Any place for a bookish sort in the IntCorps?

Cicero63

Swinger
@Cicero63 Most things considered, I'd agree that these days you are better off joining the RAF Int branch - even frankly the Royal Navy, but that's still very small - than the Int Corps. Has the added advantage that you know what you are getting before you sign on the dotted line, which is not the case with Sandhurst.

All things considered, I'd steer away from the military at all. You will be joining a peacetime military, which is inclined to be a toxic environment at the best of times, and these are not those. A combination of factors mean it is very likely to remain a peacetime military for your entire career, going on the stats of how long any individual stays in. It's also committed to a steep nosedive in competence, satisfaction and purpose, and as a junior officer you will have no hand on the stick where those are concerned. It is increasingly a lie that you have more control or influence as a junior officer, than as a soldier. You have better conditions and more responsibility, but those are not the same. Quite likely that you will ignore this, but if you do, at least your five year older self can think "I was warned", which is often the difference between a frustrated five year older self, and a bitter ten year older self.

At an absolute minimum, if intelligence interests you and you aren't the most physical type, apply to SIS and GCHQ first. They also have their problems, but vastly better outlooks and a continuing purpose. Or, as others have suggested, view it as an itch to scratch and apply to the Reserves, where the commitment is less encompassing, and easier to leave. All lawyers live in London ,and 3MI is probably one of the best corners of the Int Corps.
Thanks for all this stuff, very useful. I had a chat with an IntCorps captain (in charge of potential officer shenanigans) and he made the same point you did about not knowing where one is going to end up. Since I made this post I’ve rather broadened my horizons so far as the military is concerned, and I’m supposed to be having an interview with someone at the King’s Royal Hussars in the New Year- though goodness knows if that will actually happen. I did strongly consider the RAF and the Navy, but moved away from them as I don’t particularly enjoy flying and would feel rather silly in the RAF, even if permanently on the ground, as a result (more complex reasons than that but that’ll do), and as for the navy I’m not sure I’d enjoy being cooped up in a boat for months at a time. I should also say that the military is only one of several careers options I’m considering, though the one I currently favour them most (having just put my application for an MPhil in). My fitness is steadily improving I’m glad to say, and I’m just about running 2 miles in 13 minutes so making progress (still need to do a lot of work in upper body strength though!)
 

Glad_its_all_over

ADC
Book Reviewer
Antiquated technology such as that system of string and baked-bean cans has no place in the Whiskybreath household, as you should well know, Subb; for shame. We are at the razor's-edge of communication here; the Mrs gave me a little mechanism with a screen and a cable some time ago, and I dutifully and bravely put it in a safe place somewhere, where I can't interfere with its workings, which, being based in electrons and neutrons and stuff, I distrust.

I gravely missed being present at this meeting of cultural, intellectual and artistic movers, shakers and leaders, and I'd been looking forward to discussing critical theory with @Alec_Lomas, but knowing that my opinions would be comprehensively pulverised, I refrained from attending, possibly wisely. Since both you and she have 'transitioned'*, I'd have been outnumbered at being rude to waiters, loud, offensive in demanding that steaks be less well-done, and bill-division calculations. I cannot compete in those categories.

I did, though, raise a glass to you all. Several, if fact, and to prove my proposition above, I became less polite, louder and extremely offensive during the evening. I now live in my luxury garden shed, but I stand by my principles.
* I hope I haven't been premature in this revelation. That could be embarrassing.
You were missed, the overall tenor was extremely relaxed and civilised and the conversation was elevated and informative. Your presence would have done much to impact that.

I happen to know that @Alec_Lomas was disappointed not to have had the opportunity to trade philosophic bons mots with you over a refreshing glass of sweet sherry; I. too, although finding a nearly untouched Whopper Meal on the way home did much to assuage my mood.
 
@Cicero63 Most things considered, I'd agree that these days you are better off joining the RAF Int branch - even frankly the Royal Navy, but that's still very small - than the Int Corps. Has the added advantage that you know what you are getting before you sign on the dotted line, which is not the case with Sandhurst.

All things considered, I'd steer away from the military at all. You will be joining a peacetime military, which is inclined to be a toxic environment at the best of times, and these are not those. A combination of factors mean it is very likely to remain a peacetime military for your entire career, going on the stats of how long any individual stays in. It's also committed to a steep nosedive in competence, satisfaction and purpose, and as a junior officer you will have no hand on the stick where those are concerned. It is increasingly a lie that you have more control or influence as a junior officer, than as a soldier. You have better conditions and more responsibility, but those are not the same. Quite likely that you will ignore this, but if you do, at least your five year older self can think "I was warned", which is often the difference between a frustrated five year older self, and a bitter ten year older self.

At an absolute minimum, if intelligence interests you and you aren't the most physical type, apply to SIS and GCHQ first. They also have their problems, but vastly better outlooks and a continuing purpose. Or, as others have suggested, view it as an itch to scratch and apply to the Reserves, where the commitment is less encompassing, and easier to leave. All lawyers live in London ,and 3MI is probably one of the best corners of the Int Corps.
This

As the army gets smaller, the number of jobs and tasks don't, so as a JNCO you'll find yourself being sent with whoever is available on tasks, rather than the best person of team for the job. Buggins turn rules
Something to consider as a reserve, is that as tours get fewer and far between, every one you get to go on denies a regular a medal. There are also some very petty people out there and your civilian skills/expertise could be seen as a threat.

Joint/Defence/Wider Government may be a better place to be - at least it feels in many departments they've hauled Chilcott on board and have tried to learn lessons
 
Here's my 10 cents, twenty-six years before the mast as a Regular and two before that as a reservist. As a Reservist, ANY experience you get is going to give you something to draw on.

Of course, we are interested if you have scarce skills, but you need to establish relationships first. In some fields, as a newbie, you may have to demonstrate that you have a grasp of the principles and can handle basic tasks before you are given more demanding work. That's the same if you are a new regular or a new reservist on the block.

Pro Tip: if you are going to ask for advice on fighting knives, best to do that in absolute privacy. Otherwise, it could mark everyone that follows you! ( and it will for years)
 

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
Of course, we are interested if you have scarce skills, but you need to establish relationships first. In some fields, as a newbie, you may have to demonstrate that you have a grasp of the principles and can handle basic tasks before you are given more demanding work. That's the same if you are a new regular or a new reservist on the block.
...just not really interested enough to employ you for them; use you in roles which require those skills; or select you for those roles over those without scarce skills but who have "established relationships" (i.e. meet the criteria for time-served or nose-colour). It's curious how the relationships the Intelligence Corps deems valuable to establish are primarily with more senior members of the Intelligence Corps.

Not sure Classics is a required skill in any case.
 

Glad_its_all_over

ADC
Book Reviewer
...just not really interested enough to employ you for them; use you in roles which require those skills; or select you for those roles over those without scarce skills but who have "established relationships" (i.e. meet the criteria for time-served or nose-colour). It's curious how the relationships the Intelligence Corps deems valuable to establish are primarily with more senior members of the Intelligence Corps.

Not sure Classics is a required skill in any case.
Oh, specifically for linguists, Classics would have some merit, at least one wouldn't have to waste a months' training time teaching the rudiments of grammar.

As to the rest of it, dunno, I don't recognise it as the Corps I was in, but as of 9 January, I've been out longer than I was in, so things may have changed.
 

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
As to the rest of it, dunno, I don't recognise it as the Corps I was in, but as of 9 January, I've been out longer than I was in, so things may have changed.
You'll have to take my word for it. Not all of those things are exclusive to the Int Corps, but they are all on display in the Int Corps, and getting worse according to those still at the wheel. Of course they say words like professionalism, data skills or cyber, but in practice, like the Royal Signals, they firmly committed to amateurism and mediocre managerialism among officers, reward sycophancy and promote/post based on cronyism, and you know how that ethos tends to roll downhill.

Classics degrees may have changed too. Less Greek and Latin languages these days, more history: most of them are what were known twenty years ago as Classical Civilization. Only Oxbridge and (I think) a couple of other holdouts teach the languages.
 

Glad_its_all_over

ADC
Book Reviewer
You'll have to take my word for it. Not all of those things are exclusive to the Int Corps, but they are all on display in the Int Corps, and getting worse according to those still at the wheel. Of course they say words like professionalism, data skills or cyber, but in practice, like the Royal Signals, they firmly committed to amateurism and mediocre managerialism among officers, reward sycophancy and promote/post based on cronyism, and you know how that ethos tends to roll downhill.

That's quite dispiriting to hear, although, of course, the DE and LE/WO/SNCO/JNCO ecologies tended, at least in my time, to function in a separate-but-parallel way and the influence of either on the other wasn't hugely significant. I've been keenly aware, thanks to your postings here over the years, of some of the issues confronting the DE fraternity; what I hear from folk still serving in whose judgement I have some faith is that the working-class fraternity is in better shape. Your direct and personal experience is far more recent than mine, of course and any insight I have is anecdotal.
Classics degrees may have changed too. Less Greek and Latin languages these days, more history: most of them are what were known twenty years ago as Classical Civilization. Only Oxbridge and (I think) a couple of other holdouts teach the languages.

That's even more disappointing, isn't it? I found Russian comparatively quite straightforward, having been exposed to Latin and a bit of Greek years before and that exposure has also helped immeasurably with other (granted, Indo-European) languages. Arabic's a bitch and there's no short cut.
 

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
...what I hear from folk still serving in whose judgement I have some faith is that the working-class fraternity is in better shape.
I'm skeptical about this:

1. Over the time I observed, the selection and training went downhill from poor. Unavoidable effects like increasing size led to lower quality; Templer has always been highly change resistant; and training carried out post-Templer was almost always of the "learn the acronyms" variety rather than practical (again, because it was written by incompetent officers and seniors).
2. The same effects carried up the chain and meant that there were a lot of sub-par Sgts in the mid 2010s. They would be SSgts or WOs now. It's not credible that they all magically caught up in their practical skills in that time, given their training and reports all focus on management.
3. So who is teaching all this good stuff to the soldiers/analysts?

I think given the above trends, it's more likely that, as with officers, the idea that the soldiers are in better shape is promulgated or believed by senior WOs / LEs who themselves aren't much good at the practical stuff, and so simply cannot recognise what "good" looks like. This is inevitable when the entire career system agitates against competence and specialism, and rewards other factors. Conversely to what you hear, everyone I know still in whose opinion I trust says that the analysts are less competent than they were in 2010 (again, starting from poor), which is what you would expect given the start-state above.

Meanwhile, the outside world have steamed ahead with normalising data processes that make 2000s J2 look like rubbing sticks together. I've seen what the soldiers are taught, can do, and what their general level of capability is without additional training, over much of the past decade. Certainly there is potential among individuals there, but by in large it is wasted by a system which has developed incompetent managers without practical understanding or skills, and a training establishment that is unfit for purpose.

My bet is that senior WOs and Cols look at junior soldiers and officers and think: "wow, I could never do that at that age", knowing and insecure that they still cannot, but failing to recognise that they are simply seeing individuals roughly somewhere on a distribution curve with the pace of societal change. The problem is that those individuals are still behind that curve, where by dint of their job they should be ahead of it, and some of their competitors are way ahead. Ultimately, that comparative position is the only thing that matters.

This isn't all the Int Corps fault: inflation in exam grades, falling school competencies, lack of STEM education, non-competitive Army headline salary, etc. But the Int Corps has failed to correct and mostly compounded the problem, while remaining solidly self-satisfied and complacent about its own performance.

Soldiers might be better than officers, but given the state of officers, that isn't a recommendation. They are not better than any moderately competent data journalist, self-taught OSINTer, entry-level programmer or reasonably bright graduate in the civilian world, and given those represent a base level of "the competition", that is a real problem.

Here's a key I&W for you - an extremely high proportion of both junior officers and soldiers leave shortly after doing a Spt to DSF job. If anyone bothers to ask why (Chicksands usually doesn't, and waves it off as dilettantism), the answer is always exactly the same: they got a glimpse at what good looked like, and could not bring themselves to go back to one of the regular Int Corps Bns or could not deal with the status quo there when they did.

There is some variation by discipline. Those disciplines which spent 2000-2014 mostly outside of green Int Corps organisations and influence (IMINT, SIGINT) were in better shape, because standards were set and training delivered by others. But those who remained largely inside (OPINT, Exploitation, HUMINT) as well as basic analytical skills were way, way behind where they need to be at this point in the 21st century.
 
I'm skeptical about this:

1. Over the time I observed, the selection and training went downhill from poor. Unavoidable effects like increasing size led to lower quality; Templer has always been highly change resistant; and training carried out post-Templer was almost always of the "learn the acronyms" variety rather than practical (again, because it was written by incompetent officers and seniors).
2. The same effects carried up the chain and meant that there were a lot of sub-par Sgts in the mid 2010s. They would be SSgts or WOs now. It's not credible that they all magically caught up in their practical skills in that time, given their training and reports all focus on management.
3. So who is teaching all this good stuff to the soldiers/analysts?

I think given the above trends, it's more likely that, as with officers, the idea that the soldiers are in better shape is promulgated or believed by senior WOs / LEs who themselves aren't much good at the practical stuff, and so simply cannot recognise what "good" looks like. This is inevitable when the entire career system agitates against competence and specialism, and rewards other factors. Conversely to what you hear, everyone I know still in whose opinion I trust says that the analysts are less competent than they were in 2010 (again, starting from poor), which is what you would expect given the start-state above.

Meanwhile, the outside world have steamed ahead with normalising data processes that make 2000s J2 look like rubbing sticks together. I've seen what the soldiers are taught, can do, and what their general level of capability is without additional training, over much of the past decade. Certainly there is potential among individuals there, but by in large it is wasted by a system which has developed incompetent managers without practical understanding or skills, and a training establishment that is unfit for purpose.

My bet is that senior WOs and Cols look at junior soldiers and officers and think: "wow, I could never do that at that age", knowing and insecure that they still cannot, but failing to recognise that they are simply seeing individuals roughly somewhere on a distribution curve with the pace of societal change. The problem is that those individuals are still behind that curve, where by dint of their job they should be ahead of it, and some of their competitors are way ahead. Ultimately, that comparative position is the only thing that matters.

This isn't all the Int Corps fault: inflation in exam grades, falling school competencies, lack of STEM education, non-competitive Army headline salary, etc. But the Int Corps has failed to correct and mostly compounded the problem, while remaining solidly self-satisfied and complacent about its own performance.

Soldiers might be better than officers, but given the state of officers, that isn't a recommendation. They are not better than any moderately competent data journalist, self-taught OSINTer, entry-level programmer or reasonably bright graduate in the civilian world, and given those represent a base level of "the competition", that is a real problem.

Here's a key I&W for you - an extremely high proportion of both junior officers and soldiers leave shortly after doing a Spt to DSF job. If anyone bothers to ask why (Chicksands usually doesn't, and waves it off as dilettantism), the answer is always exactly the same: they got a glimpse at what good looked like, and could not bring themselves to go back to one of the regular Int Corps Bns or could not deal with the status quo there when they did.

There is some variation by discipline. Those disciplines which spent 2000-2014 mostly outside of green Int Corps organisations and influence (IMINT, SIGINT) were in better shape, because standards were set and training delivered by others. But those who remained largely inside (OPINT, Exploitation, HUMINT) as well as basic analytical skills were way, way behind where they need to be at this point in the 21st century.
This would explain a lot.
Some try and explain away odd behaviours as "int-austic", yet the "believing their own proganda" failing seems to be closer to the truth, particularly when one hears further unpleasant "regulars/badged/men better than reserves/posted in J2/women" crap culture and behaviour - a 'gift' that 2021 repeatedly regurgitated with depressing regualrity.

It would be interesting to see how much of the Int Corp contributed to the atherton report, as there was a very ballsy female int reservist who called out the "yes but" culture at the Army Personnel Conference - cue lots of shuffling of/looking at feet in the * front rows. Perhaps only a reservist could call it out as they have a civilian job/real life to compare it too?

The line "JNCOs get the best experience/have the crunchy jobs" seems to have spilt over into habits.
Having been given a look at the SJAR of a friend who had been recommend as main board material at Phase 1, it was interesting to see the commissioning potential box showing a not interested option.
and they weren't aware of this.

it probaly fair to say that OPMI has had its day (in light of the likes of Bellingcat at large in the world) and that OPTI/OPSI/OPCI or whatever the tech replacemnt should be is long overdue
 

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
This would explain a lot.
Some try and explain away odd behaviours as "int-austic", yet the "believing their own proganda" failing seems to be closer to the truth, particularly when one hears further unpleasant "regulars/badged/men better than reserves/posted in J2/women" crap culture and behaviour - a 'gift' that 2021 repeatedly regurgitated with depressing regualrity.

It would be interesting to see how much of the Int Corp contributed to the atherton report, as there was a very ballsy female int reservist who called out the "yes but" culture at the Army Personnel Conference - cue lots of shuffling of/looking at feet in the * front rows. Perhaps only a reservist could call it out as they have a civilian job/real life to compare it too?

The line "JNCOs get the best experience/have the crunchy jobs" seems to have spilt over into habits.
Having been given a look at the SJAR of a friend who had been recommend as main board material at Phase 1, it was interesting to see the commissioning potential box showing a not interested option.
and they weren't aware of this.

it probaly fair to say that OPMI has had its day (in light of the likes of Bellingcat at large in the world) and that OPTI/OPSI/OPCI or whatever the tech replacemnt should be is long overdue
Reservists are a highly randomised bag, but 3MI especially is imo probably among the best value for money in Defence. That is 100% down to the inherent quality / external training however, value which is amplified by being less in hock to career concerns as you say.

2020 also saw some characteristically political behaviour around pushing regulars and golden pathers into eyeline in the COVID response, which was noted by commanders who weren't too impressed. Although on the plus side, I think that's the one time ever I saw the Int Corps put a (junior) officer in a job who had relevant skills (virology degree): unfortunately once in ten years is a statistical error.

Another I&W on whether OPMI has had its day: it's now about a decade after Philip Tetlock brought forecasting into the mainstream, and another decade again after it was professionalised in betting and markets. Anyone who reads about it today knows that the first step is to keep a record of forecasts vs results, because that's how you know when you're getting it right (in markets this is obviously inherent to trading). Despite much official witter about 'predictive intelligence', I've yet to encounter an Int Corps OPINT cell that kept a record of its assessments vs what actually happened, and it certainly isn't taught in Templer (heretics like myself have suggested it). Probably not coincidentally, while this makes it harder for analysts to know when they're getting it right, it also makes it harder for customers to know when they're getting it wrong...

Bellingcat is a good example of 'gifted amateurs' showing vastly better skills and results than the supposed professionals. The problem with that dichotomy (for over a decade the Int Corps has said the era of the 'gifted amateur' is over and professional intelligence is the only option) is that they are neither very gifted nor very professional.
 
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Over the time I observed, the selection and training went downhill from poor.
Thank Christos you weren't around a few years earlier; you'd have seen the selectors playing poker in a smoky room and someone outside the circle randomly asking; "What about this prat Whisky O'Breath; yea or nay?"
"Whatever. Two threes".

the first step is to keep a record of forecasts vs results, because that's how you know when you're getting it right (in markets this is obviously inherent to trading). Despite much official witter about 'predictive intelligence', I've yet to encounter an Int Corps J2 cell that kept a record of its assessments vs what happened
Very good point. It may have been a feeling, hanging around the edges of the discussions of those of us playing a long game in IS operations, but was not something to be dwelled upon with others present; it implied, and possibly communicated failure. Clearly, however, in more political levels and circles, it would be a concrete necessity. Way above my paygrade, and a good thing too.
 

Glad_its_all_over

ADC
Book Reviewer
Reservists are a highly randomised bag, but 3MI especially is imo probably among the best value for money in Defence. That is 100% down to the inherent quality / external training however, value which is amplified by being less in hock to career concerns as you say.

2020 also saw some characteristically political behaviour around pushing regulars and golden pathers into eyeline in the COVID response, which was noted by commanders who weren't too impressed. Although on the plus side, I think that's the one time ever I saw the Int Corps put a (junior) officer in a job who had relevant skills (virology degree): unfortunately once in ten years is a statistical error.

Another I&W on whether OPMI has had its day: it's now about a decade after Philip Tetlock brought forecasting into the mainstream, and another decade again after it was professionalised in betting and markets. Anyone who reads about it today knows that the first step is to keep a record of forecasts vs results, because that's how you know when you're getting it right (in markets this is obviously inherent to trading). Despite much official witter about 'predictive intelligence', I've yet to encounter an Int Corps OPINT cell that kept a record of its assessments vs what actually happened, and it certainly isn't taught in Templer (heretics like myself have suggested it). Probably not coincidentally, while this makes it harder for analysts to know when they're getting it right, it also makes it harder for customers to know when they're getting it wrong...

Bellingcat is a good example of 'gifted amateurs' showing vastly better skills and results than the supposed professionals. The problem with that dichotomy (for over a decade the Int Corps has said the era of the 'gifted amateur' is over and professional intelligence is the only option) is that they are neither very gifted nor very professional.
I'll take your word for it. Intelligence support to the Green Army has historically been patchy, especially as the customer base remains - as far as I can tell - wedded to intuition and personal judgement and tends not to understand, never mind use, any form of predictive analysis. There's perhaps a vicious circle, where the customer base doesn't believe what it's told, or perhaps has unrealistic expectations and is thus constantly disappointed.

My experience is not particularly relevant to that domain, my Green Army times were all tactical land EW rather than any other discipline and pretty much every other tour was either on behalf of a different entity or entities or either receiving or delivering training.

Your point on corporate memory is particularly well made. My own environment was obsessed with it, for obvious reasons; the specific requirements of the last century's IS environment ditto (although, nota bene, in a 30+ year campaign you can't help but learn and retain a thing or two). My sense is that short-termism and the inability to grow SMEs, in either cohort, on specific theatres or disciplines has perhaps been one of the other factors, apart from the ones you identify, in the decline of Green Army Int.
 
Very good point. It may have been a feeling, hanging around the edges of the discussions of those of us playing a long game in IS operations, but was not something to be dwelled upon with others present; it implied, and possibly communicated failure. Clearly, however, in more political levels and circles, it would be a concrete necessity. Way above my paygrade, and a good thing too.
So how did we ever (truly) grade a source (of any sort) without comparing what had been provided with what transpired?
 

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
So how did we ever (truly) grade a source (of any sort) without comparing what had been provided with what transpired?
We didn't, truly. A finger in the wind was the best description. The "PJHQ Uncertainty Scale" (i.e. 95% = almost certain, 75%-95% = highly likely, etc) was a fiction, because there were never any percentages underpinning it, because there was never any quantitative analysis done. NATO grading (HUMINT style A-F and 1-6) was a fiction mostly based on the opinion of the handler, and barely understood even by them, which is why I saw idiotic grades like A5 (this guy is always right but he's definitely wrong) or E1 (this guy is totally unreliable but he's definitely right). Thus the traditional joke that HUMINT was only ever A1 (definitely reliable and right) or F6 (no idea and no idea).

All of these systems, and the individuals in them, strongly resisted changing or evolving any of this, because they were (explicitly, in private conversations) afraid either of being held to their assessments or of having to prove their working when they could not.

Theoretically, all of these individual specialist sources should have gone to a generalist (OPINT / all-source) analysis cell and only there would it have made sense to grade them or do quantitative analysis, but that process was the worst of all, the training was cursory (a few days), abysmal sub-GCSE analysis stuff, and so it basically never happened. Those were the cells I suggested should use forecasting techniques.

If you look at the touted growth in "intelligence capability" during TELIC/HERRICK, in either size or cost terms, it's actually no such thing. The growth was in information collection (i.e. things that deliver reliable information, like images or signals). The Int Corps latched onto those, but never did it actually run the collection (that was OGD, RAF, etc) nor did it grow commiserate to the collection capability. Those capabilities which were predominantly Int Corps (HUMINT) didn't grow at anywhere like the same rate. This also accorded with the behaviour of commanders - what they demanded and used was hard information: FMV, IMINT, biometrics, SIGINT (unfortunately overestimating how "hard" the latter two were at times). The fact that a few Int Corps bods came attached with all of those to manage delivery and make powerpoints was incidental. Commanders accepted that the shark they wanted had a remora on it, but they still wanted the shark. Of course all this was spun by the Intelligence Corps to be an objective demonstration of their value, and suggest that what commanders had really been asking for was a remora in a green hat.

I'll take your word for it. Intelligence support to the Green Army has historically been patchy, especially as the customer base remains - as far as I can tell - wedded to intuition and personal judgement and tends not to understand, never mind use, any form of predictive analysis. There's perhaps a vicious circle, where the customer base doesn't believe what it's told, or perhaps has unrealistic expectations and is thus constantly disappointed.
The problem is that today, "intelligence support to the Green Army" is all there is. After they drained the old specialisms of independence, centralised all training to OPMI and formed 1 MI Bde / Bns, almost every Int Corps soldier came under that banner, including their training, standards, etc. A few escaped for a short period in some disciplines, but they either transferred and never came back (from RAF/IMINT or SIGINT), or were thrown back into the green Army Int Corps (from DSF etc) with all the problems above. The result has been to reinforce the lowest common denominator.

EW / SIGINT as a good example, is no longer the separate walled garden it once was (unless you're a linguist), and the officers and seniors have just as many incompetents. This was the case pre-2013, and structural changes mean it will have gotten worse since then. As an example, in 2012 I couldn't find a single Int Corps bod on tour in operational jobs who could understand or perform a CRA, including the LCpl analysts responsible for that material. I had to learn and train my section to do it myself. The answer from the OISG (all-source / GS cell) was "that was the job of the geeks" elsewhere. They were just passive recipients of the answers. Which was all fine, except in the important minority of cases where the CRA was wrong, and they had no ability to check the working. But in many cases they effectively 100% relied on that material for targeting.

I prompted some angry conversations about that (targeting based on erroneous reporting that they couldn't understand was wrong because they didn't bother to learn the analysis technique), and put it in a POR. Everyone was totally blase about it in response. A shrug and "well, that's intelligence" was an actual reply from someone responsible for a wrong target (that they'd gone on). The police do this in the UK and it's an inquiry...

The whole edifice has been hollowed out, and once that's been the case for a couple of decades, it's very difficult to find anyone remaining who knows what good looks like to improve it again. Let alone able to push their way through the viscous layer of incompetent management who sense that any such reform will both reveal their historical incompetence, and put them out to pasture.
 
We didn't, truly. A finger in the wind was the best description. The "PJHQ Uncertainty Scale" (i.e. 95% = almost certain, 75%-95% = highly likely, etc) was a fiction, because there were never any percentages underpinning it, because there was never any quantitative analysis done. NATO grading (HUMINT style A-F and 1-6) was a fiction mostly based on the opinion of the handler, and barely understood even by them, which is why I saw idiotic grades like A5 (this guy is always right but he's definitely wrong) or E1 (this guy is totally unreliable but he's definitely right). Thus the traditional joke that HUMINT was only ever A1 (definitely reliable and right) or F6 (no idea and no idea).

All of these systems, and the individuals in them, strongly resisted changing or evolving any of this, because they were (explicitly, in private conversations) afraid either of being held to their assessments or of having to prove their working when they could not.

Theoretically, all of these individual specialist sources should have gone to a generalist (OPINT / all-source) analysis cell and only there would it have made sense to grade them or do quantitative analysis, but that process was the worst of all, the training was cursory (a few days), abysmal sub-GCSE analysis stuff, and so it basically never happened. Those were the cells I suggested should use forecasting techniques.

If you look at the touted growth in "intelligence capability" during TELIC/HERRICK, in either size or cost terms, it's actually no such thing. The growth was in information collection (i.e. things that deliver reliable information, like images or signals). The Int Corps latched onto those, but never did it actually run the collection (that was OGD, RAF, etc) nor did it grow commiserate to the collection capability. Those capabilities which were predominantly Int Corps (HUMINT) didn't grow at anywhere like the same rate. This also accorded with the behaviour of commanders - what they demanded and used was hard information: FMV, IMINT, biometrics, SIGINT (unfortunately overestimating how "hard" the latter two were at times). The fact that a few Int Corps bods came attached with all of those to manage delivery and make powerpoints was incidental. Commanders accepted that the shark they wanted had a remora on it, but they still wanted the shark. Of course all this was spun by the Intelligence Corps to be an objective demonstration of their value, and suggest that what commanders had really been asking for was a remora in a green hat.


The problem is that today, "intelligence support to the Green Army" is all there is. After they drained the old specialisms of independence, centralised all training to OPMI and formed 1 MI Bde / Bns, almost every Int Corps soldier came under that banner, including their training, standards, etc. A few escaped for a short period in some disciplines, but they either transferred and never came back (from RAF/IMINT or SIGINT), or were thrown back into the green Army Int Corps (from DSF etc) with all the problems above. The result has been to reinforce the lowest common denominator.

EW / SIGINT as a good example, is no longer the separate walled garden it once was (unless you're a linguist), and the officers and seniors have just as many incompetents. This was the case pre-2013, and structural changes mean it will have gotten worse since then. As an example, in 2012 I couldn't find a single Int Corps bod on tour in operational jobs who could understand or perform a CRA, including the LCpl analysts responsible for that material. I had to learn and train my section to do it myself. The answer from the OISG (all-source / GS cell) was "that was the job of the geeks" elsewhere. They were just passive recipients of the answers. Which was all fine, except in the important minority of cases where the CRA was wrong, and they had no ability to check the working. But in many cases they effectively 100% relied on that material for targeting.

I prompted some angry conversations about that (targeting based on erroneous reporting that they couldn't understand was wrong because they didn't bother to learn the analysis technique), and put it in a POR. Everyone was totally blase about it in response. A shrug and "well, that's intelligence" was an actual reply from someone responsible for a wrong target (that they'd gone on). The police do this in the UK and it's an inquiry...

The whole edifice has been hollowed out, and once that's been the case for a couple of decades, it's very difficult to find anyone remaining who knows what good looks like to improve it again. Let alone able to push their way through the viscous layer of incompetent management who sense that any such reform will both reveal their historical incompetence, and put them out to pasture.
Thanks for that. When did it all start to go so wrong? I was always taught (and I left in '83) that what matters is what recent events mean. Crudely put: fact - comment - fact - comment - fact - comment - assessment. If you don't answer the 'so what' it's not intelligence, just aggregated data.

After leaving in '83 I continued to commit intelligence Downunder in a wide range of jobs at all levels and with deployments to Namibia, East Timor and Iraq. I also instructed at our School and we instructors would hammer trainees on the 'what does all that mean to the Commander's mission?' Any blank looks would be met with a question as to what was the Commander's mission and if they didn't know, or were vague, I would tell them to put it at the top of their whiteboard.

I won't crap on further as I am clearly decades behind what has happened in the UK, but I will comment that there is no reason why a report cannot be graded E1. Unlikely to happen, but an unreliable source can on the odd occasion provide information which is confirmed by several other (more reliable) sources. He would remain graded E though, until a pattern of reliability had been established.

I will add that I consider that I was well taught at Ashford (A3 and A1) and Rheindahlen (A2). In fact I was lucky to have passed my A3 . . . I never had the bluffing ability of @Whiskybreath .
 

Sarastro

LE
Kit Reviewer
I won't crap on further as I am clearly decades behind what has happened in the UK, but I will comment that there is no reason why a report cannot be graded E1. Unlikely to happen, but an unreliable source can on the odd occasion provide information which is confirmed by several other (more reliable) sources. He would remain graded E though, until a pattern of reliability had been established.
Not according to how HUMINT grading was done/taught at the time. The 1-6 is meant to come from the source/handler/HUMINT cell not from other sources, which is the job of the all-source / GS / OPINT cell. Half a working braincell will tell you this makes the idea of the number grade in HUMINT entirely pointless, because it makes it all a form of single-source reporting. This was not acknowledged. DHU's cultural insistence - generated primarily by WOs and LEs, by the way - that everything they did was super special and secret and nobody else could touch or comment on it, at threat of extreme legal jeopardy to the Army as a whole, did not help any of this.

Your example makes sense if an all-source cell is grading, but grades were stuck on every HUMINT report direct from that unit (i.e. the handler). I don't know exactly where this went wrong, assuming it made sense at some point in history, but a reasonable guess would be that DHU had their analysis support slashed to provide bodies elsewhere, and failed to update their processes.

I think that is the first part of the answer to "how did this go so wrong" as well (I wasn't there so this is trying to reconstruct the jigsaw). I saw it in microcosm in some places: structural, manpower etc changes were made at capability or unit level, but nobody looked at the structure as a whole and addressed the effects this would have. At the lower level, manpower churn meant decreasing numbers understood or thought through how the whole is meant to work, so stuff like grading HUMINT 1-6 stuck as the way it had always been done, without the system acknowledging that it no longer made sense. Multiply all that by many different changes and many different capabilities, and the whole becomes a tangled mess.

A second string of the answer is: some of that stuff taught in the 80s was just plain wrong. There were some in the CIA (Marrin and Heuer, I think offhand) who did an analysis of their analysis, and started a discussion about where it went wrong. This was the forerunner to forecasting, heuristics etc being conducted as a science rather than a humanity. Equally, as computers and large data sets became available, and the maths behind data, networks etc was better understood (graph/network theory really only happened post-2000, which is not a long time ago), whole new areas and capabilities were opened up which outstripped the old ways of doing things. I compare 80s intelligence processses to rubbing sticks because they really were: that's no criticism of the 80s, but it is a criticism of the 2010s when the Int Corps and training haven't evolved past that.

A third string of the answer is standard organisational culture inadequacies, and what happens when you have an inertia-prone organisation like the Army and a non-specialist, non-practical manager class making decisions. Add to that the increasing office politics and fear of scrutiny / exposure that came from the public intelligence and operational failures of 2001-2007, and the Army / Int Corps became very risk averse and unwilling to tolerate dissent or new ideas. Unfortunately for it, this happened at exactly the same time as the "cyber revolution" or whatever you want to call it happened in the civilian world, so it fell further and further behind the curve. That became, in my opinion, a self-reinforcing effect, as the incompetent further promoted the incompetent in their own image (investing in the idea that their bog-standard managerialism was a thing of value), and the competent increasingly became disillusioned and left, further reducing the competency of the whole. Similar stories can be found elsewhere in the Army, but it is particularly noticeable in somewhere like the Int Corps (or Signals) where the level of competence in the civilian world is increasingly on open display.

Mix all that together and it's a toxic brew. To give a sense of the size of the problem: I know / have worked with most of the current Majors, and know of / worked for many of the Lt Cols or Cols. I would rate three of the majors as practically competent, none of the Lt Cols, and one or two of the Cols...and those have been off the power curve for promotion for a long time. The rest fill one of these profiles: nice enough people but no practical skills or understanding; sycophants who are largely despised by their peers and subordinates; 'golden pathers' who are good at the Army career / staff officer game. The few great white hopes of the Corps (for 1* and above) are exclusively the latter: smart, driven, excellent at impressing 1RO and 2RO, good at navigating staff and intergovernmental networks, possibly interested in service but probably more interested in themselves, and completely detached from the practical reality of how J2 is done.

Even were the soldier / ground level of the Corps in amazingly good shape, which it isn't, all of the key decisions are still being made by the people in the previous paragraph.
 
So how did we ever (truly) grade a source (of any sort) without comparing what had been provided with what transpired?
Grading a source is of course directly related to what he has previously provided, together with the accuracy of his information as shown by subsequent investigation Assigning a grade to the intelligence combines that with information from other sources, also graded; assess, wash and repeat. It's a cycle, they say.

It's applied, very effectively, in commercial operations, too, particularly in high-value goods such as precious metals, gemstones etc, where surveillance assets and the numbers on spreadsheets in mining returns and P&L accounts* (*hard evidence, not usually available in military cycles) are all conjoined in the assessments made by a security organisation with whispered words from the people.

The system works; I've used it to excellent effect in various roles in that area. It's only as good as the Stakhanovites involved and their unremitting effort to improve methods and achieve results, all at the grubby levels of the sharp ends of security/intelligence. Unlike in any publicly-funded organisation, failure to do so means a quick reassignment to the bog-cleaning department.

Incidentally, at my last set of mines, the culture of Cape Town University Managementspeak came up with an extraordinary 'Security and Intelligence Assurance' system which, in addition to adding about four layers of management, replete with 2ics, clerks and PAs to the system, a hugely complex array of communications and analysis programmes and many, many people in new roles (and many PowerPoint experts), all subject to subversion from the very capable smuggling syndicates (the last a point which had very low priority in the implementation plan). I didn't see the eventual deployment of this system, and thankfully had no responsibility for its implementation. It reminded me of some of the inverted-pyramid empires I had seen being built in the British Army.
 
Not according to how HUMINT grading was done/taught at the time. The 1-6 is meant to come from the source/handler/HUMINT cell not from other sources, which is the job of the all-source / GS / OPINT cell. Half a working braincell will tell you this makes the idea of the number grade in HUMINT entirely pointless, because it makes it all a form of single-source reporting. This was not acknowledged. DHU's cultural insistence - generated primarily by WOs and LEs, by the way - that everything they did was super special and secret and nobody else could touch or comment on it, at threat of extreme legal jeopardy to the Army as a whole, did not help any of this.

Your example makes sense if an all-source cell is grading, but grades were stuck on every HUMINT report direct from that unit (i.e. the handler). I don't know exactly where this went wrong, assuming it made sense at some point in history, but a reasonable guess would be that DHU had their analysis support slashed to provide bodies elsewhere, and failed to update their processes.

I think that is the first part of the answer to "how did this go so wrong" as well (I wasn't there so this is trying to reconstruct the jigsaw). I saw it in microcosm in some places: structural, manpower etc changes were made at capability or unit level, but nobody looked at the structure as a whole and addressed the effects this would have. At the lower level, manpower churn meant decreasing numbers understood or thought through how the whole is meant to work, so stuff like grading HUMINT 1-6 stuck as the way it had always been done, without the system acknowledging that it no longer made sense. Multiply all that by many different changes and many different capabilities, and the whole becomes a tangled mess.

A second string of the answer is: some of that stuff taught in the 80s was just plain wrong. There were some in the CIA (Marrin and Heuer, I think offhand) who did an analysis of their analysis, and started a discussion about where it went wrong. This was the forerunner to forecasting, heuristics etc being conducted as a science rather than a humanity. Equally, as computers and large data sets became available, and the maths behind data, networks etc was better understood (graph/network theory really only happened post-2000, which is not a long time ago), whole new areas and capabilities were opened up which outstripped the old ways of doing things. I compare 80s intelligence processses to rubbing sticks because they really were: that's no criticism of the 80s, but it is a criticism of the 2010s when the Int Corps and training haven't evolved past that.

A third string of the answer is standard organisational culture inadequacies, and what happens when you have an inertia-prone organisation like the Army and a non-specialist, non-practical manager class making decisions. Add to that the increasing office politics and fear of scrutiny / exposure that came from the public intelligence and operational failures of 2001-2007, and the Army / Int Corps became very risk averse and unwilling to tolerate dissent or new ideas. Unfortunately for it, this happened at exactly the same time as the "cyber revolution" or whatever you want to call it happened in the civilian world, so it fell further and further behind the curve. That became, in my opinion, a self-reinforcing effect, as the incompetent further promoted the incompetent in their own image (investing in the idea that their bog-standard managerialism was a thing of value), and the competent increasingly became disillusioned and left, further reducing the competency of the whole. Similar stories can be found elsewhere in the Army, but it is particularly noticeable in somewhere like the Int Corps (or Signals) where the level of competence in the civilian world is increasingly on open display.

Mix all that together and it's a toxic brew. To give a sense of the size of the problem: I know / have worked with most of the current Majors, and know of / worked for many of the Lt Cols or Cols. I would rate three of the majors as practically competent, none of the Lt Cols, and one or two of the Cols...and those have been off the power curve for promotion for a long time. The rest fill one of these profiles: nice enough people but no practical skills or understanding; sycophants who are largely despised by their peers and subordinates; 'golden pathers' who are good at the Army career / staff officer game. The few great white hopes of the Corps (for 1* and above) are exclusively the latter: smart, driven, excellent at impressing 1RO and 2RO, good at navigating staff and intergovernmental networks, possibly interested in service but probably more interested in themselves, and completely detached from the practical reality of how J2 is done.

Even were the soldier / ground level of the Corps in amazingly good shape, which it isn't, all of the key decisions are still being made by the people in the previous paragraph.

I've recently seen 2 attitudes to Int from command:
a. 'it's just tomorrow's news today, with a wooly estimate on it'
b. 'i want to do something, is there an obscure report/specific interpretation that can be used to justify it'

Neither seem particularly encouraging to those climbing the ladder, so the pivot to purple jobs and staying there seems even more logical and rational.

WRT to those striving for the stars, presumably this is purely DE, as those LEs that aim for the heights seem more often to be very unpleasant sycophants
 
Grading a source is of course directly related to what he has previously provided, together with the accuracy of his information as shown by subsequent investigation Assigning a grade to the intelligence combines that with information from other sources, also graded; assess, wash and repeat. It's a cycle, they say.

It's applied, very effectively, in commercial operations, too, particularly in high-value goods such as precious metals, gemstones etc, where surveillance assets and the numbers on spreadsheets in mining returns and P&L accounts* (*hard evidence, not usually available in military cycles) are all conjoined in the assessments made by a security organisation with whispered words from the people.

The system works; I've used it to excellent effect in various roles in that area. It's only as good as the Stakhanovites involved and their unremitting effort to improve methods and achieve results, all at the grubby levels of the sharp ends of security/intelligence. Unlike in any publicly-funded organisation, failure to do so means a quick reassignment to the bog-cleaning department.

Incidentally, at my last set of mines, the culture of Cape Town University Managementspeak came up with an extraordinary 'Security and Intelligence Assurance' system which, in addition to adding about four layers of management, replete with 2ics, clerks and PAs to the system, a hugely complex array of communications and analysis programmes and many, many people in new roles (and many PowerPoint experts), all subject to subversion from the very capable smuggling syndicates (the last a point which had very low priority in the implementation plan). I didn't see the eventual deployment of this system, and thankfully had no responsibility for its implementation. It reminded me of some of the inverted-pyramid empires I had seen being built in the British Army.
Ack what you say about our old bike. I have probably seen a trend of gradually making what should be a fairly clear process unnecessarily complicated. It should be simple because once it starts running, any active 'opposition' will make things more complex. It is then the job of those supervising the operators (and those managing the supervisors) to iron out complexities on a continuous basis.
 

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