Military intelligence

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Military intelligence (abbreviated MI, int. Commonwealth, or intel. U.S.), is a military discipline that focuses on the gathering, analysis, protection, and dissemination of information about the enemy, terrain, and weather in an area of operations or area of interest. Intelligence activities are conducted at all levels from tactical to strategic, during peacetime and in war.

Most militaries maintain a military intelligence corps with specialized intelligence units for collecting information in specific ways. Militaries also typically have intelligence staff personnel at each echelon down to battalion level. Intelligence Officers and enlisted soldiers assigned to military intelligence may be selected for their analytical abilities or scores on intelligence tests. They usually receive formal training in these disciplines.


Strategic intelligence

Strategic intelligence is concerned with broad issues such as economics, military capabilities of foreign countries, and political assessments. Relevant changes may be scientific, technical, tactical, or diplomatic, but these changes are analyzed in combination with known facts about the area in question, such as geography, demographics, and industrial capacities.

United States

The United States Armed Forces has various styles of referring to its intelligence functions. The numbering system was borrowed from the French General Staff around the period of World War I. In French usage, the second office (deuxième bureau) performed the intelligence function. When on a joint service staff, intelligence officers are referred to as the J-2. For the individual services, several different names apply.

United States Army

The United States Army refers to an intelligence officer assigned to a general officer's staff as a G-2. Intelligence officers of lower units are referred to as S-2s. In Combat Arms battalions, this post is usually held by a captain, with a first or second lieutenant as a deputy and a Master Sergeant (pay grade E-8) or Sergeant First Class (pay grade E-7) as a staff NCO. Larger military units such as a division or separate brigade have military intelligence Warrant Officers assigned as technical experts in the various intelligence disciplines.

The U.S. Army trains military intelligence (MI) officers at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Fort Holabird, Maryland and Camp Ritchey, Maryland and Fort Devens, Massachusetts were posts previously used by the US Army's military intelligence organization for training.

US Army MI personnel have many sub-specialties, including, HUMINT (Human Intelligence collection), SIGINT (Signals Intelligence Collection and analysis), IMINT (Imagery Intelligence collection and analysis), and Counterintelligence (CI).

CI Agents are sworn military law enforcement agents, given powers of arrest under Article 136b of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). They range in military rank from Specialist (E4) to Major General. Most are Warrant Officers.

HUMINT agents are informally called "Case Officers" and make direct contact with persons of non-US citizenship to collect intelligence information. Some famous Case Officers have included Henry Kissinger who reputedly recruited an entire German village to collect intelligence about Soviet troop movements immediately following World War Two. An agent, "Armando" was the Case Officer for General Noreiga of Panama, guiding him through a rise through the Panamanian military ranks from Sergeant to "El Jefe" and dictator.

SIGINT personnel collect and analyze information collected by the world wide operations of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the lower-echelon MI units in combat zones. An Army Warrant Officer Astronaut went into space aboard a Space Shuttle to deploy SIGINT assets in orbit. The first soldier killed in the Vietnam conflict was a SIGINT collector.

IMINT personnel analyze imagery collected by the many "platforms" used by the MI community. These platforms range from orbiting satellite systems to hand-held camera specially modified for clandestine collection.

United States Navy and Marine Corps

The USN refers to intelligence officers on a flag officer's staff as the N2. At this level, the N2 is usually a senior officer, such as a Captain or Commander. When the senior-most officer is a Captain or lower, the intelligence officer is called an INTELOFF or INTEL and is usually a Lieutenant Commander or Lieutenant with senior enlisted personnel on hand, such as Master Chief Petty Officers or below.

The United States Marine Corps's intelligence structure largely follows the same rules as the Army; however, while at sea naval terminology is used.

The Navy trains USN and USMC military intelligence officers at the Navy and Marine Corps Intelligence Training Center at Naval Air Station, Oceana.

United States Air Force

The USAF refers to intelligence officers as C2 (at higher levels of command) or A2 (at lower levels).

The Air Force trains intelligence officers at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas.

United Kingdom

The intelligence group of the British Army is the Intelligence Corps. The Royal Air Force has the RAF Intelligence Branch. The Royal Navy does not have a dedicated Intelligence Branch. The abbreviation MI used in the names of MI5 and MI6, but neither is a military intelligence organization—the use is a historical vestige relating to their origins. In fact they are correctly called Security Service and Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) respectively. The Defence Intelligence Service (DIS) is a Joint Military and Civil Organisation under the UK Ministry of Defence. Military Intelligence training is conducted at Chicksands in Bedfordshire for all services.

See also


  • N.J.E. Austin and N.B. Rankov, Exploratio: Military and Political Intelligence in the Roman World From the Second Punic War to the Battle of Adrianople. London: Routledge, 1995.
  • Julius Caesar, The Civil War. Translated by Jane F. Mitchell. Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1967.
  • Cassius Dio, Dio's Roman History. Translated by Earnest Cary. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1916.
  • Francis Dvornik, Origins of Intelligence Services. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1974.
  • J.F.C. Fuller, A Military History of the Western World, Vol. 1: From the Earliest Times to the Battle of Lepanto. New York: Da Capo Press, 1987.
  • Richard A. Gabriel and Karen S. Metz, From Summer to Rome; The Military Capabilities of Ancient Armies. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991.
  • John Keegan, Intelligence in War. New York: Knopf, 2003.

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