27 May 2011

USG Not Adequately Investing in Social and Behavioral Science Information for COIN

The Defense Science Board (DSB) Task Force on Defense Intelligence,Counterinsurgency (COIN) Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR)Operations study has issued its final report. The Task Force was asked to identify how Department of Defense (DoD) intelligence can be used most effectively to assess insurgencies, understand a population in their environment, and support COIN operations.

The Task Force reviewed existing literature and met with more than 100 senior‐ and mid‐level officials and representatives from across DoD, the Intelligence Community (IC), industry, non‐profit community, and academia involved in irregular warfare, COIN, ISR, and related activities.

Based on its investigation the Task Force arrived at the following observations:

  • DoD lacks a common understanding of COIN
  • DoD has assumed responsibility for COIN ISR by default
  • DoD ISR is narrowly interpreted to mean technical intelligence collection by airborne platforms
  • ISR capabilities have not been applied effectively against COIN operations that deal with populations in part because a comprehensive set of intelligence requirements for COIN does not exist
  • The U.S. Government is not investing adequately in the development of social and behavioral science information that is critically important to COIN
  • ISR support for COIN is currently being overshadowed by counterterrorism and force protection requirements
  • Increasing the focus of ISR for COIN on incipient insurgencies would provide more whole of government options and reduce the need for major commitment of military forces
  • New S&T solutions must address the crisis in processing, exploitation, and dissemination (PED) and associated communications caused by the deluge of sensor data
  • New and emerging technologies and techniques can be employed to improve our understanding of COIN environments.

I would highlight here the fifth point:

The U.S. Government is not investing adequately in the development of social and behavioral science information that is critically important to COIN.

The report summarizes the problem in this way (p. vii):

Many, if not most, specific COIN ISR requirements are population‐centric and are not exclusively solvable with hardware or hard, physical science scientific and technical (S&T) solutions. One senior intelligence officer with years of field experience pointed out that 80 percent of useful operational data for COIN does not come from legacy intelligence disciplines. Good intelligence on COIN exists outside the traditional intelligence organizations. Anthropological, socio‐cultural, historical, human geographical, educational, public health, and many other types of social and behavioral science data and information are needed to develop a deep understanding of populations. Such data, collected and analyzed using the scientific method, is vital to COIN success.

The corresponding recommendation is as follows:

The DoD and IC should undertake discussions with authoritative representatives of the social sciences (e.g., the American Anthropological Association) to develop concepts by which the social sciences can be employed to gain sufficient understanding of the environments in which COIN operations might take place. DoD and the IC should develop and implement a program to support academic institutions nationwide in building research capabilities regarding countries and regions in which COIN operations might take place. DoD should build a stronger Foreign Area Officer program and more favorable career prospects for officers who engage in sustained country‐ and region‐specific specialization. The USD(I), USD(P), USD(AT&L), and the DNI should jointly develop this capability.

The report goes on to suggest that a new National Intelligence Manager (NIM) position could be created for COIN-specific intelligence requirements, and that the "NIM could advocate the stand‐up of an Institute of Intelligence for Behavioral Analysis that focuses on performing advanced analysis of group and social networks in regions susceptible to insurgencies."

Behavioral modeling and simulation - with a nod to ONR's Human Social Culture Behavioral Modeling Program (HSCB) - is presented as one potentially useful tool for analyzing a population, though it acknowledges some non-trivial challenges.

You can check out the full report HERE.