Working Relationships: Interagency Exchange Program Improves Army's Relationship with Whole of Government
CPT Bryan Gibb
Reprinted with permission from the September-October 2009 issue of Special Warfare.
Building and maintaining strong relationships between the United States Army and its governmental partners is essential to bringing forth a positive outcome in the war on terror. With that end in mind, Lieutenant General William Caldwell, the commandant of the Command and General Staff College, or CGSC, and the commanding general of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, KS, developed the Interagency (IA) Exchange Program in order to "improve how we as an Army work in conjunction with other governmental departments and agencies."
The IA program, now in its pilot year, affords Army captains and majors the opportunity to join national agencies for a one-year, interagency fellowship. As interagency fellows, they replace a civilian government employee within the partnered organization, giving that employee the opportunity to attend the one-year CGSC Intermediate Level Education, or ILE. The intent of this cross-pollination of Army officers and governmental civilians is to increase collaboration, cooperation and interoperability to better serve the unified approach described in Field Manual (FM) 3-24, Counterinsurgency, and FM 3-07, Stability Operations.
Serving as an Army IA fellow is both an outstanding professional-development opportunity and an excellent mechanism for imparting a company-grade officer's tactical- and operational-level experiences to members of a national-level organization. I was selected to serve an IA fellowship with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, or NGA. Before my NGA assignment, I attended ILE at Fort Belvoir, VA. ILE was an excellent venue for fostering strategic-level thinking in someone who was about to report to an organization that has a national mission and focus. I began my NGA fellowship Oct. 1, 2008, and my first task was to develop a proposal with key leaders on how I could best serve the agency and simultaneously receive a broadening, professional development experience. We determined that I should first receive formal training and orientation to the organization, followed by a period during which I could apply my tactical and operational experiences as a Special Forces officer to help shape the way that NGA supports the warfighter.
My initial introduction to NGA was participating in the biannual conference held by the NGA support teams, or NSTs. Members of the NGA's mission-partner organizations, such as other intelligence agencies and the combatant commands, are embedded on NSTs to ensure that they provide relevant, timely geospatial intelligence. Senior NGA personnel attended the conference to address common issues and to synchronize the organization's efforts to support its mission partners. Early in my fellowship, I attended a number of strategic-level meetings in order to understand the focus and direction of the organization. My attendance at the NST conference and at meetings of key leaders gave me valuable insight into who NGA supports and the way it tailors its intelligence products to meet the needs of its mission partners.
After this period of garnering the strategic vision, I attended two formal NGA courses to gain a better understanding of how the organization operates. The first, the two-week Geospatial Intelligence Orientation Seminar, gives participants exposure to a number of NGA directorates and demonstrates how those organizations fit into NGA's strategic objectives. The second, the Geospatial Staff Officer Course, provides a baseline understanding of the way NGA collects and disseminates geospatial intelligence to the intelligence community. Those courses gave me an excellent introduction to NGA's capabilities and an appreciation of the multitude of strategic-level intelligence requirements that the agency fulfills for our nation on a daily basis. The orientation I received to NGA was outstanding professional development, because it explained the operations of not only NGA but also the entire intelligence community. Because of NGA's close collaboration with a number of intelligence organizations, such as the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency, I was exposed to their operations, as well - a byproduct of an age of information sharing and cooperation.
Following the institutional orientation, NGA provided me access to a number of its analysis and production branches for a one-to-two-week internship to gain firsthand knowledge of the way analysts support the warfghter. I had the opportunity to sit with a number of NGA branches that provide geospatial products in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, or OIF, and Operation Enduring Freedom, or OEF. In addition to speaking to analysts about their work, I was asked to share with department personnel my experiences in receiving and using NGA products as a detachment commander during OEF. Those briefings generated a lot of discussion on the ways geospatial products can benefit warfghters at the tactical level, and the discussions became the catalyst for a special project that I could manage to support NGA's wartime focus.
During the remainder of my NGA fellowship, I will conduct a study of the ways NGA supports theater special operations forces. The study will make recommendations on the best ways to tailor NGA's relationship with theater combined joint special operations task forces, or CJSOTFs, to meet the CJSOTFs' geospatial intelligence requirements, and on ways that support can benefit detachment-level operations. The basis for the study is my exposure to the way NGA currently supports its national military partners. I am studying ways of incorporating into theater-level SOF operations some of NGA's outstanding tactics, techniques and procedures developed to support our national military assets. My study began with visits to the 7th and 10th Special Forces groups to receive firsthand accounts of NGA's support to those groups' recent deployments to OIF and OEF. Following discussions with those redeployed units, I traveled to the U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility to continue the study with the 5th and 3rd SF groups.
In addition to making recommendations on ways that NGA can maximize its support to deployed SOF forces, I am working to increase SF's awareness of NGA's unique capabilities. Geospatial intelligence is an extremely powerful tool that can combine multiple sources of intelligence into one product that increases situational awareness and understanding. With SF's unique mission set, executing kinetic and non-kinetic operations as part of counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan, geospatial intelligence can be a powerful decision-making tool for tactical- and operational-level mission planning and execution. I will continue to engage the SF groups in order to increase cooperation and interoperability between the two organizations and to highlight the strategic, operational and tactical implications of geospatial-intelligence.
By design, the interagency fellowship was implemented by Army leaders to increase understanding and cooperation between the Army and our interagency mission partners. According to Lieutenant General Caldwell, "There are no longer only military solutions to conflict; we must embrace a whole-of-government approach." As a member of the pilot program, I feel the initiative is an outstanding way to use the tactical and operational knowledge of mid-level Army leaders to positively affect the contributions made by our country's national-level organizations and bring a positive outcome to the war on terror.