The Quick Start ACE

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    • #76950

        Aveighter from the MVT Intelligence Support to the Warfighter Forum asked a really great question – how do we spin up an Analysis and Control Element (ACE) in record time to respond to a time-sensitive event like the Nevada/Bundy Ranch incident? I’ve outlined the answer in two sections below (sorry it’s taken so long!).

        I’m going to get this published in ebook form with lots of pretty pictures (in bold) and it’ll be available for download here later this week. Print it off and add it to your collection, send it to a friend, whatever, but use it! I’ll include the link to download the PDF on a separate thread.

        Chapter I. About the ACE Team
        Chapter II. Getting your ACE in Gear: How to Organize Your Team


        I. The ACE Team

        Good intelligence allows the commander to make informed, time-sensitive decisions, and use his finite resources to maximum effect; he and his organization run the risk of mission failure without it. Information is derived from a collection capacity, and formulated into intelligence through quality analysis. The intelligence element, tasked with transforming information into intelligence and delivering it to the commander, plays a critical role. An organization involved in stability/support or combat operations must have an intelligence element whether it’s one individual doing the best he or she can, a small team of individuals, or an entire section of trained intelligence analysts. (Flow of information.)

        When configuring our intelligence element we divide efforts into two categories: collection and analysis. (ACE & Collection Diagram.) The collectors – individuals gathering information of intelligence value derived from Human Sources, Open Sources, Imagery and Signals, among others – provide the lifeblood of the ACE: relevant information. Without that inflow of relevant information, the ACE Team – and the rest of the organization by proxy – is flying blind. In lieu of active intelligence collection, at a minimum your collectors should be monitoring Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) information provided by news and media organizations and other reliable sources, where ever they are found.

        The second component of the intelligence element is the ACE itself, into which all information is funneled. One analogy we can make is that intelligence collectors are the senses (sight, smell, hearing, etc.); and the ACE is the brain. All the environmental stimuli collected from our senses are sent to the brain and our brain compiles the data and figures out what’s going on. If we were to survey our OODA (observe, orient, decide, act) loop and apply it to the intelligence cycle, we’d find that without intelligence collection, we can’t observe; and without intelligence analysis, we can’t orient. Along the lines of orienting ourselves to new and incoming information, the ACE Team’s primary responsibility is to process and analyze that information, and turn it into valuable intelligence that the commander can use for planning. This one responsibility, however, consists of many smaller tasks that must be completed in order to achieve the end goal.

        (Intelligence Cycle Diagram and explanation.)

        The ACE is what’s called an “All-Source” organization. That literally means that it’s responsible for analysis of information from all sources and from all intelligence disciplines – Human Intelligence (HUMINT), Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), Imagery Intelligence (IMINT), Measurements and Signatures Intelligence (MASINT), Technical Intelligence (TECHINT), and others, depending on how loosely we define an “intelligence discipline.”

        (Intelligence discipline graphics.)

        HUMINT is derived from human sources, agents, detainees, the local populace, and friendly forces. Develop basic source networks by getting out and talking to people. That’s a good start.

        OSINT is derived from “open sources” like television, radio, newspapers, magazines, the web, meetings and other open events. At least 80% of intelligence collected around the world is from OSINT and it’s an intelligence discipline often overlooked. Let news outlets be among your intelligence gatherers!

        SIGINT is derived from cell phones, the internet, and radio frequencies. Monitoring radio traffic in your area will likely provide early warning of emergencies and other significant events.

        IMINIT is derived from satellite and aerial photography. Use Google Earth, other imagery software or equip a quadrocopter drone with an electro-optical sensor.

        MASINT is derived from radar, acoustic, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear sources.

        TECHINT is derived from weapons, equipment and technology. Begin documenting weapons and equipment you’re likely to see in the battlespace.

        The ACE team’s primary functions include:

        All-source analysis.

        Be the brain. The ACE collates information from numerous sources; most of the time, it’s more information than can be processed. Can the same information from two or more different sources confirm or deny the others? For instance, can radio traffic (SIGINT) confirm or deny a neighbor’s (HUMINT) or website’s (OSINT) information? Can an eye-witness account (HUMINT) confirm or deny information being reported by the local or national news media (OSINT)?

        Intelligence gaps.

        What do you need to know but don’t? You’ve just identified an ‘intelligence gap’ – literally, a gap in your intelligence holdings. We identify intelligence gaps as early and often as possible because it’s our job as the ACE to know everything. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to know everything, so the next best solution is to know where to find that information. But we can’t look for it if we don’t know that we need it. Identifying intelligence gaps, then, is critical to developing Intelligence Requirements.

        Intelligence requirements.

        Intelligence requirements are derived from intelligence gaps. If we don’t know the strength or disposition of enemy forces that just came into our AO, then we have a gap in our intelligence that we need to fill. The commander sets his intelligence requirements based on current and future operations. For instance, one requirement might be, When will enemy attack? The ACE might use predictive analysis to answer this question; they may task a source for early warning indicators; or they might use an observation post to alert them when the unit mounts up and leaves the wire. It’s the ACE’s job to find out anything the commander wants to know, and because our resources are finite, we develop and prioritize Intelligence Requirements to direct the collection of the most important information first, and least important information last.

        Intelligence preparation of the battlefield.

        Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) is a critical step in understanding our AO. If we fail to conduct a thorough IPB, or if we fail to update it as necessary, then we’re potentially setting ourselves up for failure. The ACE needs to understand the lay of the physical and human terrain, and conducting IPB provides the best ‘bang for the buck’ there is. (You can find the IPB Overview here. If you’re interested in becoming the intelligence element, you really need to read all five parts of the IPB series.)

        Enemy situational template.

        The enemy SITTEMP is little more than a map that shows the current disposition of enemy forces. Let’s say that the enemey sets up camp in your town and your commander has directed you to give him an enemy SITTEMP briefing every morning; maybe it’s twice a day. One thing we want to show him is the current location of the enemy’s HQ. If we lack intelligence on a specific location, we might initially estimate it by deriving from available intelligence reporting the densest volume of enemy security forces. If we don’t know where it is, we don’t know. Estimates are generally acceptable within 12-24 hours; anything after that and we’re going to want to nail something down. Additionally, if that HQ moves, it may indicate a shift in forces or strategy, in which case we have another intelligence gap – why did the HQ move? The second thing we’ll want to show is the location of other units. If there are enemy units, we want them plotted on the map. If we observe or receive reporting of enemy movement, we’ll want our enemy SITTEMP to reflect that as well. Enemy tactics and unit locations change, and as they change they pose new threats and, hopefully, new vulnerabilities. If we know through the SITTEMP that the enemy forces kit up at eight o’clock every morning, then we’re going to exploit that. The enemy SITTEMP, a current and historical record of enemy movement and disposition, enables that exploitation.


        Targeting is a function of the ACE because the nature of warfare is to remove the enemy from the battlefield. National-level intelligence agencies, along with the military, currently rely heavily on targeting in foreign countries, especially through the use of drones. Targeting is oftentimes intelligence-driven; that is, you receive actionable intelligence which initiates an operation against a predesignated target. This is a post in and of itself and I’ll cover it in the future.

        Chapter II. Getting your ACE in Gear: How to Organize Your Team

        If there’s one thing upon which we can count, it’s that good people who are highly skilled at what they do are always in short supply. Whereas the guerrilla unit’s primary mission is more or less direct action; the ACE’s function is to be what we call an ‘enabler’. The ACE directs the collection of information and analyzes it to better enable the resistance or guerrilla unit to target vulnerability and exploit weakness. And for that, ACE members should have a wide range of skills. There are individuals who may not be particularly suited for combat but they could be really great enablers. Post-SHTF, you’re going to have one of two problems: 1) There’s not going to be enough information; or 2) there’s going to be too much information. The negative effects from both problems are going to be mitigated by having a functional ACE.

        Intelligence drives the fight. Such has been the case in Iraq and Afghanistan, where a piece of actionable intelligence turns into a time-sensitive kill/capture mission. Our job as the ACE is to create conditions whereby we are fed or simply acquire actionable intelligence and then facilitate the targeting process upon receipt of that information. The opposite of targeting is force protection. As the ACE, we should identify enemy attacks in the planning stages, so we can mitigate the risk from those threats, or stop the threats altogether.

        If we look at the ACE through the lens of any other organization, we’ll find that it’s always best to assign individuals to the function for which they’re best suited. Not everybody at XYZ Corporation is a good salesman. Not everyone at XYZ can be an accountant. We should treat the individuals that comprise our ACE in the same manner. Not everyone is going to run HUMINT operations. Not everyone is going to run Information Operations and not everyone is going to be an S2/Intelligence Officer. The simplest tasks – processing incoming raw information so it can be easily consumed by an analyst, for instance – are still very important jobs!

        On my first deployment, I ended up getting TACON’d to a small task force. On Day One, I sat down with the SGM and he asked me about my background and experience in order to find the best place for me. He was a smart dude because not only did he assign me to the best mission that fit what I did; but I came away with a sense of pride and responsibility because young PFC Sam Culper was assigned a specific mission based on his abilities. And I’ll tell you what: that SGM got the best work out of me. Treat your ACE team the same way. Let them excel at what they do best. Don’t put your ACE team in a box.

        The best ACE structure is cellular, with each member or cell of the ACE having its own lane. Instead of having the entire ACE focus on one political issue, then jump to a military issue, then jump to a civil issue; we’re going to create cells solely dedicated to one topic. ACE members become subject matter experts and find a rhythm in what they do. In short, they become much more effective in a race car than on a pogo stick. Each ACE is going to be scaled up or down depending on the size of its AO, so this is a general guideline. A company (town or county) ACE is going to have essentially the same jobs but with fewer people than a battalion or brigade ACE. Before we get into how we divide our attention, the overall ACE structure is similar to any combat unit. There’s an S2 (Intelligence Officer) or ACE Chief, and the ACE is his ship. He remains in contact with the commander, receives developments from within the battlespace, and directs intelligence requirements, collection, and analysis per the commander’s intent. The warfighters are the ACE’s customers and the ACE Chief gets them the information they need to operate. Each team is taskable solely to the ACE Chief. Get your guerrillas or community defense good intelligence and the world will spin properly.

        (ACE Organization graphic.)

        The number and responsibilities of cells will vary with the mission. Here’s a guideline of cells and their responsibilities. You can pick and choose which ones might fit your scenario.

        – Regime/Politics Team. This team tracks the intent, activities and capabilities of the local, state or federal regime within your Area of Interest (AI). (In this case, your AI may be your community, county, state or region.) Political and military action will affect one another, and this team tracks that relationship as necessary. If your mission becomes aiding state or local law enforcement organizations (or elements of citizens or militia upholding Constitutional law), you”ll need someone to break down and analyze what’s happening at a higher level. You’re going to want a dedicated analyst looking at the regime’s political and military mission and intent. Is their mission changing? Is the regime looking at not only arresting and replacing county sheriffs but also other elected officials? This cell is going to lean heavily on OSINT reporting. This cell may be tasked with providing a daily update on what’s going on at the federal level; where they’re taking criticism; how close they are to bending their policy or if they appear to be strengthening their policy; if they appear to support more aggressive policies, etc. What is the regime telegraphing today that we can expect to wind up in our AO tomorrow?

        – Civil Team. Much like a Civil Affairs team, you’ll need to track and be involved in local affairs. A great relationship with the populace pays big dividends, not only in their support of the security units, but also in their refusal to cooperate with the regime. One issue that we incurred in Iraq and Afghanistan is that whenever we (US/Coalition Forces) destroyed part of a building or home as a result of collateral damage, we always tried to go back and offer to repair or pay for the damages (or, as was often the case, those individuals would come to us). That was a necessary step in maintaining (or trying to maintain) a good relationship with the populace. The problem got worse when Anti-Coalition Forces fixed or payed for the damaged home before we had the opportunity to make things right. That’s a good way to turn the populace against the Coalition because it exploits the Coalition’s apparent inability or lack of consideration towards protecting the populace. So these are some of the opportunities that the Civil Team identifies. The other duty of the Civil Team is to run some Information Operations like Psychological Operations (PSYOP). Get creative and let the thinkers of your team think outside the box. PSYOP might be a billboard reminding the populace to not aid unconstitutional activity, or it might be a weekly or monthly newsletter published to show the good things the local militia is doing. Maybe that includes pointing out that the militia arrested three criminals, or that the militia was repairing a school, or built a playground. The Civil Team also needs to identify the needs of the community. Nothing says more about a local militia than when they take care of the least in their community. In fact, I believe that a local militia could create a lot of support for themselves if they spent more time taking food to the shut-ins and elderly. In a post-SHTF/Without-Rule-of-Law scenario, there are going to be a lot of needy people. The militia should be involved in these kinds of things as they’re able, and the ACE Civil Team is going to be responsible for formulating the strategy for distributing the militia’s civil attention; and then publicizing those stories to the best of their ability. (Typically, the Civil Affairs/PSYOP team isn’t attached to the ACE but since there are no tactical PSYOP teams to attach to our non-existent Special Forces Groups, the ACE is the only logical place for a Civil Affairs/PSYOP Team.)

        – Anti-Constitutional Forces Team. For lack of a better term, I’m going to call the enemy ‘Anti-Constitutional Forces’ (ACF) who are represented by enemy groups like criminals, “community organizers”, thug law enforcement, military, and other regime forces. Tasks for which this cell is responsible include tracking the enemy and updating the Enemy SITTEMP to reflect their current disposition and combat strength. It should also include conducting IPB tasks as necessary. Ideally, the Enemy SITTEMP is going to be updated daily, unless enemy forces are involved in heavy operations, in which case it might be updated more often. In addition to the SITTEMP, the ACF Team also tracks all ACF raids/patrols/operations and plots them on a map. (“… find, know, and never lose the enemy.”) From this, you might see a well-defined operations box (OPBOX) that shows the boundaries of current ACF operations, from which you might find unit boundaries. Perhaps ‘A Co’ covers the east part of town into Main St; ‘B Co’ covers the west part of town; and ‘C Co’ covers south of the interstate. We find these patterns and we exploit them. You’d be surprised how many insurgents live in one AO, operate in another AO a mile away, and fall through the cracks between two different units. That’s because those units aren’t sharing information. If these unit boundaries or boxes move and another OPBOX/unit boundary pattern emerges, then operations have shifted. One thing you’re looking for is a pattern shift. This is what I would call an early warning indicator. Also remember that SALT/SALUTE (size, activity, location, unit, time, equipment) reports on the enemy are going to be funneled through this team. SALT/SALUTE reports from the populace and OSINT are going to be your bread and butter. I ‘d expect the daily SITTEMP (even if it doesn’t change) every morning. Tracking the enemy’s capabilities, disposition, and movement within the battlespace is this team’s chief task.

        – HARC. The HUMINT Analysis and Requirements Cell (HARC) is heavily involved in HUMINT operations. HUMINT reports are funneled through the HARC, where the cell sorts through them, collects information of intelligence value, stores reports for later retrieval, and grades HUMINT sources. Part of the HARC’s job is to check each report against other known information in order to confirm or deny the source’s information. If a source’s information is often untrue, maybe the source doesn’t have the placement and access we thought he had; maybe he’s creating information just to be paid; or maybe he’s purposefully reporting false information. Aside from HUMINT Analysis, the HARC also deals with requirements; that is, they direct HUMINT collection. The HARC creates intelligence requirements to fill intelligence gaps. Maybe the ACE receives an OSINT or HUMINT report about a new unit rotating into the AO. Immediately, we should work to confirm or deny this information, and then we need to direct intelligence sources to report on this new requirement: Who is this unit and who is it’s leadership? What kind of unit is it? What do they do? Do they have a history? In this manner, the HARC is an absolutely critical piece of the HUMINT puzzle.

        – OSINT Team. The OSINT Team is responsible for data mining and analysis. This team’s responsibilities include monitoring local television and radio stations for information, and conducting research to answer that satisfies intelligence requirements. Remember that OSINT can and should be used to corroborate HUMINT source information. Chances are good that when important news breaks, it will appear on the radio before all other mediums. Be sure to record all pertinent information for later review.

        – SIGINT Team. No one expects you to develop the technology and skills of the NSA, however, the more you do, the better. The SIGINT Team should monitor local law enforcement and emergency radio traffic. These feeds should be recorded, transmitters and receivers should be identified (call sign or voice recognition), and conversations should be transcribed for inclusion into All-Source analysis. Perhaps emergency radio traffic will fill in a piece of the puzzle that HUMINT or OSINT left behind.

        – Special Projects Team. Special Projects is an umbrella cell that’s going to be involved in one thing: planning and directing or executing sensitive exploitation. This cell is going to be involved in Targeting; Information Operations like deception, electronic warfare, and operational security; counter-intelligence; and covert or clandestine special technical operations (STO). These operations are highly sensitive and need to be highly compartmentalized. Need to know is an understatement; these are special access programs. Very, very few should be privy to this information, both for plausible dependability and to maintain program integrity and secrecy. This team is where very creative people excel.

        This is by no means an exhaustive list, but if you can staff these cells, when and if necessary, you’ll be well on your way to running a functional ACE. It may be the case that you have three people on your ACE team, in which case ACE members may need to wear multiple hats. There are a ton of possibilities on how to run an ACE and where to put it but the ACE is the one part of the resistance organization that can’t be compromised. Additionally, a three-man ACE has distinct advantages and disadvantages. Its advantage is that there aren’t many people who know its location and therefore the risk of compromise is reduced (by the numbers, at least; not necessarily by activities outside the ACE). On the other hand, a three man ACE may not be able to do all the work as well as five or more people, so use your best judgement. These seven teams are only a guideline representing what I would do. Maybe your situation will dictate that you do things differently.

      • #76951

          :good: thanks Sam. This is going to be good stuff!

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