelligence enterprise, the MIB (T) and the G2 use Priority Intelligence Requirements (PIR) as its main driver to focus the intelligence apparatus. Because the ASCC has a larger footprint to support than a maneuver Division ACE, a PIR-driven analytical process is critical in order to manage the organizational resources throughout the depth of the Area of Operations (AO). Other business practices compliment the process, too, such as (1) Area of Intelligence Responsibility (AOIR) for collection, analysis, production, and dissemination; (2) Intelligence Handover Lines (IHL) for mission federation; (3) PIR-SIR-SOR-SDR for sensor synchronization; and (4) intelligence architecture for sensor and apparatus customization. By MAJ James King.


What is a Force Protection Detachment?: On October 12, 2000, the U.S. Navy destroyer Cole was attacked by a small boat laden with explosives during a brief refueling stop in the harbor of Aden, Yemen. The suicide terrorist attack killed 17 members of the ship's crew, wounded 39 others, and seriously damaged the ship. The attack has been widely characterized as a boat bomb adaptation of the truck-bomb tactic used to attack the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut in 1983 and the Khobar Towers U.S. military residence in Saudi Arabia in 1996.  The bombing of the USS Cole prompted the U.S. Congress to establish the USS Cole Commission in order to investigate and provide recommendations to prevent this from happening again. The report was released in 2001 with one finding recommending the requirements for full-time Force Protection Officers at the Service Component level - thus establishing the Force Protection Detachment program in department of Defense (DoD). By Mr. Edgardo Ortiz.


The Griffin Functional Fitness Program – Bringing Balance to Physical Conditioning and Resilience: The prospect of shifting the Army’s fitness culture is a major task to be implemented at every level. The 470th Military Intelligence Brigade has started that change with the Griffin Functional Fitness Program. This initiative comprised of junior Soldiers, NCOs, and officers of varying fitness profiles has its participants trained in a variety of fitness disciplines. Over a sixty-day period, each Soldier performs weighted, gymnastic, and mono-structural movements to build a well-rounded fitness foundation. The program promotes the shift from tedious and repetitive physical training plans to a competitive and diverse program through education and empathy. By SFC Edward L. Gribbins and MAJ Patrick G. Miller.


Balancing Army Readiness With NSA's Mission: A Case Study of the 717th Military Intelligence Battalion: The first priority of every Army unit is readiness, ensuring that our Soldiers have the skills needed to deploy, operate, and win across the entire warfighting spectrum. With that understanding, individual Army units pursue readiness in a tailored fashion based on its stated mission, available personnel, assessed level of training, and assigned equipment to achieve readiness standards set by the Army. The Army’s Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) provides ready Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) forces to support the National Security Agency’s (NSA) global mission.  As such, the 717th Military Intelligence battalion, located in San Antonio, is the INSCOM contributor to NSA in Texas (NSAT).  To achieve readiness, we balance Army training and NSA requirements through a continuous process of situational understanding, training prioritization, training methodology, and leader engagement to provide the most effective Service and NSA-related training possible and ensure NSA meets its global mission.  This article will describe how the 717th MI battalion achieves training readiness while executing its ongoing global mission. By LTC Robert Chung.

About the Author(s)

Colonel Ingrid A. Parker is the commander of the 470th Military Intelligence Brigade at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston. She holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Phoenix, a Master of Military Art and Science (MMAS) from the Army Command and General Staff College, and is a doctoral student at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Over the years, Col. Parker has served in every echelon of the Department of Defense—tactical, strategic, and force providing with over 25-years of active, federal service. To date, she has commanded in the Army for 70-months, too.