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By Yvonne Headington

The First of Two Features from the DGI Conference

This year will see the fruition of modernisation plans for the UK military intelligence community, which includes the establishment of a new Defence Geospatial Intelligence Fusion Centre (DGIFC). Against this backdrop, the 2012 Defence Geospatial Intelligence (DGI) conference and exhibition, held in London from 23-26 January 2012, provided timely notice of the importance of ‘visualised’ intelligence in operations and the challenges that remain.

Multi-Intelligence Environment

Addressing the needs of the warfighter, Major General Jerry Thomas, Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff (Intelligence Capability) at the UK MoD, painted the picture. “This is a completely different paradigm to where we were 10 years ago” said General Thomas. Back then it was a symmetrical world where big armies fought against each other. “Nowadays we are looking at networks against networks”. With no single enemy, effects have to be achieved across all lines. In other words, this means adopting the ‘comprehensive approach’.

The speed and complexity of operations, along with the doctrinal four ‘Cs’ of the battlespace (congested, cluttered, contested and connected) require the commander to manage the overall intelligence mission and to be able to shift the intelligence focus quickly. In order to achieve the best possible picture collaboration is needed across all intelligence areas, including with Allies and Partners. “What we are trying to create therefore” said General Thomas “is a single intelligence environment without any stove pipes”.

However, multi-intelligence fusion is not collection. General Thomas used the analogy of baking a cake in order to make his point. If you put the things needed to bake a cake separately on a tray, all you get is a collation of ingredients. “If however you smash them all together…add a bit of water, stick it in the oven…you get a cake,” said General Thomas. “In a similar way intelligence has to be broken down into its constituent parts and then reassembled, “in the shape that you want it to be useful in the future.”

Geospatial Backbone

Within the ‘multi-int’ environment, geospatial intelligence provides the backbone. “Everything hangs off it in one way or another….it is almost irreplaceable.” said General Thomas. Whenever something happens, it happens somewhere relative to a point on the globe. Thus this geographic reference point can be taken in order to provide the basis for multi-layered intelligence visualisation, complementing written assessments and analysis. It is intended that this product will be available across the command chain. “Once the DGIFC is up and running in June-July….it will be producing intelligence that will go from Whitehall all the way down to the company commander in the field” said General Thomas “and maybe even lower than that”.

Keeping Pace with Technology

In addition to the need for good information management, linked common databases, formats and data standards, ‘multi-int’ places demands on bandwidth and processor speeds. One of the challenges for the future, according to General Thomas, is to keep pace with technology. “As long as our American colleagues keep driving on forward that will be the challenge…not to be left behind.” But this requires investment. “We do not invest enough money in our Armed Forces.” General Thomas added.

In General Thomas’ view the new Joint Forces Command (JFC), which is due to achieve an initial operating capability by April (2012), is a significant development for the providers of joint enablers (such as the intelligence community). There will now be a four star level component fighting the corner for joint enablers in the battle for resources. “I think it will probably come as a shock to the single Service Chiefs.” said General Thomas adding that, “If we don’t take this seriously we will end up being like a th

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