IV. Knowledge development
How to collect
The first stage of the KD process involves the acquisition, collection and collation of information for later processing into actionable knowledge.
The initial phase of the KD Process depends heavily on the quality of the external information collection sources and relationships. The sources of information for different types of operations may differ greatly and will likely include traditional intelligence sources, data repositories of designed information proponents and a broad spectrum of open Internet sources. Each source will require different mechanisms for establishing reliability and the credibility of the information collected.
The quality of the initial knowledge retrieval has tremendous impact on the efficiency and focus of further collection efforts and therefore should be supported by effective navigation and retrieval functionalities.
Experience shows that well designed search engines, including open-source intelligence accessible to operational planners and other end users, reduce the number of unnecessary requests for existing information or analysis products.
Holistic analysis of the engagement space requires an array of information, including not only that provided by intelligence sources and traditional Intelligence collection means, but also information from other non-intelligence/military sources, like CIMIC. Open sources available through the world wide web reflect an endless supply of information, although the sources are mostly unevaluated and of undetermined reliability. Civil governmental authorities from the international to local level, IOs and NGOs might be able to provide reliable information.
However, each of the aforementioned groups may have competing agendas and may provide information with the aim of influencing NATO operations to benefit their group. Those sources of information are out of NATO control and categorized as “uncontrolled” or “casual” sources. Therefore, mechanisms must be established to identify, evaluate and access potential resources of PMESII information. PMESII collection is to be conducted in a fully disclosed manner, with no attempt to disguise or hide NATO affiliations.
If such disclosure is ill-advised or problematic, consider utilizing other avenues, to include traditional intelligence disciplines, to obtain the necessary information.
The challenge is to obtain access to the right information, provided at the right time, by a reliable resource that is willing to share. The following principles provide guidance and describe the factors that should be considered before the authorized NATO element contacts a source:
To identify a valuable resource for PMESII information, the following factors and questions need to be considered and raised before the intended information exchange:
Information content factors:
Does the resource have a proper knowledge about the subject, country or culture?
Were past publications/studies issued on the subject by the potential resource? Were references provided on that subject?
Is the resource in close contact with the subject of interest (in place or liaison element)?
Is the resource NATO friendly, neutral, impartial or adversarial?
Has the resource cooperated with NATO/Allies before? If yes, what is the resource’s reputation?
Are the resource’s interests and aims in line with, independent of or contradictory to NATO’s interests and goals? To what degree?
Is the information seen as reliable and is this assessment confirmed by other resources?
Is the resource willing to share information?
Is the resource willing to provide “one way” information, without getting information back from NATO?
Can a non-information exchange be arranged through which NATO barters goods or services for information (i.e., food, fuel, water, medicine or other support activities)?
Can/will the resource provide information in a timely and reliable manner?
What assessed risk does the potential resource assume by virtue of the proposed cooperation?
Are there any arrangements or memoranda of agreement already in place or possible to formalize information exchange expectations?
Can the resource be evaluated/validated by counter-intelligence and security (CI&Sy)?
Ensure that the resource has no ties (social, financial, economical and political) to opponent forces in the area of interest (AOI) (as assessed and validated by CI&Sy).
Assess the potential resource’s motivations for cooperation.
It is critical to handle and evaluate the PMESII resource information the same way that information from traditional intelligence sources is evaluated to ensure decision makers and planners receive reliable and accurate information. Source evaluation/validation is an assessment of how reliable the source is and how likely the information that comes from it is to be true and free of biases. Collected information cannot be taken at face value.
There are many reasons why information may not be reliable or entirely accurate, not the least of which is hostile deception. A description how a resource and its information can be categorized is available from NATO human intelligence governing directives. The advantage of this categorization method will be:
It provides a universally understood and standardized shorthand assessment of information; and,
Over time, it gives an indication of the capabilities of various resources and agencies and aids the selection of those best suited for particular tasks.
Before relying on a resource’s information, a proper background check/screening by the appropriate CI&Sy elements must be conducted. After the evaluation/validation process, information provided by a resource must be classified through approved NATO procedures.
It should be clearly understood that through the knowledge development process all information, independent of its reliability, will be processed and considered. It is vital that information and intelligence used in (external) planning, operations or assessments and to inform decision makers is evaluated and reliable. However information evaluated as deliberately deception should also be considered valuable for information operations.
Information is useless if it cannot be processed in a timely manner. Therefore, unnecessary duplication, collection and processing needs to be avoided. At the first stage, the requirements for information must be clearly identified. This will be done by comparing already existing and available information (in databases/files) and operational information requirements by the appropriate analyst. Research and analysis tools need to be used to find the already evaluated information for operational use. In this process, the value of the information must be assessed against operational requirements with respect to:
• Age of information.
• Scope on subject.
• Detail/depth of information.
A request for information should be submitted and processed by knowledge brokers only after ensuring existing information will not satisfy the information requested. Information requested or acquisitioned should be limited and focused to AOI-supporting information, based on functional area RFIs, CCIRs or priority intelligence requirements (PIRs). By using this approach, information can be developed into actionable intelligence or knowledge. This new knowledge will itself be stored in a knowledge database to make it available for later analysis or to support other requirements.
The integration of newly received information or derived produced knowledge into an existing knowledge repository or knowledge base -- which is both an information acquisition and knowledge development function -- requires:
Establishing structural relations between distinguishable components of new information/knowledge and the knowledge base data structure (collation).
A clear understanding of process flow from each element or individual that enters data into the knowledge repository.
Usage of a “master-data-format” to ensure external data can be easily provided and integrated into existing knowledge base data structures.
Deducting implied consequences/changes to existing context on all affected levels of aggregation, which might be supported by an automated reasoning mechanism.
Capturing contextually significant change history of new content to ensure traceability and validation of changes.
Indicating tolerated contradictions with existing context from an analytic perspective, if deviating perspectives are to be reflected.
Sanitizing content, if necessary, and determining level of classification/disclosure.
These functions are closely related to the analysis process and may involve corresponding data tagging in the knowledge base. Depending on volume and required skill level, they may be distributed to specialized functions, e.g. a dedicated disclosure process and knowledge broking process, but still need to be closely coordinated with analysis. Due to this distribution of work, the KD process requires continuous coordination of products and updated knowledge base content. Therefore, a well-structured knowledge base is considered an indispensable means of collective situational awareness and work coordination throughout the whole KD process.
How to analyze
Analysis is defined as the study of a whole by examining its parts and their interactions. The purpose of analysis is to put information into context and then draw conclusions, deductions or implications.
Conducting analysis of the civil environment is not limited to CIMIC analysts, but also performed next or in absence of dedicated analyst personnel within the framework of a deployment, operation or exercise. CIMIC field and staff personnel are required to gather (specific) information, determine the relevance and derive accurate conclusions in order to contribute to planning, assessing and executing CIMIC activities. However due to the complexity of the civil environment, there is a preference for personnel conducting CIMIC analysis to be well-educated and trained in analysis methodology, such as:
Event analysis, based on single event or report.
Topic analysis, on special subjects of concern.
Gap analysis, based on requirements and existing knowledge
Capability and force/ratio analysis.
Generic pattern analysis.
Course of action analysis.
Whilst many well-established analysis techniques can be used to support knowledge development, it is the systems perspective of an engagement space that is critical in achieving KD’s overall aim of providing a holistic understanding.
It is therefore the emerging systems analysis methodology that is core to the overall KD process and which is explained in detail in annex 8.1.7. "System analysis".
During initial analysis the preliminary focus of KD is usually only broadly specified, e.g. a geographical region or AOI. The initial information acquisition and analysis process relies on a balanced effort across the entire operational environment and is not influenced by operational objectives. Such analysis permits the formulation of a preliminary understanding of how the major actors, systems and components interact within the operational environment. Once the mission has been established, this understanding will then form the basis of more detailed analysis and will help identify gaps in existing knowledge and areas requiring further study.
As the depth of analysis is further developed, the identification of specific focus areas and operational objectives may either be derived from the analysis or given by external guidance. The focus areas are driven by the CCIRs with the initial information requirements being formulated by his planning staff. In the later stages of KD, focus areas may evolve further due to changes in the situation, results of the ongoing analysis process, or due to emerging current or future planning requirements. In most cases, the true complexity of the operating environment, and the options for influencing the achievement of operational objectives with desired effects only emerges as a result of the in depth iterative analysis process. Continuous review and adjustment of the analysis is required and can only be achieved through coordination of the KD process and the planning, execution and assessment processes.
Actionable knowledge is only of value if it is understandable and usable by the target audience or decision maker. Knowledge can be provided by subject matter experts or by other specialists and needs to be evaluated within the context of a specific mission environment or AOI. Knowledge can be either provided as a reactive response to specific knowledge requests or by proactively distributing knowledge to try to meet all user requirements. Good KD practice maximizes knowledge distribution without overloading staff with unnecessary and superfluous information. To make today’s complex interrelationships between entities understandable to non-experts, new ways and methodologies need to be found to make knowledge accessible to the target audience.
All actors, whether civil or military always use their own information scheme and follow their own focus of interest, which not necessarily matches the interest of the other party. In order to get a common understanding on the risks in the operation theatre it is recommended to agree between all parties on a common risk analysis structure. Pending the specific challenges during an operation the tool has to be dealt as a living document.
How to access
The knowledge transfer step should be facilitated by robust communication mechanisms, user-friendly navigation systems and search engines that permit easy access to the knowledge base. Due to the nature of some analysis products, continuous personal contact with the end user/consumer in order to explain and, if necessary, re-model and refine analysis products, can be beneficial.
Information sharing is an enabler for effective CIMIC. Making information widely available to multiple responding civilian and military elements not only reduces duplication of effort, but also enhances communication, coordination and collaboration and provides a common knowledge base so that critical information can be pooled, analysed and validated. Civil-military collaboration networks need to be designed to facilitate sharing of information among non-military and military organizations. A collaborative information environment facilitates information sharing, while operations security measures will be considered at each step of the process.
Like all steps in the KD process knowledge transfer must be considered as part of a “spiral process” and not an independent final step. Continuous end-user interaction is not possible or even desirable throughout all phases of the KD process, however, consultation and feedback should be sought periodically to ensure suitability and acceptance of the final product. This promotes a better situation understanding of the problem by the end user and can lead to a refinement or change to the original information request. Validation of analysis products is essential in achieving user acceptance during this phase and can be achieved by the inclusion of referenced source data.
It is essential to transfer analysis results into a format and the required depth of detail that satisfies the end user’s specific knowledge requirements (e.g. operational planning process, commander’s decision brief). This step has to ensure that relevant complexity of the operational environment is not over-simplified in favor of simplicity/swiftness of product development and acceptance. Tool support must be tailored to enhance visualization and understanding of complex analysis products.