A lot of “military intelligence officer” (the ones in the J2 cell in a headquarters) are, basically, turning “information” into “knowledge”. Information comes in from reconnaissance patrols, satellite surveillance, radio intercepts or whatever; the intelligence team’s job is to take those pieces of information, put them together, and brief the commander on the “so what?” that affects what he has to do. (If it doesn’t make a difference, it doesn’t matter – only brief what matters)

To build on G Wheeler’s very good answer, it’s going from “Nastyland have deployed MiG-31 Firefox jets to Airfield X-4′, to add ‘…and they’re being flown by 666 Squadron, who are air-to-air specialists’, folding in ‘…but there are no tanker assets nearby and they can’t reach far into Friendlystan from there without midair refuelling’ to make an assessment that, at the moment, it looks like Nastyland have deployed some additional air defences to protect themselves, but they’re not planning to attack and are trying to avoid sending threatening signals.

The elements of information are individually useful, it’s J2’s job to put them together, fill in the gaps, and work out whether they change our plans and tasks.

The next part of the job is flagging up “what might change, how would we know?” so that – for this example – if a strike squadron and tanker detachment also deploy to Airfield X-4 we’re now looking at Nastyland being able to fly an escorted attack mission a long way into Friendlystan, which would change our analysis and the decisions it would affect. So, we want to keep an eye on those deployments by whatever means seem sensible, which affects the intelligence collection plan. Very much a dynamic job, looking back at “what’s happened and why is it important?” and looking forward to “what do we need to watch, to see threats coming?”

The part that’s specific to being an officer in the role, is that you’ll probably spend more time managing and leading your team than you will heads-down in the product. You may also be the one up front briefing it: that’s very situation dependent, though. (In the UK, on limited personal experience, you’ll often have the analyst who did the work brief it regardless of rank; the US seems a bit more hierarchical and the officer will often front it. Advantages and drawbacks to both routes…) It doesn’t mean you won’t do analysis yourself, but your job is more about leading and directing your team than disappearing into the signal intercepts and satellite photos. (Hence the joke about Powerpoint – part of the job is working out what’s going on and why it matters, the other part is explaining it so that knowledge can be used…)

And to leave with another old joke  about military intelligence officer:

This is my PowerPoint. There are many like it but this one is mine.

My PowerPoint is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I master my life.

My PowerPoint without me is useless. Without my PowerPoint, I am useless.

I must format my slides true. I must brief them better than the other staffs who are trying to out-brief me.

I must brief the impact on the Commander before he asks me. I will.

My PowerPoint and myself know that what counts in this war is not the number of slides, the colors of the highlights, nor the format of the bullets. We know that it is the new information that counts. We will brief only new information.

My PowerPoint is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strengths, its fonts, its animations, its formats, and its colors.

I will keep my PowerPoint slides current and ready to brief. We will become part of each other. We will…

Before God I swear this creed. My PowerPoint and myself are defenders of my country. We are the masters of our subject. We are the saviors of my career.

So be it, until victory is ours and there is no enemy, but peace!

Leave a Reply