Special Ops Can Gather Crucial Intel—But Lack Tools to Use It

| Tue Aug. 18, 2009 10:07 AM EDT

In the fight against terrorism, some of the most indispensable weapons are the most ordinary of objects: A scrap of paper with a name scrawled on it, found in the pocket of a suspected insurgent; or his cellphone, programmed with numbers. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, Special Operations forces have stepped up efforts to collect anything that might broaden its understanding of insurgent and terrorist networks—so-called pocket litter, documents, and computer hard drives. But according to a report from a House commiteee, they lack the capability to actually do anything with the material they gather.

This troubling observation is buried deep in the House Appropriations committee's 476-page report on the FY2010 defense budget, which notes that Special Operations personnel have, on multiple occasions, informed lawmakers that they need better technology to quickly process intelligence finds in Iraq and Afghanistan and share the resulting information with relevant agencies. "The Committee is concerned about the urgent need for the modernization of Special Operations Forces' (SOF) capabilities to process, exploit, and disseminate critical operational intelligence from deployed locations overseas," the report says. "[W]ithout specialized expeditionary processing, this information becomes inacessible and of no value to SOF in immediate urgent operational missions, and over the longer term to the war fighter, the intelligence community and others in need of access."

To address this shortcoming, the appropriations committee added an extra $14 billion to help Special Operations Forces analyze and share the intelligence it collects before it becomes useless. I've called the committee for details, and will post an update if I learn more.

h/t: Secrecy News.