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Noonan : Transforming the Intelligence Force

Noonan : Transforming the Intelligence Force

By Joe Burlas, Army News Service.

Washington D.C. -- (ANS), August 14, 2001 -- The Army's Military Intelligence Corps isn't going to transform itself just because the rest of the Army is doing it, but because there are a number of other operational reasons to do so, the deputy chief of staff for intelligence recently told reporters.

Lt. Gen. Robert W. Noonan Jr. listed those reasons -- changing world demographics, increasing technology transfers to Third World countries, information proliferation and defense spending trends -- during a 45-minute media roundtable discussion Aug. 9 as part of the Association of the U.S. Army's Intelligence Symposium at the Defense Intelligence Agency, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington.

"ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) is a critical enabler for the Objective Force," Noonan said, referring to the Army's Transformation force of the future.

  • Urbanization & Population Growth

Unlike the relatively open rolling terrain of Western Europe where the Army expected to fight during the Cold War, the Army will likely face opponents in urban terrain during future conflicts, according to Noonan.

Why should the Army and the intelligence community be concerned about cities? Because that's where the people are, and because cities have become centers of instability as they grow, the senior Army intelligence chief said.

People move to large cities with the expectation of bettering their lives, he explained, but those people are often disappointed as the expected high-paying jobs aren't there. Further, unlike Washington or Los Angeles, large-city infrastructure and resources are often strained or overwhelmed by an ever growing population.

Noonan predicted access to one of those scarce resources, fresh water, will be a cause for conflict in the future, much like conflicts in recent years over oil.

About 53 percent of the world's population currently lives in cities, and that figure, according to sociologists, is expected to grow to 66 percent by 2020, Noonan reported.

The general also predicted Asia as a future hotbed of instability due to population growth.

"Fifty-one percent of today's population resides in China and India," Noonan said. "By 2020, four of the five most populated nations in the world will be in Asia ... Historically, 30 percent population growth means war."

  • Third-World Countries with First-Class Weapons

Calling it a readiness issue, Noonan said the Army must maintain its technology edge in weapons and intelligence systems.

"I heard estimates somewhere that 85 percent of all military applicable research is done here in the United States," he said. "One of the problems I have is protecting that data."

Yet, he said, there are web sites on the Internet where anyone can order complete state-of-the-art Russian weapons systems and other high-tech gear.

"We've had to refocus Army intelligence to track technology in the same way we used to track the Russian order of battle," Noonan said. "We want to track who has what technology and how will it be used. We don't want to get off the airplane and discover the bad guys have some technology we didn't know about."

If the MI corps can get technology transfer information to operational commanders in a timely manner, those commanders can train their troops to counter the technology before going in, he said.

Citing Iran as having a little more than 500 ballistic missiles today, Noonan predicted they will have three times that number within three to four years. "You have to ask yourself: is that all defensive in nature?" he said.

  • Global Community

The World Wide Web is accelerating globalization through the proliferation of information, and that proliferation is creating national security concerns in areas the United States wouldn't have been interested in a decade ago, Noonan said.

The Berlin Wall and its divisiveness was the symbol of the Cold War, and the symbol of the new millennium is the Web with its inclusiveness -- making the world one global village, he said.

"Last year we had a problem in East Timor," he said. "Many people say the crisis in East Timor was precipitated by problems in Thailand. We saw an Asian economy fallen, Indonesian interest (rates) fallen, a crisis in the government which engendered a liberation movement in East Timor.

All of that comes into play now and we are involved in that.

"That flow of information and globalization is making our Army and military change."

  • Defense Budgets

While the United States still spends more on defense than other nation, that spending, like most Western nations, has gone significantly down in the past decade, Noonan said.

The only region of the world where countries are increasing their defense budgets, he said, is Asia.

Where is the money going? To build weapons of mass destruction, buy weapons systems from Russia, increase ballistic missile inventories and import Russian nuclear scientists, the general said.

"There is just a huge proliferation of new technology," Noonan said.

  • 'Space-to-Mud' Approach

To keep track of it all, Noonan said he envisions a "space to mud" intelligence approach, better sharing of intelligence among the various federal intelligence communities and a more robust human intelligence capability.

"I'm going to leverage everything from a satellite on down and move that information to the operational commander," he said. "It's not intelligence by echelons anymore, but more of a collaborative effort. We've got to move information at the right time to the right person."

However, information does not equate to knowledge, and information overload can be a problem, Noonan admitted.

"We've got to determine how to sift out what is important," Noonan said. "We are not where we want to be yet, but we are on our way. DCX I gave us a glimpse into the future on how to do that."

DCX I, a warfighting exercise that used off-the-shelve and prototype digital technology to increase timely situational awareness, was held at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., in April. A second digital exercise will kickoff in early October at Fort Hood, Texas.

Also, Noonan admitted moving information from one intelligence agency to another has often been time-consuming or impossible due to equipment that was not designed to talk to each other. The agencies are working the problem, he said.

"I see a time when a commander shouldn't have to ask for imagery, because it is already there," Noonan said.

On the human intelligence side, Noonan said the Army might move toward partnerships with academia to provide open source, in-house area experts on different world regions. Also, the Army will reduce the number of trained linguists, he said, and will rely more on contractors for the more obscure languages.

"You've got to remember what a great melting pot America is," Noonan said. "There are lots of second-generation folks who love their country out there."

As the MI Corps transforms itself to meet new challenges, one of those challenges will be to indicate what will happen next.

"The key is to change part of our collection system to be more predictive," he said. "Right now, we are good at saying what is in place right now. The idea is to get out front of what is happening."


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).