To the Editor:
I enjoyed reading Colonel Lawrence Arrols article on intelligence fusion in the October-December 1998 issue of MIPB. He did an excellent job of presenting the complex process the Army faces in getting from here to the future to implement MI initiatives under Force XXI. However, I see a continuing shortfall in the Armys conceptualization of how to provide the agility and adaptability that todays unconventional and tomorrows conventional military operations entail. His article and the others in that issue follow a long-standing bias in the Armys analysis of the basic MI problemthe premise that the Army needs to increase the flow in the data firehose rather than help the firemen select the pressure and flow actually required.
For several years, I worked with a group who thought that the traditional Department of Defense sanctioned concept of intelligence fusion had a serious underlying faultit focused on the output of sensors and automated fusers and not on the needs of a commander. In 1993, we proposed that modeling and simulation efforts, as well as research and development of new hardware, should focus on understanding how intelligence needs are developed, communicated, and satisfied, from the commanders perspectivenot from the perspective of the collection device and analysis tools operators.
Creating an MI capability that fully employs all the tools available produces a reversal of requirements. We no longer should plan from the perspective of what means are possible, rather we should plan from the perspective of who needs what information, and in what form.
My question is: how does the Army now define data fusion? Is that definition appropriate from both sidesfrom the needs of technical developers and from the needs of commanders? [Note: the comments above are my own and do not reflect the official opinion of the Department of Energy, Argonne National Laboratory, or the University of Chicago.]
Thomas B. Baines
Colonel Arrols Response:
What you and most intelligence professionals view as a shortfall, maneuver commanders view as a necessity. Send all you know about the tactical situation, as soon as possible. Modern computer technology now allows for a greater volume data than previously. The ASAS remote workstations exterior to the analytic control element (ACE) contain software that permits low level data fusion that can accommodate the large data volumes presented to the commander today. Analysts handle this data while providing a simple, aggregated display on a map with standard unit symbols.
The commander is able to see on a map the enemys disposition, combat strengths, and force compositionin short, the order of battle. This applies equally to peacekeeping and other stability operations. Therefore, the commander can ask questions that are more detailed about his situation while deriving the intent of his adversary. The evolving ASAS system also causes the intelligence analyst to once again focus on intelligence skills, rather than just typing on a keyboard directing the volumes of data in the system.
The Joint Directors of Laboratories definition of data fusion is still in general use. It is undergoing modification to reflect more accurately the fusion of data as opposed to its previous focus on intelligence fusion.
If you consider the line drawing of the ACE in the article, the Joint Collection Management Tools (JCMT) aids in tasking all collection assets (both organic and non-organic), and taskings come from the maneuver commanders as well as intelligence analysts, you will see a fundamental difference from what you describe. As the analyst steers collection to meet the commanders needs and responds to the commanders intelligence requirements, it is clear that the commander drives intelligence.
Finally, here is an answer to your question. Data fusion is first a process performed by multiple sources at various levels. At the lowest level it is simple correlation of associates and combination At the highest level, it is impact assessment in the intelligence fusion environmentreferred to as threat refinement. Refining the process controls all the functions.
Remember, if your only tool is a hammer, everything in the world is a nail. In intelligence fusion, if your only tool is a ground surveillance radar, then everything in the world is an armored vehicle.
Colonel Lawrence Arrol
Project Manager Intelligence Fusion