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Strategic vs Tactical Intelligence

Updated on January 10, 2013

Information & the American Warfighter

Some may view strategic intelligence collection and analysis as the pinnacle of government policy creation and therefore should be considered a more vital priority than tactical military intelligence collection. However many may argue that the warfighter is the “ultimate consumer” (1) of clear and concise intelligence; thus tactical military intelligence is paramount.

In an effort to differentiate between strategic intelligence and tactical intelligence; CIA offered some measure of clarity into the realm of strategic intelligence stating “the Pentagon's official definition of strategic intelligence includes intelligence that is required for the formulation of strategy, policy, and military plans and operations at national and theater levels.”(2) In essence one may consider strategic intelligence a form of statecraft that affects not only the warfighter. Strategic intelligence also includes the overall well being of the American citizen from every walk of life. It appears that strategic intelligence encompasses a plan of action from the leaders of the United States to keep America safe and prosperous!

In contrast tactical intelligence can be perceived as calculated moves that follow a methodical line of thinking and action which includes both offensive and defensive measures and countermeasures. Some may consider tactical intelligence a mode of operation that spares no detail; from the embryo stage of creation and preparation which includes “the planning and direction phase is a cognitive function performed by collection managers based on the commander’s priority intelligence requirements. The collection phase is a physical activity performed by a variety of means from soldiers to satellites.” (3)

Moving forward, we find tactical intelligence “marching along” in a highly logical manner that focuses on providing the American warfigter with the highest probability of mission success. As “the processing and exploitation phase involves the conversion of information into forms that enable analysis. This is usually a digital form. This includes initial imagery interpretation, document translation, translating foreign languages, converting raw electronic intelligence into standard message formats. The analysis and production phase is another cognitive effort where according to JP 2-0: Doctrine for Intelligence Support to Joint Operations, “all available processed information is integrated, analyzed, evaluated, and interpreted to create products … They may be oral presentations, hard copy publications, or electronic media.” (4)

The dissemination and integration phase is in both the physical and information domains. The evaluation and feedback phase occurs throughout the process. It is a constant human evaluation of the whether the intelligence is timely, accurate, usable, complete, relevant, objective and available.” (5) To reiterate the aforementioned tactical intelligence phases are designed to provide a solid structure in which the United States Military can properly function, fight and win!

Some may draw the conclusion that yet another difference that separates strategic from tactical intelligence could also be the decision makers themselves. Whereas tactical intelligence may be altered by military commanders to fulfill the needs of the mission; however strategic intelligence is shaped by the highest echelon of American government.

In closing although there are clear distinctions that separate strategic intelligence from tactical intelligence; however they are two forms of statecraft that are symbiotic in nature and vital to the National Security of the United States of America!







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