How the Military Intelligence Community Has Failed to Incorporate Sociocultural Understanding of their Operational Environment


The purpose of this paper will be to explore how the military intelligence community (IC) can create programs to foster a population centric approach to collection of intelligence in order to bolster sociocultural understanding of the operational environment. The objectives of this research will be to answer: 1) What military doctrine supports the need for sociocultural knowledge development and understanding of an operational environment? 2) What programs have been utilized by the military IC to facilitate sociocultural understanding? 3) What has or has not worked with current programs designed to examine the cultural domain? 4) How can a joint or service develop programs to facilitate cultural understanding into the decision making process? For the purpose of this study, only the current military intelligence community will be examined from the attacks of September 2001. 

The IC largely fails to plan and take into consideration sociocultural facets typical to a population within the purview of a unit’s operational environment. The cultural domain is largely as important, if not more, than the insurgents, terrorists, or states actors being studied (for situational awareness) targeted in an asymmetric warfare conflict. Conflict in failed (or failing) states largely works in vacuum, where state governments have little or no legitimacy or authority within its boundaries. Actors such as enemy combatants, insurgents, terrorists, and those trying to capitalize on the situation largely try to exploit, substitute, or legitimize the grievances of the indigenous population. Since the involvement of the U.S. in asymmetric warfare (i.e., irregular warfare) following the attacks of September 2001, the military IC has largely focused on the “actors,” or those who take action, in the conflicts of Iraq and Afghanistan (as well as other instances throughout the world). Largely, by targeting those who commit action or crimes against state or Coalition Forces, U.S. justified its mission by eliminating those who pose a threat to “state sovereignty issues” (Masters 2013). The military IC has enacted or facilitated limited programs, such as Female Engagement Teams or the Human Terrain System, ran through military venues, Department of State, other government organizations, and nongovernmental organizations to build partner capacity, enact civil authority, or strengthen local communities, but a fundamental cultural understanding of those communities is mostly illusive to military IC decisions, planning processes, and targeting (lethal and non-lethal). Thus, this paper will seek to answer: How has the Military Intelligence Community failed to implement an enduring sociocultural knowledgebase of a command’s operational environment?   

The outline of this paper will lead the reader from generalized to specific information- leading to the discovery of new knowledge and conclusions- through the following structure: A literature review with several sub-categories that are intended..

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