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Changing role of Military Scientific and Technical Intelligence ( S&TI)

If the Militaries are to fight and win in future wars, it must thoroughly understand the challenges that it will face and how those challenges will impact the way it intends to fight. It must act now to ensure that it possesses a technological edge over its adversaries. This is especially true for the intelligence warfighting function, which must rapidly make sense of an increasingly complex and chaotic battlespace in an effort to reduce commander uncertainty while simultaneously providing intelligence at the speed of mission command.


Failure to properly appraise the extent of scientific developments in enemy countries may have more immediate and catastrophic consequences than failure in any other field of intelligence. —Task Force Report on National Security Organization (the Eberstadt Report) (1948).  Failure to properly resource and use our own R&D to appraise, exploit, and counter the scientific and technical developments
of our adversaries—including both state and non-state actors—may have more immediate and catastrophic consequences than failure in any other field of intelligence. —National Commission for the Review of the Research and Development Programs of the United States Intelligence Community (2013).


S&TI is the systematic study and analysis of foreign capabilities in basic and applied research and applied engineering. S&TI products are used to warn of foreign technical developments and capabilities and to guide the development of future capabilities, which are often provided through R&D. IC ―must operate in a dynamic, highly-challenging environment against a growing number of hostile, technically-sophisticated threats.


The stress of S&T Intelligence analysis  since Jones’s day has been on weapons intelligence, or the application of science and technology for military purposes. In recent years, as the focus of international competition has shifted somewhat from the military to the economic instrument of national power, a new purpose or objective for S&T Intelligence has begun to evolve: to assess the technical capability of our economic competitors (France, Japan, etc.) in the high technology areas of international trade.


Historically and during the cold war military technology programs drove many commercial successes like Nuclear power, GPS, Internet, Computers, Jet Engines, semiconductor and integrated circuits, and these were driven by Department of Defense’s comprehensive and well-resourced investment plans.   The internet grew out of a military research project.  Global Positioning System (GPS) is based on network of satellites set up by the U.S. Department of Defense in the 1970s. Radars developed before World War II by military are now used in many civilian applications including air traffic control and weather forecasting. Invention of Jet engines and other aircraft technologies is now enabling the growth of Air travel. Drones which are becoming increasingly popular for surveillance and photography in commercial and civilian use can be traced to military.


Today the situation has changed radically. The total federal spending on R&D has fallen to 3-4% of the budget, and private industry spends much more than government does. Military R&D is also characterized by low levels of productivity of the investment. US Commerce Department estimates that a commercial patent requires on average ten man-years of industrial R&D to be developed, and a thousands man-years for the R&D that the Defense Department and NASA contract out or perform in-house. (Melman 1983: 178). The technology innovation have outpaced military innovations in many areas like in communications and ICT and also become more decentralized. This is driving various countries to look to industry to sustain innovation and maintain technology superiority by investing in dual use technologies. Dual-Use Technology – comprises goods and technologies developed to meet commercial needs but which may be used either as military components or for the development or production of military systems. Militaries are racing to accelerate DoD adoption of commercial technology, Transform military capacity and capability.


Other countries have committed significant resources to pursue R&D in areas such as quantum computing, physics, materials, energy, all-source data analytics, biomedical sciences, and pharmaceuticals. Aided by their growing national commitments to R&D, current and potential adversaries of U.S. interests have easy access to advanced  sensors, social media tools, a variety of communication networks, precision weapons and home-made devices, analytical software, and many other capabilities for undermining our national advantage.


IC R&D programs are critical to ensure that the United States advances and maintains ―technological capabilities to detect, characterize, assess, and ultimately counter the full range of threats to the national security of the United States, writes Report of the National Commission for the Review of the Research and Development Programs of the United States.


Faced with a complex and evolving security environment, Army Intelligence requires a directional and provisional blueprint for the future. This blueprint,  discusses how to leverage innovative concepts and Science and Technology (S&T) to adapt to current and emerging threats while informing the design of the future Intelligence force and systems; to target and develop the right technologies to support the future force envisioned in the Army Operating Concept; and to address future long-term requirements beyond 2035. Army Intelligence must partner with industry, academia, Department of Defense initiatives, the joint community and the Army’s acquisition community to develop the capabilities required to support the future force envisioned in 2025 and beyond.


Summary of Findings and Recommendations

To ensure that the United States prevails in a global environment in which our adversaries have access to advanced scientific and technical knowledge at a level approaching, and sometimes higher than, that possessed by the United States, the Commission finds that the IC must (1) uncover global threats more completely and at an early stage, and (2) be more agile, more aggressive, and faster in how it develops innovative, new capabilities.


History of S&T Intelligence

In 1939, the British decided to assign a scientist to the Intelligence Branch of the Air Staff. Inasmuch as no scientist had previously worked for an intelligence service, this was a new and revolutionary idea. A tall, solemn physicist named R. V. Jones, then working at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, was picked for the job. Jones’s first job was to study “new German weapons” which were believed to be under development. The first of these was a blind bombing system which the Germans called Knickebein. Knickebein, as Jones soon determined, used a pair of radio beams which were about one mile wide at their point of intersection over the city of London. German bombers flew along one beam, and when their radio receivers indicated that they were at the intersection with the second beam, they released their bombs.


At Jones’s urging, Winston Churchill ordered up an RAF search aircraft on the night of 21 June 1940, and the aircraft found the Knickebein radio signals in the frequency range which Jones had predicted. With this knowledge, the British were able to build jammers whose effect was to bend the Knickebein beams so that German bombers for months to come scattered their bomb loads over the British countryside. Thus began the famous “battle of the beams” which lasted throughout much of World War II, with the Germans developing new radio navigation systems and the British developing equally effective countermeasures to them.


Jones went on to solve a number of tough Scientific and Technical Intelligence problems during World War II and is generally known today as the “father of S&T Intelligence.” The basic principles of S&T Intelligence analysis which Jones worked out during World War II and which have been previously discussed in Studies in Intelligence* are just as useful today as they were in the beginning.


The primary purpose of S&T Intelligence since Jones’s day has been to identify new enemy weapons and to describe their characteristics. As explained by CIA, Once you know the characteristics of an enemy weapon system, then his tactics and strategy for using the weapon system follow naturally. If, as a result of a heavy research, development, and testing effort, the Soviets manage to squeeze the accuracy of a particular ICBM down below .25 nautical miles CEP, then the primary target of all such ICBMs is almost surely going to be U.S. Minuteman missile silos. If the ICBM has no better than one-half nautical mile accuracy, then it probably will be used against cities, industrial complexes, and other soft targets. As another example, the range of the Soviet BACKFIRE bomber is a critical factor in determining whether BACKFIRE is intended for use against ground targets in Western Europe and for naval use, or whether it is intended for. strike missions against the Continental United States.


Also, once you know the characteristics of an enemy weapon system, countermeasures against that system become much easier. For instance, we knew a great deal about the SA-2 surface-to-air missile system which was deployed extensively to defend North Vietnam. When the decision was made to launch mass raids against North Vietnam with B-52 aircraft, we were able to tailor our countermeasures against the SA-2 so well that on some raids the North Vietnamese SAM system was almost completely ineffective. On the other hand, we knew very little about the SA-6 SAM system which was deployed in Egypt prior to the Yom Kippur War. Largely as a result of this lack of knowledge, countermeasures against the SA-6 were not effective and the Israelis lost large numbers of their strike aircraft to Egyptian SAM systems.


Cases of S&T Intelligence

Jones found that all the S&T Intelligence problems which he encountered fell into three general cases. Unfortunately, since Jones’s time, S&T analysts have had to contend with a fourth case.


This is the most common problem encountered by S&T intelligence officers. We develop an ICBM — the Soviets develop an ICBM. We put MIRVs on our ICBMs — they are putting MIRVs on their ICBMs. The Soviets developed an ABM system — we developed an ABM system. Both sides are now developing a laser kill weapon. And so forth. In this case the S&T Intelligence officer’s job is not so difficult, because he can turn to his own country’s experts on that particular weapon system. Use of your own experts has its own pitfalls, however, as we note later on. A classic example of some of the pitfalls is “The Case of the SS-6.”* U.S. ICBM experts, insisting on applying U.S. design approaches to Soviet missile designs, managed to hold up an accurate intelligence assessment of the SS-6 for a number of years.



In this case the intelligence officer runs into a real problem: it is almost impossible to disprove anything in S&T intelligence. The fact that no intelligence information exists about a particular foreign development cannot be used to show that the development itself doesn’t exist. As an Air Force intelligence officer in the early 1960s, I read year after year the USAF estimates that said, “the USSR is probably developing a pulse doppler radar for its interceptor aircraft,” and “the USSR is expected to deploy a computerized air defense system similar to the U.S. SAGE system.” Years later, the Soviets have still done neither — so far as we can tell. But both estimates are just as difficult to disprove in 1974 as they were in 1964. And the BACKFIRE we mentioned earlier … how can anyone conclude that the Soviets do not intend to use it as a strategic bomber against the U.S., no matter how unsuited it may be for such a mission?



This is the most dangerous case. Here the S&T Intelligence officer has to overcome opposition from skeptics from his own country. Very often these skeptics are scientists who themselves tried a similar approach, failed, and then felt themselves obligated to discourage everyone else from trying the same thing.

One of the most dramatic examples of Case #3 was the Soviet development of the antiship cruise missile. Segments of the U.S. intelligence community sounded a warning in the early 1960s that the Soviet antiship missiles represented a real threat to the U.S. surface fleet. The threat was not taken seriously, however, until the sinking of the Israeli destroyer Eilat by an early model Soviet cruise missile in the Six Day War of 1967. Unfortunately, many Defense Department officials then overreacted, and have since repeatedly labeled the U.S. surface navy “a bunch of sitting ducks.”

Analysts in the bacteriological warfare and chemical warfare business will become more and more familiar with Case #3 now that the U.S. has stopped all BW/CW weapons research.



R. V. Jones never had to contend with this case, since the British were involved in a war and had no resources to waste on academic problems. Case #4 is the most frustrating; it resembles Case #2, but since we haven’t developed the weapons system in question, physical restraints can be ignored and any of the players can change any of the rules of the game at any time. Our first real encounter with Case #4 was the SAM upgrade problem, described by Sayre Stevens in “SAM Upgrade Blues.”*


SAM upgrade — the possibility that the USSR could develop a limited ABM defense using the SA-2 (and later SA-5) SAM systems — made life exciting (and frustrating) for many CIA analysts and senior officials. Any time an analyst working on SAM upgrade seemed to be making progress toward a solution, someone would find a new wrinkle in the problem which forced a fresh start. One lesson of SAM upgrade is that we can no longer produce only conventional intelligence assessments. Intelligence analysts will continue to answer questions which read, “What is the capability of weapon system ‘X’?”; but more and more analysts will encounter questions which begin “What if … ?” These are usually the Case #4 questions.


Last summer, DDS&T intelligence analysts had to address the idea that the Soviets might be developing a space-based laser ABM system. This concept was proposed by a senior official of another government agency (interestingly, most Case #4 problems are proposed by people who are outside the intelligence community but have contact with it; seldom if ever are such cases proposed by intelligence officers). The idea was that the Soviets might be working on a program to put large high-powered ultraviolet lasers into synchronous altitude (25,000-mile-high) orbits. By focusing the laser energy on U.S. ICBM reentry vehicles during their midcourse phase of flight, the Soviets would then be able to destroy any number of the reentry vehicles. The fact that such a program would cost the Soviets more resources than the U.S. put into the Apollo Program seemed to daunt no one — least of all the advocates who insisted that we look for evidence of a Soviet program. After considerable expenditure of analyst time and effort, we concluded that the Soviets were not developing a space-based laser ABM system. Unfortunately, this was probably only the initial effort on this particular problem. It seems characteristic of Case #4 problems that they never go away; they simply go through cycles.


Sources of S&T Intelligence

Jones used the analogy of the human head to describe how S&T cases were handled. In his analogy the eyes represented photo intelligence and the ears represented signal intelligence. Both of these intelligence inputs were fed to the brain, which handled the job of collating the intelligence, analyzing what it meant, and making decisions. To complete the analogy, one might consider the mouth to represent the dissemination process.


Despite Jones’ comment about the eyes and ears, an S&T analyst normally uses six sources of information in his work. They are: Photo Intelligence, Signal Intelligence, Human Sources, Foreign Literature, Results of U.S. Work and Basic Physical Laws.


Many intelligence analysts refer to the first two of these as “hard” intelligence and the second two as “soft” intelligence. This unfortunate terminology reflects a common bias that photo and signal intelligence information is more reliable than the other kinds. Actually, human and foreign literature sources have provided some of our most valuable insights into foreign scientific and technical developments. Their evaluation, however, requires more judgment and analytical skill than do the photo and signal intelligence sources.


The last two sources — U.S. work and basic physical laws — are not generally considered as sources of intelligence at all. But these sources tell you what has been done and what can be done. And they take as much analytical time as any of the other sources. In some cases, they may take more time; some analysts claim that it is easier to get information on Soviet than on U.S. R&D work.


Intelligence analysis — the brain function in the Jones analogy — is the process of pulling together all the sources of information and drawing conclusions. It is a difficult process, probably no better understood than the functioning of the brain itself. There are a few guidelines, however, the most important of which Jones described as “the cardinal principle of scientific intelligence.”


The rise of the digital era has brought with it many wondrous changes to our daily lives, not least of which the fact that we now carry digital assistants with us everywhere we go in the form of smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers. At the same time this has also brought these connectivity devices to misuse both by terrorists as well intelligence gaencies counterterrorism operations and also for mass serviellance of its own citizens. Now intelligence agencies are looking to smart devices and internet of things – the many devices like thermostats, cameras and other appliances that are increasingly connected to the internet – are providing ample opportunity for intelligence agencies to spy on targets, and possibly the masses, as told by  director of national intelligence, James Clapper .


IARPA is known for its programs to fund research into anticipatory intelligence, using data science to make predictions about future events ranging from the political elections to disease outbreaks to cyberattacks, some of which focus on open-source intelligence. One such program is Open Source Indicators, which reviews a range of publicly available sources, such as Tweets, Web queries, oil prices and daily stock market activity, to gauge the likelihood of certain “significant societal events,” according to a program announcement posted on FedBizOpps.gov. The goal of the program is to develop continuously automated systems that use information from these sources to predict when and where a disease outbreak, riot, political crisis or mass violence might occur.


Cardinal Principle of Scientific Intelligence

Back in the fourteenth century, a philosopher named William of Occam did a great deal of thinking about the best way to draw conclusions from the results of scientific experiments. His conclusion has been used as a guiding principle for scientific researchers in all the centuries since. It also serves as the single most important guiding principle for intelligence analysts. It goes under the name of Occam’s Razor: Use the least number of hypotheses to explain your observations.


Occam’s Razor works this way: Suppose that we discover that the Soviet embassy in Washington has received a copy of a classified briefing which was presented recently in the Headquarters Auditorium. I might then announce to you: “The Soviets must have a bug in the igloo — go find it.” After you have finished tearing the igloo apart, you come back and report that no bug is to be found there. My reply is: “Do you really expect the Soviets to put the bugs out where you can find them so easily? Call in the sweepers!” So after a very thorough electronic sweep of the wrecked igloo, you come back with a negative report. But I’m ready. “Ah-ha,” I say. “It’s just as I suspected — the Soviets have developed an unsweepable bug!” As you see, we could carry this game on for quite some time — unless you use Occam’s Razor and say, “No! There must be a simpler explanation for our observations.”


Now this story may sound a bit farfetched, but it describes the sort of thing that goes on in the intelligence community every day. We recently went through an exercise of this sort with an acquaintance of mine on the Intelligence Community (IC) Staff which ended up with his conclusion that every Soviet satellite had some sort of a clandestine mission. And the only reason we hadn’t found out about all these clandestine missions was that we hadn’t looked hard enough!


Some S& T Intelligence Maxims

In addition to the cardinal principle, there are a number of rules of thumb which most intelligence analysts learn sooner or later through hard knocks or experience. The first of these is: Suspect all crusaders.


An intelligence officer should never have an ax to grind. The day an analyst says to himself, “I’m going to prove …,” he’s left the path of reason. Of course you have to present proof for any conclusions you draw from analysis. This is quite a different thing than setting out to prove something before you know the facts. The objective of any intelligence analysis effort is the truth — not the proof of some preconceived notion. There probably exists no better illustration of this point than the story of the “SS-8 controversy” which David Brandwein described in the Summer 1969 issue of Studies in Intelligence (XIII/3).


In 1961, the Soviets began testing a new missile system, the SS-8. Air Force intelligence analysts concluded very quickly that since the Soviets had a large ICBM (the SS-6) and a small ICBM (the SS-7), the SS-8 would be an even larger ICBM than the SS-6. CIA analysts disagreed. By the beginning of 1962, the intelligence community analysts were divided into two camps — a “large SS-8” group and a “small SS-8” group — and the struggle had all the marks of a full-blown crusade. Neither side would concede that its analysis was less than flawless. Each side searched for evidence to “prove” its case. By the middle of 1962, an objective analysis of the SS-8 was no longer possible within the intelligence community. The impasse was not broken until an independent and reasonably impartial committee was formed to assess the problem. The controversy did not end completely until 1964, when the SS-8 was photographed in the Moscow parade and turned out to be a small missile. Unfortunately, much time and money had already been wasted because a few people were more concerned with “proving” their case than in finding the truth.


The mark of a true crusader generally is an inability to admit that he might be wrong. The intelligence community seems to have more of its share of crusaders than most government or industrial groups; unfortunately, many of the crusaders are in the S&T Intelligence field — the last place a professional scientist would expect them to be. Professional scientists instinctively distrust crusaders. Crusading is incompatible with the scientific method, which tries only to establish the facts — never to prove something. One of the great scientists of all time, Louis, Pasteur, put it concisely: “The greatest derangement of the mind is to believe in something because one wishes it to be so …”


A second rule of thumb in S&T Intelligence is: Experts can be wrong. Of necessity, the intelligence community has to use experts as consultants. It is often argued that the experts are the best people to do the analysis, but an expert can develop a closed mind in his own field of expertise more readily than the non-expert. Experts are particularly dangerious in S&T Case #3. When Jones concluded his successful analysis of the Knickebein signal, his proposal to send a search aircraft up after the signal was strongly opposed by Britain’s leading expert in radio wave propagation — who contended that the Germans couldn’t be using such a signal because it would have to bend around the earth’s surface to be received over London. Fortunately, Churchill didn’t learn of the expert’s opinion until after the search aircraft had obtained the Knickebein signal.


A big problem with experts is that they impress people unnecessarily because they are labeled “expert.” The expert’s opinion may be given more weight than it deserves. Perhaps the mentality of official Washington — which spurns pearls offered by a research assistant for the dross from a research director — has something to do with the problem. Any intelligence analyst foolish enough to propose a major analysis effort on “Possible Soviet Development of a Space-based ABM Laser Weapons System” would have been laughed at. Unfortunately, the idea was proposed by an expert who happened to be influential, and no one laughed (out loud, at least). We did the project.


Experts tend to be most obstinate when they are in the wrong. A few years ago, CIA analysts were trying to assess a particular Soviet ABM radar, Some experts who were consulted came to the conclusion, based on incomplete information, that it was actually two radars — that a large flat structure located next to the main radar antenna was the antenna for the secondary radar. After we had done some additional analysis and had taken a close look at Soviet antenna technology, it became apparent to most intelligence community analysts that the flat structure was an antenna feed structure, not a radar. The experts dismissed this interpretation, and CIA analysts were obliged to search for a signal from the secondary radar. Finally, the Soviets built an operational version of the radar, the flat structure was replaced by a strange-looking flat apparition which on one in his right mind could call a radar antenna. While conceding that the new flat structure was clearly a feed system for the ABM radar antenna, the experts never did admit that their original estimate of the secondary radar had been wrong. They merely avoided all discussions on the subject. Even today, I occasionally ask one of the analysts who were involved int he project if he has found the secondary radar signal yet. Fortunately, our ABM analysts all have a good sense of humor.


When the expert’s opinion differs from all other available sources of intelligence, you have to question the expert’s opinion just as you would question any other intelligence source, for reasons which the expert can seldom appreciate. Treat the expert just as you would any other intelligence source; don’t worship him. The same could be said for the contractors, who are just another form of expert. Which brings us to our next maxim: Never trust a contractor.


This is a bit strong; perhaps I should say “Don’t rely unreservedly on a contractor.” There are good contractors and bad ones. Note that I didn’t say never use a contractor — I said don’t trust him. We do and should use contractors in S&T Intelligence analysis to perform jobs which would take too much analyst time, but we tend to depend too much on the contractors. I once asked a good friend of mine, an ABM analyst, about the technical capabilities of a particular ABM radar he was studying. His reply was “I’ll have to check with my contractor first.” Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I assume that his remark was tongue-in-cheek. But it points to a dangerous trend in CIA as well as much of the rest of the intelligence community. Remember, a contractor is in the business for the money, much as a professional spy is in the business for the money. Any case officer can tell you how to treat a professional spy. You use them when you have to, but you never trust them. The same is true for contractors.


We once awarded an electronics analysis contract to Company “Z” on the West Coast. Shortly thereafter, the company “Z” project officer visited Headquarters to receive his instructions on how to proceed. After a few formalities and a cup of coffee, we sat down to discuss the contract details. His first question was unforgettable — and typical of many contractors. He said: “OK — What is it that you want us to prove?” We should have canceled the contract on the spot. Because the contractor wants to earn the money you’re paying him, he feels obligated to come up with something — whether there’s something there or not. A contractor also knows what every good newspaper man knows: Bad news sells. So the contractor is particularly vulnerable to the Anak syndrome (a vulnerability which contractors share with new intelligence analysts who are trying to make a name for themselves).


The Anak syndrome goes back to the tithe when the Israelites found it necessary to spy out the land of Caanan. The spies came back with a completed intelligence analysis which they reported in Numbers 13:32-33: “… And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land which eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are the men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so were we in their sight.” The results of this report were disastrous for the Israelites: 40 more years of wandering in the wilderness.*


Broaden Scientific and Technical Intelligence

Finding 1: The Commission found a limited effort by the IC to discern and exploit the strategic R&D—especially non-military R&D—intentions and capabilities of our adversaries, and to counter our adversaries‘ theft or purchase of U.S. technology.

Recommendation 1: Conduct comprehensive strategic scientific and technical intelligence (S&TI); use it for IC R&D planning and resource allocation.


The Commission underscores four challenges to achieving the principal objectives of uncovering global threats more completely and being more agile in developing new capabilities: the IC must broaden scientific and technical intelligence, enhance integrated intelligence, empower R&D leadership, and leverage expertise and talent wherever it resides. It Rommended conducting comprehensive strategic scientific and technical intelligence (S&TI); use it for IC R&D planning and resource allocation.

Enhance Integrated Intelligence

Finding 2: The Commission found that while the traditional ways and means of collecting and analyzing intelligence remain useful and necessary, emerging and future threats cannot be addressed without Enhanced Integrated Intelligence capabilities that enable shared, discoverable data for analysis and shared, discoverable information for decisionmakers.

Recommendation 2: Focus advanced IC R&D on Enhanced Integrated Intelligence approaches—methods that integrate diverse sources and expertise and that employ automated capabilities to tag, discover, access, and aggregate both data and analyzed information.

Empower R&D Leadership

Finding 3: The Commission found that there is inadequate IC R&D strategic planning and inadequate awareness of IC R&D investment plans and programs.
Recommendation 3: Empower IC R&D leadership to develop a comprehensive R&D strategy and oversee R&D resource allocation


Leverage People/Talent

Finding 4: The Commission found substantial interest within the IC to take advantage of talent and innovation in both the domestic and international private sectors, as well as within the IC itself, but the IC must evolve its business and personnel practices to leverage and exploit the STEM personnel  marketplace.


Recommendation 4: Assess longer-term workforce needs within the context of a more competitive private sector and global marketplace and develop procedures to recruit and keep needed talent. Increase and augment IC R&D talent by emphasizing approaches to innovation
sharing within the public and private sectors, universities, and research and national labs, and by developing an IC strategy and approach for creating R&D opportunities for non-U.S. citizens.



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