WASHINGTON — The chief of the U.S. Army’s intelligence branch said it is deep in the midst of a "bottom-up review" of its force to determine what is needed at every echelon and across all of the combatant commands.
The review is being led by Army Training and Doctrine Command and the Intelligence Center of Excellence. It's expected to wrap up in the late summer when the team will present the findings to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, according to Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, who serves as the senior adviser to both Milley and the secretary of the Army.
“We kind of collectively, across the intelligence force, said we really need to do this as we are looking at the future,” Ashley said at an Association of the United States Army's Institute of Land Warfare breakfast on Wednesday. “It’s really targeted on what are the missions that are emerging now that we have not really accounted for and where are we going to be in 2025.”
The review is generating a lot of raw data “that will inform a number of processes in the Army,” Ashley said. “I think it will make us a better intelligence corps” and give the service chief a good sense of how ready the corps is to operate now and in the future.
The effort entails going across the entire Army, surveying current capability and capacity and what is needed. Ashley said his outfit has received more than 3,800 responses back from the survey. The review team is also interviewing Army leadership at various commands. He noted the team is currently interviewing Gen. Robert Brown, the commander of the Army in the Pacific.
Once the team has collected the information it needs to compile the review, an industry day will be held — scheduled for June 29 — to go over the review’s findings, Ashley added.
The three-star said his branch built 12 teams to look at various aspects important to the intelligence corps.
Each team is examining issues such as “directed formations that the chief has for the future”; open-source intelligence; interrogation; certification process for analysts; enhancing counterintelligence; collection management; future aerial intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; geo-intelligence; relationships with combat support agencies; requirements across echelons; and the integration of cyber, electronic warfare and signals intelligence.
Ashley also divulged six major areas he believes need work within the Army intelligence community.
Over 15 years of war, “we’ve had this exquisite [counterinsurgency, counterterrorism] portfolio,” he said, but the Army needs to develop a portfolio of capabilities that can go up against near-peer adversaries in areas where access may be denied and keep the U.S. Army way ahead when it comes to technology and how it’s used in operations.
Ashley noted that while the adversaries may have comparable technology in the future, what will set the Army apart is how soldiers are trained and ready to use the technology.
First, the service needs to figure out how to effectively converge electronic warfare, sigint and cyber, he said.
"I have a lot of people come up and go, ‘Hey, we just kind of need to recreate what we did back in the '80s,' " when discussing EW solutions, for instance, Ashley said.
“The problem is a little more complicated than it was in the '80s. The sensors are more complicated, the ability to intercept them are more complicated, and then you think: ‘OK, so we are pulling all this in for what purpose?’ Well, it’s for situational understanding, but at some point it may be for a kinetic targeting solution,” Ashley added.
That makes the integration of EW, sigint and cyber much more crucial and calls for the looping in and integration of more players across the Army such as the Fires Center of Excellence, Mission Command Center of Excellence and across the other services, according to Ashley.
The second area is airborne ISR, he said. The Army’s Guardrail ISR fixed-wing aircraft, which has done yeoman's work operating in such places like the Fulda Gap during the Cold War, no longer fits the bill for what is predicted in future operations.
“I don’t think anybody wants to get into a King Air 200 with some basic survivability countermeasures and fly into an integrated air defense” in regions like the South China Sea or somewhere in Eastern Europe, Ashley said.
The Army has asked the think tank Rand to study what is needed in the future for aerial ISR assets — looking at both manned and unmanned aircraft and the possible balance of the two — that will need to operate in anti-access/area denial scenarios.
Ashley also noted that “the demand signal has not subsided in any way for the things that we built over the last 15 years. This is an additive capability as we look to fight in the future.”
Reducing the cognitive burden is another area to tackle, he said. The massive amount of data coming off of sensors begs for the need to figure out how to automate some of the analysis, Ashley added.
On the sigint side, Ashley said, the Army is looking at common architectures that would give forces the ability to have a robust ground sigint capability even in decentralized operations.
Multi-sensor payloads are another problem the Army must tackle, Ashley said. “That really gets into form factor and [size, weight and power]. How much stuff can you put on an airborne or ground platform for that matter?”
Gone are the days of a platform performing one type of task. “Nobody pays money to see the one-ball juggler,” Ashley said.
But mastering multi-sensor payloads means the Army should also develop ways to aggregate the intelligence picture on the platform before sending it to an analyst on the ground, according to Ashley. "The concept of upstream fusion, if you will," means "I don’t have to worry about bandwidth demands,” he said. “That is a hard problem, but one that we have to solve.”
Such a capability would take a huge burden off the final area identified for improvement, which is processing, exploitation and dissemination, otherwise known as “PED," Ashley said.
Technology concepts, such as full-motion video with algorithms that starts tagging and characterizing vehicles, would be something to try to develop, Ashley noted.
“We can never afford the number of people it will take just to have humans go through everything that we collect. Technology has got to get ahead of that for us,” he said.