Directing Intelligence

Operations IV:

Intelligence Battle Command

by Major John F. Lady, III (U.S. Army, Retired)

Intelligence is a fraternity where all work to help each other.

--Shipley, Thomas, 19401

In June 1993, FM 100-5, Operations, added the concept of battle command to the Army's doctrinal lexicon. That manual described (battle) command as--

The art of motivating and directing soldiers and their leaders into action to accomplish Missions. Command means visualizing the current and future state of friendly and enemy forces and then formulating concepts of operations to accomplish the mission.2

General Frederick M. Franks, Jr. (U.S. Army, Retired), in his article "Battle Command: A Commander's Perspective," discusses the art of command. He relates why--

this was not so much a desire to change terminology as it was a way to open up fresh thinking that our Army really needed. There was not much wrong with command and control (C2), other than that it came with many Cold War-associated thoughts....In our changed world...there would be no formulas, no set-piece scenarios, no battle books, no familiar terrain akin to the Fulda Gap.3

Battle command requires leaders to perform three key tasks: "visualize the battlefield, assess the situation, and direct the military action required to achieve victory." 4 I will discuss these key tasks in this article. Battle command applies not only to the commander; it must guide leaders in every battlefield operating system (BOS). Indeed, the effective employment of battle command principles by staff members creates conditions in which the commander can better carry out his responsibilities.

"The commander drives intelligence," 5 but the G2 must direct the intelligence effort based on the commander's guidance. Today's military realities require the G2 to employ the same principles of battle command as those that the "boss" employs. Intelligence battle command requires the G2 (or S2) to visualize the battlefield, direct intelligence actions to support mission accomplishment, and assess the situation. To exercise intelligence battle command for the primary intelligence task of situation development, the G2 distributes or coordinates responsibilities for intelligence collection, production, and reporting requirements in the area of interest. The G2 also provides for effective intelligence handover of enemy activity between friendly echelons in that area.

Visualize the Battlefield

The G2's battlefield visualization encompasses the interaction of significant enemy and environmental activities in view of planned friendly actions, all of which occur within a particular timeframe. That timeframe depends primarily on the commander's requirements and secondarily on those of the staff and subordinate commanders. Battlefield visualization relies on a comparison of friendly and enemy capabilities and courses of action (COAs); it also incorporates the anticipated effects of weather and terrain. This visualization focuses entirely on what may take place in the future. It draws logical conclusions based on situation development and precedes the direction of intelligence actions.

Battlefield visualization occupies the preeminent place among the intelligence battle command competencies. Inadequate emphasis on battlefield visualization practically guarantees lack of focus and efficiency in the direction of intelligence actions. It also can lead to a preoccupation with situation development. The G2 visualizes the battlefield using the framework of METT-T:

Mission. Battlefield visualization requires ongoing awareness of several aspects of the friendly mission. The unit possesses only one mission. No separate "intelligence" mission exists. The G2 requires both a conceptual and a spatial perspective of that mission.

The conceptual perspective requires understanding of the current operations order and any supplemental guidance from the commander. In addition to the unit's mission statement, the G2 must understand the commander's intent and concept of operation, where the commander will accept risk, and his envisioned end-state. In short, the G2 must know how the commander thinks the battle will develop, and when and where he expects forces to reach their culminating point(s).

The G2's knowledge of these aspects of the mission helps to focus on the friendly objective in time and location to better support its attainment. It further helps the G2 to mass limited intelligence resources against the most critical tasks and employ economy of force to support less important requirements.

The spatial component of mission awareness includes the areas of operation (AOs) and areas of interest (AIs). The AI should serve as the primary external limiting factor to the scope of the intelligence effort. Without such a limit, the G2 risks dilution of the effort.

Unfortunately, the AI remains--from the intelligence perspective --one of the least emphasized aspects in training exercises. Too many exercises limit their duration and scope, exclude competitive flank units, and restrict the enemy force's size, mission, and freedom of movement. These actions render the AI irrelevant.

Determination of the AI begins in the G2 section but requires the commander's approval. FM 34-1, Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Operations, defines the AI as--

the geographical area from which information and intelligence are required to permit planning or successful conduct of the command's operation. The AI is usually larger than the command's AO and battle space. The AI includes any threat forces or characteristics of the battlefield environment that will significantly influence the accomplishment of the command's mission.6

When appropriate, the G2 designates component AIs for air, ground, political, or other relevant activities.7

Enemy. The G2 concentrates primarily on what the enemy can do and secondarily on what the enemy is expected to do. Without first describing what the enemy can do, it becomes virtually impossible to articulate what the enemy should do. Capabilities describe what the enemy can do at the individual BOS level. COAs, ranked in order of probability of occurrence, describe what the enemy should do at the combined arms level. Meaningful COA development cannot occur in the absence of a meticulously per- formed capability analysis.

The battlefield visualization process in the G2 shop results in an ongoing, thorough enumeration of capabilities the enemy can employ in the friendly AO (first priority) and AI (second priority). This enumeration addresses enemy capabilities in close, deep, and rear operations. The analysis and control element (ACE) portrays its assessment of the major enemy capabilities on situation and event templates, event matrices, graphic intelligence summaries, and analytical aids, such as a capabilities development chart (see Figure 1).

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Figure 1. Sample Enemy Capabilities Development Chart.

Doctrinal manuals have not yet clarified meaningful definitions for, or the essential differences between, capabilities and COAs.8 A capability describes an enemy unit or element's capacity to accomplish a tactical task within one BOS. Capabilities constitute the building blocks of COAs.

The G2 continually assesses enemy capabilities across all BOSs, relative to the friendly mission and echelon of command. Figure 1 contains guidelines for capabilities development.

A capabilities-based analytical effort adds value to the intelligence production process. It makes apparent, and thus prods the staff to plan for, the most dangerous enemy action(s). It readily lends itself to visual display on situation and event templates.

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Figure 2. Sample Enemy Capabilities Table.

The capabilities table (CT) (see Figure 2) is another tool for displaying this analysis. The CT describes enemy capabilities with the same analytical elements required of COAs: who (the unit under consideration), "what (the type of operation), when (the time the action will begin), where (boundaries, axis, etc.), how (the use of assets), and why (the purpose or desired end-state)." 9 Analysts update the CT as the situation requires. Figure 2 is a sample CT, with each capability numbered to facilitate grouping into COAs.

At the collective level, analysts group capabilities from the various BOSs to form possible enemy COAs. An enemy COA describes a sequence of acts (capabilities executed) that the G2 expects an enemy unit to follow. A COA embraces activities in more than one BOS and is active until the accomplishment of that enemy unit's immediate mission. That aspect may require development of enemy COAs that continue in time beyond the anticipated accomplishment of the friendly mission and outside the friendly AO. Indeed, a complete enemy COA will address what the G2 expects the enemy to do while in the friendly AI.

The G2 develops enemy COAs completely within the enemy's frame of reference, using his terminology, his tactics, his tables of organization, and his timelines. Friendly boundaries exercise no restraint over enemy behavior. Unfortunately, friendly standing operating procedures (SOPs) do not compel the enemy to complete his most significant movements just in time for inclusion in the commander's morning update or the midnight intelligence summary (INTSUM). Friendly intelligence collection does not oblige the enemy to reveal or portray activities that will answer priority intelligence requirements (PIR).

Terrain. Terrain considerations include all environmental factors that affect the friendly mission. Terrain, weather, and airspace considerations all require attention, with the possible addition of political, maritime, and other factors.

Herein lies another potentially diluting influence on the intelligence effort. The G2 concentrates resources on how these factors specifically affect friendly and enemy COAs. For example, rather than routinely producing analyses for the entire AO, the G2 may find it more productive to focus the terrain analysis along potential avenues of approach.

Troops available. This category concerns the G2 in two respects: intelligence resources and intelligence consumers. Intelligence resources include organic and non-organic collectors, processors, the intelligence staff, intelligence automation systems, and dissemination means. Intelligence consumers include the commander, the staff (including the G2 shop), major subordinate commands (MSCs), higher headquarters, and flanking units.

The requirements of intelligence consumers will always exceed the capabilities of intelligence resources. This reality forces the G2 to prioritize throughout all the phases of the intelligence process: planning, requirement development, collection, analysis, production, and dissemination. Poor prioritization?or even worse, no prioritization?at any turn can unhinge the intelligence effort.

The large number of consumers and their requirements pose the greatest threat to the G2's visualization of the battlefield. The danger arises because many consumers need intelligence support now, or within a timeframe shorter than that required by the commander. The intrinsic validity of their competing requirements offers no consolation for this quandary.

The increasing quantities and capabilities of intelligence automation systems provide some support to the challenge of visualizing the battlefield. Most automation systems tend to focus the operator's attention on the current situation. Decreased personnel authorizations generally accompany increased automation systems authorizations, sometimes creating analyst shortages. Thinking boxes can help, but they can never replace thinking analysts.

The upward migration of collection system "ownership" adds fuel to this fire. Some maneuver brigades have no organic intelligence collection assets. Heavy divisions lost their long-range surveillance detachments. All divisions now must face the loss of communications intelligence (COMINT) collectors and additional cuts in human intelligence (HUMINT) collectors. Many of these assets have been replaced by more capable systems, but the "owners" exist at higher echelons. Numerous consumers compete for collection support from non-organic COMINT, HUMINT, and imagery intelligence systems.

Intelligence doctrine describes the G2's challenge. FM 34-1 declares, "intelligence operations have changed fundamentally from those of the Cold War model." Intelligence will no longer primarily "flow from the ground [lower echelons] up to higher echelons [divisions, corps, and theater]." Instead, in today's force projection military environment, the higher echelon must anticipate the needs of, and push intelligence support down to, its subordinate echelons.10 True enough, since lower echelons are losing their organic ability to collect intelligence.

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The G2 links the battlefield visualization and the assessment of the situation, thereby connecting the future and current aspects of the enemy situation MI.

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The reduction of organic intelligence collectors at lower echelons requires the next higher echelon to compensate by increasing the level of detail it reports to its subordinates. Brigades, for instance, require reporting on enemy company- size units. That requirement influences the division G2's decision to devote analytical support to meet that need.

Time. Time acts both to guide and to limit the intelligence effort. The commander determines the timeframe in which to focus the intelligence analysis effort. The 24-hour divisional and 72-hour corps time horizons may apply in many instances, but they do not necessarily satisfy every situation.

Time limits the extent of the intelligence effort in several ways. Higher headquarters specify certain timelines for requesting non-organic collection support. These procedures cause subordinate unit G2s to consider whether sufficient time exists to request, collect, process, produce, and disseminate intelligence from supporting sensors, given the anticipated latest time the information is of value. Further, higher headquarters typically dictates a series of time-based report requirements. For example, if a higher echelon requires an INTSUM at 0600 hours, the next lower echelon may require one at 0400 hours, and so on down to the battalion S2, who must submit an INTSUM to the brigade at 2000 hours. The unit's schedule of events also establishes work requirements for the G2, such as a twice-daily commander's update, a commander's "smart book," the deep operations planning meeting, target nominations for Air Force planning, and planning cell meetings.

While time affects the intelligence analysis effort, the G2 must prevent a time-based reporting mentality from hindering the urgency of the dissemination effort. Events can await inclusion in routinely scheduled INTSUMs. Many events require immediate reporting, particularly when considering the MSCs' intelligence needs. The lack of an event-based reporting system will certainly cause the tempo of operational activity to outpace the responsiveness of the intelligence system.

Assess the Situation

Situation assessment, the third component of intelligence battle command, occurs when the G2 evaluates the current status of enemy forces relative to friendly forces. In doing so, the G2 uses intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB) products and methods to compare the current enemy situation to his battlefield visualization of a future point in time.

The G2 uses situation assessment to confirm actions across the entire range of the intelligence cycle, internally and vertically. Within its G2 shop, the unit requires confirmation that--

  • Organic and nonorganic collection systems are collecting and reporting on current PIR.
  • Analysts are focusing on answering key "unknowns," updating the enemy capabilities table, and developing the right products.
  • Enemy actions confirm or deny anticipated actions on the event or situation template.
  • The dissemination system is responding to event-based reporting needs.

From the vertical perspective, the G2 staff verifies that subordinate and higher units understand the G2's view of the most probable enemy COA and the boundaries for their respective areas of intelligence responsibility (AIRs). (A message disseminated does not equal a concept understood.) The collective intelligence community should settle misunderstandings or disagreements regarding the enemy COA as soon as possible.

Lastly, the G2 checks the intelligence staff's understanding of the friendly situation. Based on this situation assessment, the G2 decides whether to alter or refocus any intelligence efforts or to revise the battlefield visualization.

Directing Intelligence Actions

Directing intelligence actions relies on the G2's battlefield visualization. The identification of distinct, feasible enemy capabilities during battlefield visualization provides the baseline against which the G2 can direct intelligence actions, such as focusing the analytical effort, tasking collection assets, or changing intelligence unit task organization or support relationships.

When directing intelligence actions, the G2 links the battlefield visualization and the assessment of the situation, thereby connecting the future and current aspects of the enemy situation. Other sources describe many of these actions; thus they do not require repetition here.11 This section focuses on a critical intelligence action, the designation of an AIR.

Joint Publication 2-0 defines this joint term (AIR) as--

an area allocated to a commander in which the commander is responsible for the provision of intelligence within the means at the commander's disposal.12

Higher headquarters should assign AIRs to subordinate headquarters, based on their ability to confirm enemy activity to the levels required by their commanders. Units collect, analyze, assess battle damage, and report on enemy activity within their AIR to higher, adjacent, and subordinate units.

Several factors impact on the size of the unit's AIR. These factors include the organic intelligence collection capability, size and proficiency of the intelligence staff, availability of processors and intelligence automation systems, and the unit's authority to task or request support from non-organic sensors. Normally, a unit's AIR conforms to its AO, except for its forward boundary. The AIR generally will include terrain beyond the forward boundary of the AO.

The intelligence handover line (IHL) designates the boundary between AIRs. The collection manager establishes IHLs to--

  • Facilitate coordination between a unit and its subordinates.
  • Direct units to track threat units and high-payoff targets in their areas.
  • Hand over intelligence responsibility for areas of the battlefield.13

A unit may define the IHL either dynamically or conceptually. A dynamic definition is of more use in a rapidly changing situation involving lower echelon units. For example, a division IHL remains three kilometers (km) in front of its committed brigades' forward-lines-of-own-troops (FLOTs). This technique requires continuous situation updates from the subordinate unit. In most other circumstances, the IHL will coincide with a phase line.

The IHL process works best in conjunction with event-based reporting. To ensure that it meets its intelligence needs, the higher unit should consult with its MSCs before developing its event-based reporting criteria. To complete this process, the higher headquarters and subordinate unit(s) may agree on a distance from the FLOT at which the higher unit warns the MSC of impending handover. For example, a brigade could request warning of handover when an enemy unit moves to within 10 km of the FLOT.


Although the term "intelligence battle command" has not heretofore appeared in doctrinal writing, it really does not introduce any new concepts. I have tried to outline a logical methodology by which to address the more critical tasks facing tactical intelligence leaders. Intelligence battle command really calls attention to the basic doctrinal concepts that have long brought intelligence success on the field of battle.

No echelon has all the organic intelligence capabilities it needs to fully support the comander.... Commanders and MI leaders at higher echelons should anticipate the intelligence need of lower echelons and "push" tailored intelligence support down to them.14

These truths frame the situation faced by today's G2. They demand a cooperative endeavor between intelligence staffs of multiple echelons. They require the G2 to employ an intelligence operating framework that relates to the commander's operating framework.

The better the G2 understands the commander's thought process, the more likely it is that intelligence production will support the commander's critical intelligence needs. Intelligence battle command provides a method by which to seek similarity of thought processes with the commander, focuses the command's intelligence effort on the tasks that matter most, and provides accurate, timely support to subordinate units.

The author gratefully acknowledges the contributions of Lieutenant Colonel Medwyn "Pinky" Sloane (Retired) and Chief Warrant Officer Three Dan Rupp, who contributed to this article.


1. Thomas, Shipley, S2 in Action, (Harrisburg, PA: The Military Service Publishing Co., 1940), 8.

2. FM 100-5, Operations (Washington, D.C. : GPO, June 1993), 2-14.

3. Franks, General Frederick M., Jr., "Battle Command: A Commander's Perspective," Military Review, 76.3 (1996), 5.

4. FM 100-5, 2-14.

5. FM 34-1, Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Operations (Washington, D.C.: GPO, September 1994), 1-4.

6. FM 34-1, Glossary-4. It is difficult to imagine circumstances under which the AI would be smaller than the AO or battlespace.

7. FM 34-130, Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (Washington, D.C.: GPO, July 1994), 2-6.

8. FM 34-130 provides an excellent example, defining a capability as "the ability to successfully perform an operation or to accomplish an objective....Capabilities are stated in terms of broad COAs [courses of action] and supporting operations." (Glossary-5)

9. FM 34-1, Glossary-5.

10. FM 34-1, 1-1.

11. See, for example, "How the Commander Drives Intelligence" in Military Review; May-June 1996 (Volume LXXVI, Number 3), and these articles in Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin: "To Link or Not to Link PIR" and "The Case for Meaningful Information Requirements," July-September 1995 (Volume 21, Number 3) and "The G2's Intelligence Synchronization Plan," January-March 1996 (Volume 22, Number 1), all written by the author.

12. Joint Publication 2-0, Joint Doctrine for Intelligence Support to Operations (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 5 May 1995), Glossary-4.

13. See IHL discussion in FM 34-2, Collection Management and Synchronization Planning (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 8 March 1994), 2-4.

14. FM 34-1, 1-11 and 1-12.

Major Frank Lady retired in July 1996. While on active duty, MAJ Lady served in several key tactical intelligence assignments including air assault brigade S2, heavy division MI battalion S3, and senior intelligence observer/controller for the Battle Command Training Program. MAJ Lady is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and has a masters degree in Area Studies from the University of Oxford. He is now an account executive for a software and professional services supplier. You can contact him via E-mail at