I continue to read “Analysis of Tactical Intelligence Experience in Southeast Asia,” about all the problems, successes, and failures of Intelligence during Vietnam.

After the conflict, researchers found that nearly 75% of those on the tactical level reported not getting adequate intelligence. That’s an astounding amount of decision-makers not getting their questions answered about the enemy situation.

One reason for this is because the cycle to gather, analyze, and disseminate intelligence took so long.

Another problem is that much of the intelligence was geared towards the discovery the enemy’s strategic plans and intentions, as opposed to the discovery of real-time location of enemy units.

Here’s what this looks like: you’re an infantry company commander in Vietnam. You’re on patrol every day trying to find the enemy. Some days you find him. Some days you don’t. You want nothing more than to go out and stack VC, but by the time you find them, they’re already ambushing you. This is the only way you can find them.

Wouldn’t it be much easier if you received intelligence from signals intercepts from grid coordinate X, confirming the real-time location of the Viet Cong? Yes, yes, it would, but most often, that’s not the kind of intelligence being produced. In this case, Intelligence really would drive the fight.


Key Takeaways:

We have to shorten our Intelligence Cycle — not shorten it by removing steps, but by speeding up the generation of collection requirements, gathering that information, processing and analyzing it, and producing and disseminating the Intelligence. My all-time favorite quote is from former GE CEO Jack Welch, who said, “If the rate of change on the outside is greater than the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” Intelligence has a shelf-life. What is current right now may be ancient history in 24 hours. The lesson here is that if we can’t generate current intelligence faster than our enemy can change it, we risk mission failure.

We must understand the intelligence needs at the tactical level. Sure, some may say that the intelligence during Vietnam was focused on the strategic level because that was more important than the tactical level. Maybe. But when it comes to effecting the tactical victories that add up to strategic victories, we have to provide intelligence support to the tactical level.


I’ll continue picking my way through the report and providing my thoughts at my blog. You can download the report at this link: https://guerrillamerica.com/2020/10/07/the-intelligence-problems-in-vietnam-lessons-learned-pt-1/

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