Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Two Vs Three Gets People Killed

LTG Chiarelli, former 1st Cav CG, blames “Security Nazis” prevent US commanders from getting vital information to their subordinates due to over-classification of enemy information in the Defense News article, January 28, 2008 :”Helping Info Flow Freely” by William Matthews. In other words, nothing has changed since the days I served in intelligence in Vietnam almost forty years ago., the day after Tet was deemed over So much for “net centric warfare”.

The day I arrived at Camp Evans in I Corps, the 1st Air Cav Division launched it’s attack into the A Shau valley. The place was virtually empty as I walked to the G1 shop for assignment. It appears that there was a project down in Saigon that needed an officer with operations experience on TDY. War is Hell, but someone has to do it, and I flew south in a Caribou to Saigon, and through Saigon in a Mitsubishi bus to Long Binh at about the same speed.

I was to be assigned to USARV G-2 I was told, for an experiment in military intelligence which experiment was dusted off from the shelves of CDEC (Combat Development and Experimentation Center – Ft Ord) after it was found that all the intelligence needed to predict Tet was already in the “system”. In fact, the IInd Field Force had acted on it’s own as had the ARVN III Corps both of which saved Saigon, while MACV still missed out on the big secret.

The experiment consisted of two radical notions. First was to put Military Intelligence officers in intelligence staff positions. This was radical departure from the normal procedure of putting those who were FNG, Short, Shot Up or Screwed Up in as S2. After years of fighting wars at Fort Swampy based on the S3 Operattions and Training Officer’s assessment of which kind of battle to fight, be it attack of a fortified position, defense of a river line, or movement to contact the unit needed. Since the actions was predetermined, there was nothing for the intelligence officer to do. After all, A Company was going to be Opfor (aka Aggressor) against B Company. Everything the S2 would do in combat was pre-determined by the S3. No sense in appointing a perfectly good officer to a do nothing job.

Another weird idea was to gather all the intelligence detachments and companies in a combat division who reported to echelons above boss, and have them report to the Division CG. To this was added a vertical array of intelligence cells called “BICCs” at each level of command from battalion to division tied together with a dedicated intelligence net that operated like a fire support net.

My job was to evaluate the “before” and “after” pictures as this program was put in effect. The first phase was one month and the “after” period was two months. My duty station was the 2/2nd Mechanized Infantry Bn (Daring) which was located on QL 13, a road nick named “Thunder Road”. So much for my hardship tour at Long Binh. In between the before and the after was a tour of Vietnam interviewing battalion and brigade staffs about intelligence operations. I visited the 25th Division then battling the VC in the Second General Offensive on the outskirts of Saigon, and the 173rd Airborne Bde operating out of LZ English on the Bong Son plains.
The difference between the before and after was that before there was no intelligence and after the was. Before we had outdated maps which had few wiggly brown lines and green that had been erased by Rome Plow. After we had the last ten years of VC activity in that area, and were able to get the latest from On High at Saigon’s intelligence centers. We had, as the term is today, “Reach Back” capabilities.

Transformation, the 400 Billion Dollar boondoggle, still hasn’t solved the basic psychological drama between S2 and S3 and from Upper to Lower echelons. As I found out in the project the basic rules of intelligence dissemination are:

1. Tell next higher only what you want them to know.
2. Tell next lower only what they need to know.
3. Tell adjacent units nothing at all

Based on over twenty years of military intelligence experience, I have found out that ninety percent of that which is classified Secret and above is already common knowledge to the enemy, and the other ten percent doesn’t exist. Over-classification is job security and ego management for intelligence officers. To be able to one-up the three in the PM briefing is sweet. Likewise, the S3 muscular types don’t trust wimps that read books, and prefer to divine enemy capabilities and intentions by divine inspiration. The tragedy is that people get killed as a result.

There has been an impressive improvement in the delivery of information and the coordination between 2 and 3 in the current unpleasantness in the Muddle East over what was the norm in Vietnam. Part of this is the improvement in communications but the biggest part is the this is the “wired” generation who have a clear understanding of what can be done.

The Brigade command and control system we went to war didn’t mesh with higher up. That was worked around. LTG Chiarelli’s CAVNet was shut down. It seems that as before we still classify the other guys stuff higher than we do our own. OPSEC is largely of value to prevent the bad guys from finding out what we are going to do. Any one who expects that the enemy doesn’t know what we are going to do is fooling with himself.

Our advantage is that the above principles are universal, and the other guy’s intel is being discounted by his opns officer. Hitler and his generals had all the clues they needed to predict Normandy. Stalin killed all the officers that told him that Hitler was going to attack, after the attack was launched. In Vietnam, the VC was so good at intercepting our radio that when a FAC or gunship showed up to do some good, the VC was ready to pop smoke at the same time we did to guide God’s wrath upon the unfaithful. We learned to pick the color of smoke at random and wait for the pilot to identify the various colors that would rise above the green stuff. Then we would tell him which was ours and to dump on the others.

And, we move quicker than they do, staying inside their operations cycle. It would be nice, however, to be able to reduce the number of enemy read our minds.

Another feature of the military decision making and intelligence process that is critical to understand and that is that commanders, ours and theirs, don’t know what they are going to do for sure in advance of the decision, and that regardless of what decision is made, Murphy’s Law applies. Gettysburg resulted as a clash over a shoe factory.

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