Hello and welcome to the Area Intelligence Course.

ADMIN NOTE: This course is designed for five ‘phases’.  Phase A is the Introduction and Intelligence Cycle (please don’s skip this!).  Phase B is the Area of Operations/Area of Interest.  Phase C is the Operating Environment.  Phase D is the Threat Environment.  Phase E is the Area Study and Area Assessment.

The reason why I ask you not to skip the ‘Phase A – Introduction’ is because we cover some truly fundamental aspects of intelligence.  Understanding the Intelligence Cycle is a crucial part of intelligence operations, which we’ll cover in future courses.

Napoleon wrote that war is ninety percent information. The man who commanded some 60-plus battles, winning 54 and losing just seven, relays that ‘intelligence’ is the critical factor that separates victory from defeat.

Although we’re not engaged in warfighting, we could similarly say that conflict is ninety percent information. And the truth is that if we do not already have conflict in our communities, then chances are good that civil unrest, a crime wave, natural disaster, or some other emergency will bring a conflict to us in the future.

Your area may struggle with violence among competing gangs, drug traffickers, or other criminality that brings conflict. Maybe your concern is that violence will be introduced into your area. Budget woes of government may force budget cuts, which could result in a decrease in first responders or public services. The political conflict we’re seeing now features sporadic violence, which could worsen over time. A cyber attack could cause disruption to essential services like power, water, internet, or the financial system. (A failure of critical infrastructure could cause similar results.) Or maybe you expect some other catastrophic event in the future, such as a natural disaster, that magnifies the risk of violence in your area. Ultimately what we’re talking about is systems disruption.

In any of these events, you have a requirement to make good decisions. To be more specific, you must make well-informed decisions. Your decisions may be time-sensitive; that is, you may be presented with a decision point without adequate time to make an informed decision. You cannot make these decisions without adequate intelligence, and you cannot have adequate intelligence without doing some homework.

Unlike Napoleon, we’re not fighting battles (yet). But we should be in the business of winning conflicts, especially ones that threaten us with the risk of violence. For me, intelligence reduces uncertainty. And whenever we’re faced with uncertainty – especially about the future – I find that intelligence is a great first step towards developing realistic expectations and making good decisions about our safety and security.

What are some words or phrases that you associate with the concept of “intelligence”?

At the most basic level, intelligence answers the who, what, when, where, and why of a situation. An old section chief of mine explains further that intelligence answers the “So what?” of a situation.

There was a murder on 15th Street. So what? Burglars broke into a house down the road. So what? The stock market is crashing. So what? All of this information is just news. Information explains what happened, not what’s going to happen. What these news items don’t answer for us is, So what?

Intelligence provides us insight on second- and third-order effects. What will happen as a result of that murder on 15th Street? What will happen as a result of that burglary of the house down the street? What will happen as a result of a stock market crash? What can we reliably expect to occur in the near future as a result of these events?

The better we understand our surroundings – what we refer to as our “Operating Environment” – the better we can answer these questions about the future. The more we can anticipate future events, the better our decisions will be, the better we can plan our actions, and the better we can prioritize our needs to win the conflict. This proactive approach to decision making is the crux of intelligence. It’s the basis of this course, as well.

Course Outline (10 Lessons):

(A) Introduction to the Intelligence Cycle

(A) The Intelligence Cycle: Phase One

(A) The Intelligence Cycle: Phase Two

(A) The Intelligence Cycle: Phase Three

(A) The Intelligence Cycle: Phase Four

(A) The Intelligence Cycle: Phase Five

(B) The AO and You

(C) The Operating Environment

(D) The Threat Environment

(E) The Area Study & the Area Assessment


Area Intelligence Course