Tag Archives: naval intelligence

Gaining the Operational Intelligence Advantage through Data Literacy

By Andrew Orchard

The U.S. Navy’s history is rich with inspiring achievements in information warfare, from Station Hypo’s successes in World War II to supporting raids against high-value targets during the Global War on Terror. Inspiring as U.S. Naval Intelligence history has been, achieving victory in the next fight will require specific training focused on developing the skills required to cope with all the data available to today’s information warriors.

Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. Navy has greatly expanded its data-technology and collection capacity to meet analytical needs, creating a challenging paradigm:  a data glut and an information deficit. Data literacy is key to reducing the disparity.1

Data literacy centers on reading, analyzing, and communicating with data. It is not a science:2 Reading requires understanding what data is and the aspects of the world it represents. Analyzing data refers to aggregating, sorting, and converting it into useful information. Finally, communicating with data means using that data to support a logical narrative to a particular audience, and is of the utmost importance to any navy’s information warriors.3 A naval intelligence example of data literacy at work is determining adversary reconnaissance aircraft sortie schedules and maintenance days, and then effectively communicating the derived intelligence to improve and better inform the Warfare Commander’s decision space.

Operational Intelligence Center

Pressured by advances in the speed, precision, and destructive force of naval weapons, operational intelligence (OPINTEL) is critical, and empowering U.S. Naval Intelligence through data literacy may be the key. This is not a new concept. Analysts harnessed these techniques during the Cold War when Navy Ocean Surveillance Information Centers (NOSIC) developed and employed databases of prior Soviet activities to inform analyses of ongoing operations.4 These successes in data literacy facilitated a favorable Cold War OPINTEL asymmetry that proved a key advantage over the Warsaw Pact.5 Available battlespace awareness technology is already making this task easier. However, making sense of the battlespace requires more than just using automated OPINTEL applications.

Data literacy, not science or analytics, is the answer, as it provides Naval Intelligence professionals with the ability to synthesize information and further aid tactical commanders in making informed decisions. OPINTEL centers can become tailored centers of excellence through data literacy. To streamline scouting the positions of Soviet forces in the 1970s, Fleet Ocean Surveillance Information Facility (FOSIF) centralized collection, exploitation, analysis, and dissemination, as scouting is not complete until the collected information is delivered to the tactical commander. Fusing information from national and tactical sensors, FOSIF’s dedicated support provided the intelligence needed for the fleet to operate further forward resulting in more efficient scouting.6, 7, 8

What and Why … Data-Driven Decision Making

Advances in digital technology produced exponential data growth, and the private sector began to develop essential technology and skills to understand this ever-expanding resource. This development mirrored similar operations analysis and research advances during World War II. Adding data and analysis in the private sector built an innovative school of thought: data-driven decision-making, emphasizing data literacy over science.9

Data literacy is an essential component of an organization’s strong data strategy. It promotes understanding and fosters workforce incorporation of data into daily operations. Not laying such a foundation and skipping right to higher-end approaches like data science will not achieve the macro-level result of making data more useful across the entire organization. The “godfather” of data literacy, Jordan Morrow, notes: “One doesn’t go from not being a runner to racing a 50-mile ultra-marathon the next day.” 10

Instead, Morrow emphasizes the three Cs: Curiosity, Creativity, and Critical thinking. Morrow’s proven approach promotes literacy and data “democratization.”11 An entire workforce using data can lead to a more adaptive and successful organization, as highlighted by a ThoughtSpot and Harvard Business Review study. The report found that successful companies enable all employees through data literacy to make more informed decisions resulting in higher customer and employee satisfaction and higher productivity.12 This increased productivity reduces the glut and bottlenecks by enabling data use among frontline workers.

Data experts recommend a three-step framework: defining literacy goals, assessing the workforce’s current skills, and laying out a learning path.13 Naval Intelligence’s goal should be to create a confident and curious force that can critically think with data to support better and faster decisions throughout the spectrum of conflict. This simple goal focuses on people, as they matter most.

The assessment process aims to set measurable goals and lay the foundation for making Naval Intelligence more data literate. Assessing baseline data skills begins with examining how Naval Intelligence uses data in battlespace awareness, assured command and control, and integrated fires. Understanding how data is applied across the community identifies core skills and helps foster a culture that appreciates the value of data literacy.

The assessment process should also include examining data tool usage and functionality. Experts believe such analysis is crucial to improving return on investment and developing a tailored learning path that fully leverages technology. The final part of the assessment process is surveying the force by testing a sample of personnel on their ability to read, work with, analyze, and communicate with data in ways that support better warfighting.

Informed by the assessment, the data literacy-learning path will align with the Naval Intelligence training continuum. A data-literate cadre begins with exposing personnel to data during accession schools. Initial instruction will teach new personnel the value of data by introducing common concepts and language. The foundational education cultivates the three Cs by building confidence and demonstrating data’s possibilities while reducing barriers. Training will continue throughout accession and intermediate schools as personnel will receive instruction on data tools and functionality.

The learning path will not end at the schoolhouse. Each step of the Fleet Response Training Program (FRTP) will reinforce data literacy by teaching information warfare teams afloat how to use data.

The Three Cs: Applied to a Taiwan ADIZ Case

Data literacy empowers a workforce to see the world differently. Economist Tim Harford wrote: “Whatever we’re trying to understand about the world, each other, and ourselves, we won’t get far without statistics.” 14 Applying these skills to publicly available Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone (TADIZ) data can exemplify the power of data literacy.

Taiwan Ministry of Defense publicly released presentation on PLA TADIZ incursions for the day of Speaker Pelosi’s Taiwan arrival.

Since September 2020, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense has publicly reported on the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) air operations inside the TADIZ. The PLA flew 3158 TADIZ sorties as of 5 March 2023, likely as part of a larger effort to erode Taiwan sovereignty and message against outside interference. 15, 16, 17 This begs the question, is there an operational objective that aligns with the strategic intent?

PLA aircraft reportedly entered the TADIZ on 67% of days between 9 September 2020 and 5 March 2023.18 Most (77%) of the daily incursions involved less than the mean number of aircraft (5.04), and about a third (34%) of daily incursions had only one aircraft enter the TADIZ. The majority of single sortie missions (63%) occurred between October 2020 and September 2021. Reconnaissance aircraft primarily (95%) flew these missions. Such domain awareness sorties also normalized incursions and reinforced Chinese interests while challenging Taiwan’s ability to enforce its declared ADIZ.19

These actions likely forced Taiwan to choose between either not responding to the incursions or expending finite military resources (aircraft and pilot hours), thereby achieving China’s goal of pressuring Taiwan, according to Dr. Ying Yu Lin.20 If Taiwan did not respond, the flights could be perceived as legitimizing Chinese claims and eroding those of Taiwan.

The composition of aerial incursions into Taiwan’s ADIZ. (Author graphic)

The PLA transitioned to predominantly fighter incursions (a mean of 64% of monthly TADIZ activity) in September 2021, further bolstering its claims of control over the airspace while increasing the pressure on Taiwan. Fighter sorties also accounted for an even more significant portion (89%) of TADIZ incursions in reaction to then Speaker Pelosi’s 2 August 2022 Taiwan visit.

During the month-long response to the Speaker’s visit, the PLA persistently flew a larger volume of incursions. The daily mean (15) number of aircraft throughout the response was well above the mean (11) number of aircraft flown in reaction to other international engagements with or exercises near Taiwan. Previous reactions also only lasted 1-3 days. The PLA likely increased its sorties to explicitly demonstrate airspace control and force Taiwan to expend more resources as punishment.

The Need for Data Literacy

Applying the Three Cs to recognize patterns like the transition to predominantly fighter TADIZ incursions increases operational awareness in near real-time and can support ongoing analysis similar to the NOSIC’s databases. This renewed emphasis on data can improve fleet operations by providing tactical commanders with objective facts, increasing OPINTEL support and understanding of adversary objectives.

Achieving such an OPINTEL advantage requires a data-literate U.S. Naval Intelligence community that can rapidly turn the glut into usable information. An entire force able to discover critical insights and efficiently communicate will tightly couple intelligence and analysis to the engagement of targets during distributed maritime operations. As ADM Gilday noted: “Information has become the cornerstone of how we operate.”21 Gaining favorable OPINTEL asymmetry enables the decision advantage by providing commanders with the information required to “…decide and act faster than anyone else.”22, 23, 24

Andrew Orchard is a U.S. Navy intelligence officer and selected Mansfield Fellow, currently serving as the Officer in Charge of the Joint Reserve Intelligence Center New Orleans.

The views expressed in this article is that of the author and does not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Navy, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


1. Sharman, CAPT Christopher. China Moves Out: Stepping Stones Toward a New Maritime Strategy. Washington D.C.: Nation Defense University, 2015.

2.  Morrow, Jordan. Data Literacy – The Human Element in Data United Nations Office of Information and Communications Technology. 25 November 2020.

3. Brown, Sara. “How to Build Data Literacy in Your Company.” 9 February 2021. MIT Sloan Management School. https://mitsloan.mit.edu/ideas-made-to-matter/how-to-build-data-literacy-your-company.

4.  Rosenberg, Christopher Ford and David. “The Naval Intelligence Underpinnings of Reagan’s Maritime Strategy.” The Journal of Strategic Studies (2005): 397.

5. Ibid, 402.

6. Hughes, CAPT (ret) Wayne. Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2000. 175.

7. Rosenberg, Christopher Ford and David. “The Naval Intelligence Underpinnings of Reagan’s Maritime Strategy.” The Journal of Strategic Studies (2005): 402.

8. Ball, Desmond Ball and Desmond. The Tools of Owatatsumi: Japan’s Ocean Surveillance and Coastal Defence Capabilities. Canberra: ANU Press, 2015. 93-96.

9. Stobierski, Tim. “The Advantages of Data-Driven Decision-Making.” 26 August 2021. Harvard Business Review. https://online.hbs.edu/blog/post/data-driven-decision-making.

10. Morrow, Jordan. Data Literacy – The Human Element in Data United Nations Office of Information and Communications Technology. 25 November 2020.

11. Morrow, Jordan. Jordan Morrow and Qlik’s Mission to Create a Data-Literate Workforce. 15 April 2020. https://medium.com/digital-bulletin/jordan-morrow-and-qliks-mission-to-create-a-data-literate-workforce-c450a01714f5.

12. ThoughtSpot and Harvard Business Review. The New Decision Makers. Cambridge: Harvard Business Review, 2020.

13. Brown, Sara. “How to Build Data Literacy in Your Company.” 9 February 2021. MIT Sloan Management School. https://mitsloan.mit.edu/ideas-made-to-matter/how-to-build-data-literacy-your-company.

14. Harford Tim. The Data Detective: Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics. New York: Penguin Random House, 2021. 16.  

15. All TADIZ data is derived from public releases by the Taiwan Ministry of Defense. Military News Updates. 10 November 2022. https://www.mnd.gov.tw/English/PublishTable.aspx?types=Military%20News%20Update&Title=News%20Channel

16. Kenneth Allen, Gerald Brown, and Thomas Shattuck. Assessing China’s Growing Air Incursions into Taiwan’s ADIZ Bonny Lin. 1 April 2022.

17. U-Jin, Olli Pekka Suorsa and Adrian Ang. “China’s Air Incursions Into Taiwan’s ADIZ Focus on ‘Anti-Access’ and Maritime Deterrence.” The Diplomat 20 July 2021.

18. TADIZ analysis based on publicly available data and conducted by Andrew Orchard in private capacity.

19. Silva Shih, Shuren Koo, Daniel Kao, Sylvia Lee, Yingyu Chen. “Why the Chinese Military Has Increased Activity Near Taiwan.” CommonWealth 2 November 2021.

20. Deutsche Welle. “China’s Taiwan Military Incursions Test the Limits of Airspace.” Deutsche Welle 4 October 2021.

21. Gamboa, Elisha. “CNO in San Diego, Meets with Project Overmatch Team on Fleet Modernization.” Navy.mil 23 February 2021.

22. Ibid.

23. For an additional collated form of the Taiwan Ministry of Defense publicly available data please see Gerald C. Brown’s and Ben Lewis’ google sheet. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1qbfYF0VgDBJoFZN5elpZwNTiKZ4nvCUcs5a7oYwm52g/htmlview 

24. The author wishes to thank Christopher Underwood and Ryan Meder for advice on this article.

Featured Image: SOUTH CHINA SEA (Feb. 6, 2023) U.S. Navy Ensign Bradley Davis stands watch aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mykala Keckeisen)

Reforming 21st Century Navy Intelligence To Answer the CNO’s Call

By Millard Bowen and David Andre

In January 2016, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) issued A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority, which defined the current operational environment and laid out our Navy’s most pressing challenges within a framework of three interrelated global forces. These global forcesthe classic maritime system, the global information system, and the increased rate of technological creation and adaptationrequire the Navy’s Intelligence Community (IC) to adapt for the 21st Century.

Of the four Lines of Effort identified in the CNO’s Design, the Navy IC can directly affect three: Achieve High Velocity Learning at Every Level, Strengthen our Navy Team for the Future, and Expand and Strengthen Our Network of Partners. The fourth Line of Effort— Strengthen Naval Power at and From Sea — will derive direct advantages through Navy IC advancements in the other LOEs. Within this context, this paper identifies three challenges and proposes solutions to help the Navy IC effectively execute the CNO’s Design.

Challenge 1: Disseminate Ideas and Information Across the Intelligence Community

There is a contradiction inherent in the Navy IC’s professional development between generalization and subject matter expertise. On one hand, the Navy IC is a relatively stove-piped community, with little overlap between the disparate specialties and geographic commands that constitute the larger naval intelligence enterprise. At odds with this is a development paradigm for Intelligence Officers that prizes geographic diversity and job variety. In practice, this means that Intelligence Officers repeatedly find themselves at the bottom of the learning curve. Tour lengths and career progression permit only a modicum of regional or topical expertise before moving on to different problem sets.

The current career path for Naval Intelligence Officers. (US Navy Bureau of Personnel)

This creates an environment where the only Subject Matter Experts (SME) on a given target or region are often civilians at shore-side facilities where their expertise is directed (or constrained) to a select few leaders in the IC and greater DoD enterprise. Coupled with this situation is the current trend where most Intelligence Officer training resides at the unit level, allowing operational tempo and personality types to de-standardize the frequency, quality, and accuracy of the training.

The Navy lacks a consistent, IC-wide ability to ensure sustained familiarity with current intelligence, technology developments, and emerging challenges and threats. Aside from the baseline knowledge established in the Navy Intelligence Officer Basic Course (NIOBC), the majority of junior Intelligence Officers are defined by their assignments and therefore lack a strong grasp of the greater body of information in the IC. It is critical that Intelligence professionals provide warfighters and decision-makers context and probability; this paper contends that our current professional development does not develop this capability. In a future electromagnetic- (EM) degraded warfighting environment, relevant intelligence expertise needs to be available organically, across pay-grades and platforms. There will be no time for an Intelink hunt.

Solution: Use Modern Technology to Disseminate Practical Knowledge IC-Wide

To address these shortfalls, the Navy IC needs to use new technology to share ideas and information efficiently. The intent is not to turn generalists into SMEs, but to bridge knowledge gaps and prepare Intelligence Officers for the full array of jobs available. Using SMEs to develop the baseline knowledge of the community increases information flow and encourages innovation. To pass new information, the IC has traditionally relied on CDs and e-mails with uncertain distribution, messages with no mechanism to confirm readership, and ad-hoc training subject to the variations of trainers and the training environment.

An example of a periodic Navy audio series, the CNO’s podcast, Soundings. Click to listen to the February 15, 2017 episode on the core attribute of toughness.

The IC should augment these traditional methods with the creation of periodic video and/or audio lecture series to instruct the Navy IC on current information. Use the example of a podcast or TED Talks where an Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) or Joint Intelligence Operations Center (JIOC) SME uses audio and visual aids to provide the ground truth on myriad topics to Navy Intelligence personnel worldwide.1 Instead of being constrained by the unbalanced knowledge that intelligence professionals develop individually, leverage SME knowledge to educate the broader community—effectively turning a weakness into strength. Underpinning this effort will be a central repository where the briefs reside, readily accessible to the fleet. These products will allow Intelligence Officers and enlisted Sailors to arrive on-station familiar with ongoing threats, trends, and maritime security challenges wherever they are assigned. This will enable high velocity learning by accelerating the dissemination of expertise and leveraging specialization to enhance the knowledge of the greater intelligence community.

We propose that these products be spearheaded and developed by ONI a minimum of once a month, no more than an hour in length, and hung in a low-bandwidth form on the Secret Internet Protocol Router (SIPR) Network; SIPR has to be the medium of choice to reach the greatest audience, afloat or ashore. Audio versions of the same briefs can be posted to the web for bandwidth constrained platforms and units, and the corresponding visual aids can be included in downloadable zip-files. Additionally, distributing an annual DVD compilation of the briefs to all Navy units would enable periodic training regardless of connectivity or bandwidth.

Challenge 2: Emphasis on Bridging the Operations and Intelligence Divide

There is a wealth of evidence—albeit mainly anecdotal—pointing to a persistent need to strengthen communication and trust between Unrestricted Line (URL) Officers and Intelligence Officers. To support operations effectively, the Navy IC must develop a better understanding of at-sea expeditionary warfare operations, operational terminology and practices, and the challenges that operators face. Similarly, to effectively consume and synthesize intelligence products, warfighters and planners must understand the cyclic relationship between intelligence and operations. Knowing what the Navy IC can provide, how missions and operations feed intelligence assessments, and how to frame questions effectively will ultimately improve productivity and the quality of naval intelligence professionals and operators alike. Ironically, the IC typically understands the capabilities and limitations of foreign forces well, but we can do a better job understanding those of our own fleet.

A strong relationship between intelligence and operational professionals is vital to successful mission execution, such as this photo of planning efforts leading up to Exercise BOLD ALLIGATOR 2011. (US Navy Photo by MC1 Phil Beaufort)

Junior URL Officers typically have limited cross-community learning and familiarization due to their respective warfare qualification processes and job requirements.2 These early years are exactly when junior officers need to begin learning about other communities, so they can foster the trust that is critical in the operations and intelligence relationship. The foundation of these relationships lies in an appreciation for one another’s work and an understanding of the interrelatedness of each community. The IC must accept responsibility for educating naval warfighters on our community while educating ourselves on theirs. Increased alignment will enable operators to understand the right questions to ask, thereby allowing intelligence professionals to provide improved time-sensitive, succinct, and relevant intelligence to our fleet.

Solution: Identify and Employ Cross Community Engagement Opportunities

A primary focus of an Intelligence Officer’s first tour is the completion of their professional qualifications—a process that can take up a majority of their time. Our first proposal is placing emphasis on getting our 1830s qualified as quickly as possible and then using the remaining time in their initial tour to embark a variety of ships and submarines; the benefits are three-fold.

Foremost, it will broaden the young officers’ knowledge of our fleet including the hardware, technology, and terminology associated with conducting at-sea operations. Second, it will allow them to receive valuable training from peers working across the operational spectrum. Lastly, it will foster side-by-side communication and cohesion with URL peers. Part of this initiative might include NIOBC students completing their initial Personnel Qualification Standards (PQS) before graduation, thus speeding their Information Warfare (IW) qualification process upon entering the fleet.

The second proposal is integrating intelligence familiarization into the training pipelines for URL Officers. This familiarization would occur primarily aboard big-deck amphibs and carriers, where officers can receive in-depth tours and briefs on the routine operations and capabilities of strike group intelligence centers. The training will demonstrate the value intelligence teams provide, how to communicate with them, their limitations, and how URL Officers contribute to Indications and Warning (I&W). In the case of Surface Warfare Officers (SWOs), this could become a small portion of the Basic Division Officer Course (BDOC) already being taught.3 An alternative and complimentary approach to address existing apprehension between Operations and Intelligence is to increase the number of lateral transfer URL Officers in the 1830 accession model. A third prospect is expanding the SWO-Intel option at all accession sources so a larger number of future Intelligence Officers will have completed initial URL tours aboard surface warships, thus developing familiarization and relationships with other communities.

These suggestions alone will not break down all barriers and communication challenges between Ops and Intel. However, when coupled with frequent engagement opportunities, familiarization with new intelligence practices, and manning and accession changes, increased trust and cohesion amongst our Fleet’s cadre will flourish.

Challenge 3: Improve Awareness of International Maritime Security Organizations, Shared Lines of Effort, and Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) Developments

The CNO has charged our Navy with expanding and strengthening our network of interagency and international partners. Maritime security organizations across the world possess valuable knowledge, tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP), along with lessons learned regarding their experiences with MDA and maritime security threats. It is imperative that we expose our Intelligence Officers to these organizations, their practices, processes, and ideas. Collaboration and novel lines of communication with these agencies will help enable the global information-sharing network required for the coming decades. However, to get there, these partners must believe we understand their concerns, modi operandi, and capabilities, and they must trust their USN counterparts.

LT David Andre works with SEACAT exercise participants to share information for a common regional maritime picture and coordinate responses to maritime threats. (Government of Singapore)

Many partner navies align closely with U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) missions, an area where the U.S. Navy lacks proficiency. We can improve relationships with those navies by working together, understanding their challenges and perceived threats—even if they are atypical for our fleet. An example of this is Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing (IUU), which is the scourge of developing maritime nations the world over, but garners little attention from the USN.

We can enhance our international relationships and improve information sharing by familiarizing ourselves with maritime threats like this, enabling more effective management of lines of communication. Understanding our international partners’ concerns will make us a more effective partner, paving the way for cooperation and trust across a range of issues.

Solution: Engage with Local and Foreign Maritime Security Organizations

Identify organizations that practice the key principles of MDA and information sharing, like major CONUS and OCONUS port operations control centers, USCG and Department of Homeland Security Interagency Operations Centers, and multi-national coordination centers like those in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Lisbon, Cameroon, and Northwood.4 Send groups of mid-career Intelligence Officers on periodic familiarization trips to these destinations for engagement and collaborative discussions on current trends, threats, and lessons learned from combating maritime security threats.

The USN target audience will be Lieutenant Commanders (O-4s); the goal would be to—at least once a year—send a small group of personnel from various commands to spend 2-4 weeks touring these sites. Their mission would be to receive briefs on their hosts’ missions and capabilities, and provide reciprocal briefs on information sharing and maintaining MDA. This would potentially look like a scaled-down version of the initial familiarization training that a Foreign Area Officer (FAO) receives.

The overall goal of this initiative is to broaden our connection to the greater MDA and maritime information sharing communities, establish and maintain relationships and working lines of communication. Participation in these visits can be tailored to inform the Navy IC through end-of-mission briefs to leadership at ONI, Combatant Command (COCOM) JIOCs, and numbered fleets. Longer-term opportunities exist in the form of International Liaison Officer posts at foreign maritime security centers. These liaison billets foster greater understanding of international and regional maritime security trends and the capabilities and limitations of global partners. Similar to the SECNAVs Tours with Industry program that affords military members an opportunity to work with large civilian corporations for a year; this international exchange program will expose officers to new ideas and organizations, fostering relationships, information sharing, and improving MDA.


The Navy Intelligence Community has played a vital role in our Fleet’s success from Midway through the Global War on Terrorism. To continue this effort, the Navy IC must demonstrate initiative and creativity to address the challenges identified by the CNO. Usable and timely intelligence must be communicated across the fleet to decision-makers and warfighters in all phases of operation. To effect these activities, new technologies will be used, new domestic and international relationships will be required, and an increased level of coordination and trust must be fostered amongst Intelligence and Operations professionals.

Cross-community trust and engagement will enable improvements in all parts of the intelligence cycle, better preparing our Fleet for the warfighting environments of the 21st century. Navy IC-led international partnerships and information sharing will provide new levels of access to intelligence, facilities, and new technology in this era of increased globalization. These changes will not happen immediately, they will require adaptation, ingenuity and a cultural shift. This is an opportunity and challenge we are ready to accept.

LT Millard Bowen is a former Surface Warfare Officer and was most recently the N2 for COMDESRON SEVEN in Singapore. He is currently serving as the Operations Officer for NCIS’s Multiple Threat Alert Center (MTAC). He can be reached at quintus77@hotmail.com.

LT David M. Andre is a former Intelligence Specialist, and has served as an Intelligence Officer and Liaison Officer assigned to AFRICOM. He is currently serving as N2 for COMDESRON SEVEN in Singapore. He can be reached at dma.usn@gmail.com.

The views expressed above are the authors’ alone and do not reflect the official views and are not endorsed by the United States Navy, the Department of the Navy, the Department of Defense, or any other body of the United States Government.


1. An additional benefit to this approach is the Navy’s younger generation of Officers and Enlisted will likely be more receptive to multi-media training tools like these.

2. This is more common in the Surface Warfare and Submarine communities. Aviation Squadrons and Naval Special Warfare units have assigned Intelligence teams, so there is more familiarity earlier in their careers with varying degrees of success.

3. There may be opportunities for similar Intelligence familiarization training in the initial training pipelines for Naval Special Warfare, Aviators and Submariners, but future collaboration with those communities will be required to identify when and how best to integrate these topics.

4. Singapore hosts the Information Fusion Centre (IFC), Kuala Lumpur hosts the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB PRC), Lisbon hosts the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre – Narcotic (MAOC-N), Cameroon hosts the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Inter-regional Coordinating Center (ICC), Northwood, England hosts the NATO Maritime Command HQ, the NATO Shipping Centre (NSC) and the Maritime Security Center – Horn of Africa (MSCHOA).

Featured Image: Two U.S. Navy Sailors and Peruvian sailor confirm position of simulated enemy destroyer in combat information center aboard guided-missile frigate USS Rentz during wargames as part of annual UNITAS multinational maritime exercise, off coast of Colombia, September 14, 2013 (U.S. Navy/Corey Barker)

Featured Image: Two U.S. Navy Sailors and Peruvian sailor confirm position of simulated enemy destroyer in combat information center aboard guided-missile frigate USS Rentz during wargames as part of annual UNITAS multinational maritime exercise, off coast of Colombia, September 14, 2013 (U.S. Navy/Corey Barker)

A Beginner’s Naval Intelligence Reading List

By Mark Munson

While the very topic of naval intelligence may seem to imply secrecy, there is a substantial literature on the topic available to the general reader. While many of the books below may be well known to many in the field, they remain a useful start for the uninitiated:

Patrick Beesley’s two books about British efforts to collect, analyze, and use intelligence, particularly in support of the fight against German submarine warfare, are the best places to start for anyone interested in the practical application of intelligence at sea. Very Special Intelligence: The Story of the Admiralty’s Operational Intelligence Centre, 1939-1945 discusses the Second World War, while Room 40: British Naval Intelligence 1914-1918 covers the First World War. In both books Beesley contrasts the performance of these organizations during the two wars (the sharing and use of intelligence was much better during the Second World War). The discussion of British Naval Intelligence’s involvement in the famous Zimmermann Telegram and the subsequent U.S. entry into the First World War is fascinating.

The recommendation of John Keegan’s Intelligence in War may seem a little too obvious and on the nose, but his chapters on intelligence during the age of sail, the First World War, and the Battles of the Atlantic and Midway during the Second World War are one of the best summations of how wireless communications largely created what naval intelligence practitioners call OPINTEL (operational intelligence). Before wireless communications navies conducted “scouting” and “reconnaissance,” but intelligence as we understand it today largely results from the wireless revolution.

Christopher Ford and David Rosenberg’s The Admiral’s Advantage: U.S. Navy Operational Intelligence in World War II and the Cold War is a flawed book, in large part because this slim volume uses the excuse of many of its sources still being classified to justify the general lack of detail and substance devoted to its subject. Having said that, it’s virtually the only source available to a general audience that explains the post-Second World War history of U.S. Navy intelligence. Among the more interesting claims it makes is that the U.S. Navy’s famous Maritime Strategy of the 1980s was directly informed by a detailed understanding of Soviet naval doctrine by American intelligence analysts.

Colonel John Hughes-Wilson’s Military Intelligence Blunders and Cover-Ups features regularly in military and academic courses on intelligence. Discussion of Indications and Warning failures include chapters on Pearl Harbor, the 1973 October/Yom Kippur/Ramadan War, and the Falklands.

“Eddie” Layton and “Joe” Rochefort are two figures considered among the founding heroes of the U.S. Navy’s Intelligence and Information Warfare communities, respectively. Layton (he retired as a Rear Admiral) was the Pacific Fleet’s intelligence officer during the Second World War (both during the Pearl Harbor disaster and the later American victories in the Pacific) while Rochefort led the codebreaking effort that enabled the American victory at Midway. Layton’s autobiography And I was There as well as the recently published biography, Joe Rochefort’s War, offer insight into how a few surface line officers in the inter-war period began to specialize in intelligence-related duties. Of note, both Layton and Rochefort participated in a program that sent them to Japan for several years to learn the language and culture first-hand, an investment that seems to have paid off.

U.S. Naval Intelligence has been one of the many elements of the intelligence community supporting the various aspects of what used to be called the Global War on Terrorism. Mark Bowden is probably the most well-known author covering the special operations world over the fifteen years. While Black Hawk Down is his most famous book, Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw offers another look at the formative years of the current U.S. Special Operations complex and how intelligence is collected and used to target individuals. He’s also written articles for the Atlantic on the 2006 killing of Abu Musab Zarqawi in Iraq, American Special Operations in the Philippines, and counter-drug operations in Colombia.

For those interested in film treatments of intelligence in support of counter-terrorism the obvious choice is probably Zero Dark Thirty. My choice, however, is John Malkovich’s adaptation of Nicholas Shakespeare’s the Dancer Upstairs, a fictionalized depiction of the hunt for Abimael Guzmán, the leader of Peru’s Marxist Sendoro Luminoso Maoist guerrillas in the 1980s and 90s (both the book and film are excellent).

Lieutenant Commander Mark Munson is a Naval Intelligence officer currently serving on the OPNAV staff. He has previously served at Naval Special Warfare Group FOUR, the Office of Naval Intelligence, and onboard USS Essex (LHD 2). The views expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the official viewpoints or policies of the Department of Defense or the US Government.

Challenges to Intelligence Collection – Request for Posts!

During the week of 7-14 July, the Center for International Maritime Security will feature the feature week “Challenges to Intelligence Collection”. We welcome all posts pertaining, but not limited, to:

  • The history and evolution of intelligence collection, especially but not limited to naval and maritime intelligence
  • Technology shifts (from shoe phones to drones)
  • Complications created by changes to the operational environment
  • Unintended domestic and international consequences of intelligence operations
  • Managing governmental transparency in covert operations
  • Opportunities for the private sector to engage with—or potentially disrupt—the Intelligence community
  • Any other pertinent topics

Please submit all articles to nextwar@cimsec.org by 5 July and feel free to  contact associate editors Jillian McGhan (j.danback@gmail.com) or Chris Stockdale-Garbutt (cjstockdalegarbutt@gmail.com) with any questions.