The Army’s intelligence leaders are prioritizing the use of “open source intelligence” under a strategy released earlier this year, as the service is increasing open-source training and plans to make its OSINT courses more widely available across the intelligence community.
Intelligence agencies are grappling with how to prioritize an explosion of publicly available information and commercial data, often available on the Internet and through other digital means. The 2023 National Intelligence Strategy calls for the intelligence community to harness open source data alongside other high priority areas like artificial intelligence and advanced analytics.
The Army published its OSINT strategy earlier this summer. The document is not public, but service officials say they are working to release a public version of the strategy.
Lt. Gen. Laura Potter, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for intelligence, said she has experienced firsthand how OSINT has proven invaluable, in its modern sense, dating back to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, as well as during the conflict in Afghanistan and up through the current war in Ukraine.
“We really live in an environment where the vast majority of information that we get is generated from publicly available information and commercially available information,” Potter said on Inside the IC. “We’ve made great strides in this area, and we decided to put a strategy together and publish that. And we really see this as a discipline that tips and cues other disciplines as an intelligence discipline of first resort. We think it’s critical to our future success.”
Dennis Eger, the Army’s senior open source intelligence advisor, said the new strategy focuses on how the service can build an “OSINT collection force.” The Army has developed a four-week OSINT basic course to focus on areas ranging from OSINT skills to civil liberties.
The service has particularly focused on building a modern training platform for OSINT. Eger said the “live, synchronous, virtual platform” allows soldiers to train on OSINT from their home station.
Several years ago, the Army began building specific, open source collection teams into its major formations. The Army’s intelligence directorate is tracking how many individuals have gone through the OSINT basic course through an open-source skill identifier, Eger said, to track personnel as they move through the service.
“That’s what allows us to institutionalize it, and we’re building them out in all future formations,” Eger said.
And starting next year, Eger said the Army also plans to make virtual training course available to personnel in the other military services and throughout the intelligence community.
“The key is that we all take a look at our training programs, to say, ‘how do they nest? Where are they the same and where are they different?’” Eger said.
And as some experts argue the intelligence community still prioritizes classified sources and methods over open-source, the Army is also focused on ensuring its leadership understands OSINT as well.
“Making sure we’re educating leaders, both intel leaders, and the consumers of our intelligence, our warfighting leaders, on the value of the discipline, but also how carefully it has to be managed and implemented,” Potter said.