Coalition Cell Develops 'Actionable Intelligence'
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
MANAMA, Bahrain, Apr. 26, 2006 Since Sept. 11, 2001, Americans have grown more familiar with the term "actionable intelligence," the type used to track, kill or capture terrorists.
Dutch Navy Lt. Cmdr. Leon Scheffer stands at the door adorned with member flags of the Coalition Intelligence Fusion Cell at the U.S. Navy 5th Fleet headquarters in Bahrain. Photo by Jim Garamone
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The Coalition Intelligence Fusion Cell here seeks to give ships of combined task forces the intelligence they can act upon to keep the sea lanes safe for merchants, travelers and fishermen.
"Right now the cell consists of 16 personnel from nine nations," said cell chief Navy Capt. Paul Becker. "Over the past year, 11 different nations have been represented, and we expect more to participate as we go along."
These nations contribute to the maritime aspect of the war on terror providing ships and supplies on the high seas.
Cell representatives from partner nations provide analysis to give the warfighters actionable intelligence on terrorists or other illicit network activities on the seas of the Middle East.
The situation in the region, which covers the seas from the southern border of Africa's Kenya to Pakistan's border with India, is complex and nuanced, Becker said. To do the intelligence job correctly, "takes partnerships, takes pressure and it takes persistence of analysis," he said.
The intelligence "users" are the commanders of the coalition task forces afloat in the region. These include Combined Task Force 150, commanded by Pakistani Navy Rear Adm. Shahid Iqbal, and CTF 152, commanded by U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Michael Miller.
CTF 150 is responsible for operations in the Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea, parts of the Indian Ocean, and the North Arabian Sea, while CTF 152 patrols the central and southern Persian Gulf.
"This is a melting pot of intelligence, and then it is disseminated to the users," Becker said. The fusion aspect of the cell combines all types of intelligence, including imagery, human, signal and even the open-source variety.
Becker drew an analogy on how the intelligence is packaged. "(News) reporters cross-reference sources and put together a story," Becker said. "When we do the same in the intelligence business, it is called fusion."
Intelligence users can also request specific information from the cell. The two-way street is a healthy dialogue, the captain said.
"Officers and petty officers producing intelligence for intelligence's sake does no good," Becker said. "It has to be honed for what the warfighter needs."
A special classified network open to allied nations allows the cell to safely communicate across the area of operations with all allied ships.
The cell works around the clock, and the watch-standers communicate in English. In the cell, a U.S. Navy Reservist works alongside an Italian officer, while at another workstation German, Canadian and French officers work side by side.
The officers and petty officers are used to working together from past experiences. The NATO experience has been particularly helpful, said cell deputy commander Dutch Navy Lt. Cmdr. Leon Scheffer.
"It helps in respect to being used to working in a multinational environment," he said. "But then again, the nations are different, the (area of operations) is different, but the work we have done together in the coalition environments helps."
Scheffer said it has been interesting to him to be an embedded officer in the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet headquarters. "The Dutch navy is small, and we don't have all the functionalities that you have," he said. "Also, everything here is an operation. It's real. What I have enjoyed the most is at the end of the day, you can make a difference here."