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FAS Project on Intelligence Reform

Tactical Exploitation of National Capabilities (TENCAP)

The United States has national satellite systems which are capable of performing worldwide reconnaissance and surveillance. Many of the systems have been designed to support strategic requirements. They are, however, capable of providing useful information to tactical commanders if the information can be provided in a timely manner. Classified information on the capabilities of the satellites is available in the Joint Tactical Exploitation of National Systems (JTENS) manual available in many Special Security Offices (SSO).

The Tactical Exploitation of National Capabilities (TENCAP) program seeks to integrate current and emerging national capabilities into tactical decision-making process. In 1973, the Army took the lead in DoD by establishing the Army Space Program Office (ASPO) to execute the Army Tactical Exploitation of National Capabilities Program (TENCAP), serve as the unique technical and fiscal interface with the national program offices, and manage the TENCAP material acquisition.

The TENCAP program is based on exploiting current and future tactical potential of national capabilities and integrating these capabilities into the tactical decision making process as rapidly as possible. This approach was so successful that Congress ordered all services to establish a TENCAP program based on the Army's model in 1977.

National systems are designed to support strategic requirements. TENCAP leverages the national technology to provide downlinking of these strategic systems to tactical levels. Initially, ground processing terminals were developed for use at corps and echelons above corps (EAC) headquarters. Technology and applications have evolved so that certain systems are now employed at division level and below. This data provides an accurate and current picture of the enemy and the terrain during planning and execution.

National data combined with data form from other sources significantly enhances the Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB). For Haiti, TENCAP systems provided the primary source of imagery directly to the JTF Commander's analysts for planning the operation and executing the initial assault. For Desert Storm TENCAP systems provided the majority of targeting support for deep operations and imagery for IPB support of operation planning/maneuver for both XVIII and VII Corps.

TENCAP systems are also a significant source of support to humanitarian efforts. For Hurricane Andrew TENCAP systems provided the quickest and most detailed damage assessment to the task force commander. TENCAP secondary dissemination and intelligence broadcast capabilities provide continuing awareness through all phases of operations. They provide the tactical commander the ability to see and hear deep in today's battlefield and then to assess the impact of shooting deep.

The Army Space Program Office has developed and fielded over sixty systems to both Army and Air Force tactical units. After twenty years the ASPO charter was revalidated in 1993. Today the Army TENCAP program is the largest and most successful of the individual services programs.

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Created by John Pike
Maintained by Steven Aftergood

Updated Tuesday, November 24, 1998 5:55:56 PM