WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 -- Teams of analysts, communicators and managers from three U.S. intelligence agencies are supporting NATO's Operation Joint Endeavor in Bosnia, DoD officials said.
Supporting deployed U.S. forces is a top national priority, a senior intelligence official said. Lessons learned during Desert Storm and Air Force pilot Capt. Scott O'Grady's shootdown over Bosnia are being applied to create "the smoothest running, most effective intelligence support we've put in an operation," the official said.
Teams of specialists from the Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and CIA are supporting U.S. forces in Bosnia as well as augmenting NATO's intelligence units. Multinational forces, including Russians under U.S. operational command, are sharing intelligence updates, real-time data and imagery, the official said.
The joint teams are key to gathering information and getting it to the people who need it most, the official said. "Since there are representatives from the national agencies right there in theater, they know exactly what the commander needs," he said. "They see him every day. They get his requirements. They can reach back with their communications right to the experts here in Washington, pull out the information and pass it directly."
Regional experts from each agency are on the ground with commanders in the field. "There's a young military analyst from CIA who about two or three weeks ago was sitting with me in the situation room briefing Tony Lake [national security adviser] on the situation in Bosnia," a DoD official said. "Right now, he's briefing Gen. [William] Nash [1st Armored Division commander] in Bosnia."
The latest intelligence technologies, ranging from remotely piloted vehicles to computer- generated strip maps of the local terrain, are being used. The Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System, used in the Persian Gulf War, is also in Bosnia. Its ability to sense and track large moving objects on the ground is critical in monitoring the removal of heavy weapons from the zones of separation, the official said.
Intelligence officials are using computer hard disk Fact Packs, which contain the latest imagery of the entire country of Bosnia. "This stuff is gold to a commander," the official said. "You can go in, circle an area you want, hit a button and out will come a tailored map of that area."
When Army forces deployed from Germany to Tuzla, an intelligence outfit in-theater used Fact Pack technology to build custom travel maps like the American Automobile Association's "Trip Tiks," the official said. Intelligence analysts can give company commanders and platoon leaders similar strip maps of the terrain they'll be going through.
Video teleconferencing is being used to speed up coordination by the intelligence community's chain of command. Senior intelligence leaders in Bosnia, other parts of Europe and Washington plan and resolve issues together at the same time. For example, a question on allowing foreign intelligence officers to ride in U.S. reconnaissance aircraft was resolved in minutes during a teleconference, the official said. Normally, the issue might have taken weeks of message and phone calls to resolve.
Having representatives from the national agencies in the theater and coordinating intelligence operations with teleconferences is unprecedented and represents a true cultural, progressive change for the better, another intelligence official said.
Communications links between those who receive and process information to those who are in harm's way have also been made faster and clearer, he said. For instance, a warning sent via satellite to O'Grady was garbled.
"Those circuits have been replaced and tested so the information gets there faster," he said. "We're talking about shaving seconds and minutes off a short timeline, but that's the time of flight of a missile. We're working on a very tough area, and improvements are being made."
The CIA's Operations Directorate and the Defense Human Intelligence Service have deployed an integrated team to gather information about the people and activities in the area -- what local leaders are thinking, what actions various groups are planning.
A CIA officer, for example, recently uncovered the exact procedures one of the warring parties used to put in minefields. "When you go into those fields to check them out, it's always nice to have the manual the other guy used to lay the mines," the official said.
"This is the kind of stuff we're getting from human intelligence," he added. "That is just very valuable."