Army exec insists on data sharing to give soldiers 'full power'

During a trip to Iraq in August, Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the Army's deputy chief of staff for intelligence, observed an incident that illustrated the service's intelligence weaknesses.

On an Iraqi street, soldiers had no idea a terror suspect was a few feet away, making a telephone call. Without access to his or any other suspect's file, they could take no action.

Soldiers 'didn't have the full power of the intelligence community at its fingertips,' Alexander said. 'We were 15 feet from a terrorist who was making a phone call, and we didn't know it.'

Fixing such problems won't take a major rebuilding of Army systems, but rather an effort to improve them, Alexander said.

'We're not starting new on our vision,' he said. 'We have a good intelligence system in Iraq. We're just figuring out how to make it better.'

Alexander spoke recently before a gathering of military, civilian and industry leaders at an Army homeland defense conference in Atlantic City, N.J.

A huge part of the intelligence problem lies in what is reported and what is filtered out, Alexander said, explaining that intelligence analysts collect about a billion 'events' a day in their gathering process but post only about 100,000 reports each day.

Events can include a wide range of information'from data on a foreign terrorist or group to that group's planned attacks on soldiers, officials said.

He said the Army is reviewing how to merge key documents housed on various intelligence systems to give soldiers a more complete and relevant picture.

'Cutting that information out is what hurts us today,' he said, adding that the time it takes to filter intelligence data also can leave troops vulnerable.

Alexander said the military needs data mining, data collection and analysis tools that can review all intelligence data on a particular person, summarize it for troops and include all key information.

Can't keep still

Another area the Army needs to improve in Iraq is the gathering of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information on the move, Alexander said.

Several tactical communications systems, such as the Blue Force Tracking and Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below systems, have performed well in Iraq, he said, as have unmanned aerial vehicles, but there were not enough systems to go around.

'How do we take BFT and apply it to intelligence on the move?' Alexander asked. 'The irony has been we normally had a better view of where the enemy was than [where] our own units [were].'

Part of the solution is the formation of Information Dominance Centers, Alexander said. There are 15 IDCs around the United States, and in Kuwait and Baghdad. The centers work to better fuse intelligence data, from the national level to the battlefield and tactical levels.

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