While the increase in troop numbers known as the surge has gotten much credit for the decline in combat and civilian deaths in Iraq one key component of the effort has been underplayed -- the changed role of intelligence teams operating in both Iraq and in Afghanistan.
In an exclusive interview with DoDBuzz, the director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, Vice Adm. Robert Murrett, said his people are working in teams with DIA, NRO, FBI and other intelligence agencies in theater and those teams are providing improved actionable intelligence to troops.
For example, every brigade combat team has NGA and other intelligence community personnel embedded to provide analysis and information on a 24-hour basis.
"It's those intelligence community interagency teams that are working hand in glove with the forces that we have deployed forward that are making a difference," Murrett told me. While he was very cautious in discussing examples of just how those teams have operated, he offered two details: they are embedded with troops, often on the front lines; and the intelligence community teams have been a major factor in helping find IED caches.
One key component of this intelligence comes from commercial imagery. Since it is not classified NGA can supply that data much more quickly to front-line troops than it can provide classified imagery, Murrett said. "However, I would want to emphasize that, particularly when our military forces are involved, we derive the very best data we can from whatever source we can get it from," he added. Often that means overlaying data from classified sources on to the commercial imagery, which requires that the whole package be classified.
This new approach, building these teams into operational units, "has really increased our effectiveness in ways that are going to have implications for how we operate as a nation and a coalition for many, many years in the future," Murrett said.
One detail that makes these improvements particularly impressive is the fact that the NGA budget, for one, is "holding steady," as Murrett put it. While there have been budget increases for the new NGA headquarters being built at Fort Belvoir, the overall budget has not really increased.