WASHINGTON --- A bottom-up intelligence review across the Army is now in progress and should wrap up by late summer, said Lt. Gen. Robert P. Ashley Jr., the G-2.
Ashley spoke here Wednesday at an Association of the United States Army breakfast, titled: "Army Intelligence 2017-2025: Intelligence at the Speed of Mission Command."
The bottom-up review, which he termed the "BUR," is a survey that has been sent out to leaders not only in the intelligence community but also to leaders in other branches across all components from battalion-level to component commands.
Thousands of surveys have been sent out, he added, and thus far about 3,800 have been completed and returned. The effort is being led by the Army Training and Doctrine Command and the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence.
The BUR, he said, will look at current capacity and capability gaps in areas of intelligence and also at what capabilities will be needed in 2025.
One obvious gap, he pointed out, is in the area of open-source intelligence, which means collecting intelligence from public sources like social media and other outlets. "It's a huge area for growth, but it's not reflected in the force structure," he said. Tools and tradecraft for open-source intelligence need to be developed.
Among the areas the BUR is examining are: mix and size of intelligence formations; interrogation; intelligence certification; enhancement of counter-intelligence; collection management; future intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance or ISR capabilities; and geospatial intelligence.
Once the surveys are compiled, he said, the results will be presented to senior Army leaders to help them get a better understanding of where the Army is in relation to intelligence and readiness.
Ashley said leaders are also having robust discussions with their counterparts in the Special Operations community, along with sister services, most notably the Marine Corps.
Although the results of the surveys are still coming in and have yet to be compiled, Ashley provided his own personal survey of what he believes needs to be accomplished.
There needs to be a convergence of electronic warfare with signals intelligence and cyber, he said. There also needs to be more cross-talk regarding integration of intelligence capabilities between the centers of excellence for Cyber, Intelligence, Fires, and Mission Command.
Once intelligence is integrated, it will give Soldiers a better situational understanding of the battlefield and provide them useful information like kinetic targeting solutions.
The RAND Corporation has been asked to provide their analysis of airborne ISR, Ashley said. Topics include finding gaps in types of sensors needed, studying the right balance between manned and unmanned systems, survivability of those systems, and unmanned aerial system swarming using miniature UASs.
In a parallel effort, the Air Force is also studying swarming, he added.
The Soldier's cognitive burden must be reduced, Ashley said. To do that requires data automation. Once the data is automatically processed, it could be aggregated in such a way as to provide leaders with more options on courses of action to take.
That way, instead of getting bogged down in the data, leaders can have more time to think about the problem they're trying to solve and to better understand what they're seeing.
Advances in encryption are moving ahead with blinding speed, Ashley said. "At what point do we run into encryption that we cannot solve?"
The Army must find a way to cram more useful sensors and signals intelligence into its airborne and ground platforms, Ashley said. That will involve advances in miniaturization of components and data compression.
Ideally, intelligence collected on these platforms should be aggregated even before it is transmitted to analysts, a process he termed "upstream fusion." That would speed intelligence and would also solve the bandwidth demand problem, he added. "That's a hard problem but one we've got to solve."
The X-factor is the American Soldier, Ashley said. "It's how we grow leaders; what we train our Soldiers to do from the youngest private to the most senior officer; how they look at and solve problems."
The U.S. Army does that better than other armies, he asserted.
The pace of technological advancement in recent years has been extraordinary, Ashley said. The Army is always on the lookout for disruptive technology that will keep it ahead of other nations.
P. W. Singer, a strategist for the New America Foundation, was invited to an AUSA panel last year, Ashley said. Someone asked him this question: "What do you see on the horizon as that one disruptive technology that's going to separate us from other nations?"
His reply: "I really don't see one; not right now."
Singer added that, for now, the best way forward is to more effectively use the technology available, along with emerging technology.
Ashley said the well-trained, well-led, smart American Soldier is key to making that happen.