Technology management in military intelligence

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The unalterable truth is that many aspects of the intelligence community, particularly those responsible for procurement of high technology hardware, remain wedded to the idea of technology as artefact. The fulcrum of this paper is that technology management can be applied to technology as knowledge, and as a process of enquiry and action, which has implications for the development cycle. Pascale (1999) argues that to improve the success rate of strategic initiatives and attain the level of renewal necessary for successful execution, theories associated with complex adaptive systems ('complexity' for short) need to be considered within a new and developing technology management paradigm. This paper will therefore explore technology as knowledge and as a process of enquiry and action alongside the ideas associated with complexity, such that the success or failure of intelligence related technology management is more fully understood.

1.1 Background

Technology gate keepers operate within a traditional technology paradigm. Garud and Rappa (1991) point out that "evaluation routines" have a tendency to reinforce an established paradigm and preclude the emergence of others. In considering intelligence related technology management therefore, it will be argued that the emerged threat posed by a complex system of primarily low tech seers, perfectly at ease with mass targeting, remains a difficult concept to counter when using traditional approaches.

Following the principles established by Eric Beinhocker (1997), it will be argued that intelligence related technology management continues to operate within a paradigm informed by strategic theories developed in the decade following World War II. The theories are underpinned by the mathematics of mid-nineteenth century physics, with associated assumptions of deterministic cause and effect which continue to exert a huge influence (Pascale, 1999). It will be argued that the approach fails to account for the advancement in understanding of how the living world actually works when considered from the viewpoint of complex adaptive systems; technology as knowledge. This has particular resonance for the organisation of asymmetric terrorist societal groups which constitute the current and immediate threat which defence technology management seeks to counter. By not accounting for 'complexity' and how it might be used to understand the dynamics at work within the target groupings (technology as a process of enquiry and action), this paper will seek to demonstrate that technology procurement will continue to be artificially 'skewed' towards a conventional threat which remains consistent with post-war cause and effect strategic theory.

1.2 Justification for the research

Whilst technology management continues to be influenced by post World War II strategic theories concentrating on technology as artefact, what Garud and Rappa (1991) identified as ideas that are institutionalization at the macro level of shared cognition will continue to dominate. Technological gate-keepers within the MoD will retain outdated methods of understanding what technology management is, and how it can be applied to counter the current threat. Although there is evidence of complexity theory being applied to such diverse elements as the oil industry (Pascale, 1999) and the philosophy of education (Peters, 2008), there is a gap in knowledge of how it might be applied to influence technology management within intelligence related procurement. This paper will explore the idea that dynamic equilibrium (prevalent during the cold war era) no-longer remains a valid theory for intelligence related technological development when considering the threat posed by asymmetric societal-terrorist groups.

As recent as 2009, Geraint Evans examined intelligence failures in the light of recent terrorist atrocities. However, his primary investigation centred on the application and integration of intelligence architecture, still concentrating on technology as artefact, whilst unknowingly reinforcing assumptions based on 19th century Newtonian physics and the associated cause and effect dictat. This is just one example amongst many whereby recent work has sought to address incidents of intelligence breakdown, whilst failing to identify and exploit what Pascale calls the next big idea- complexity theory.

This paper will seek to address a knowledge gap to categorise asymmetric societal-terrorist groups as complex adaptive systems and the ability to counter the threat through recognising technology as knowledge and a process of enquiry and action. Research will be applied to assess how the understanding of complex adaptive systems can be used to inform future intelligence related technological management and development programmes.

1.3 Aim and objectives

Research aim:

to produce recommendations for military intelligence related technology management when considering target groups as complex adaptive systems


critically review the literature to identify how complexity theory has been applied to alternative domains

compare existing definitions of complex adaptive systems with the analysed behaviour of asymmetric societal-terrorist groups

interview intelligence professionals to determine how technology management might be impacted when considering target groups as complex adaptive systems

formulate recommendations for intelligence professionals when technology management is required to target complex adaptive systems

Chapter 2 Research definition

2.1 Initial review of the literature

The Open University course T840 'Technology Management', underpins the initial research into technology management with regard to technology as knowledge and as a process of enquiry and action. Whilst seeking to understand how asymmetric societal-terrorist groups might be understood in the light of complexity theory, Jane Henry in the Open University Course B822 'Creativity, Innovation & Change' provides a useful starting point in understanding the background to complexity theory. The current occupation with intelligence failure, in the light of recent terrorist atrocities, has led to many defence orientated journal articles dealing specifically with military intelligence, and these will be utilised to expand the research.

Evans (2009) critiques the intelligence cycle in seeking to understand where failures are occurring in the process. He discusses the relationship between process (technology as enquiry and action) and information (technology as knowledge); something that is seen as key by Hughes et al in the the Open University Course T837 'Information Focused Systems'. Both Evans and Hughes are fixated by information flow within the context of technical carriers, viz. Evans discusses operating concepts such as Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR), whilst Hughes et al explores, at a more detailed level, electromagnetic radiation. Nevertheless, the philosophical approach for both has much in common. Whereas Hughes succeeds in discussing why information systems exist, to model the real world; Evans fails to move beyond an internal critique of existing approaches to technology management, and ultimately reverts to dealing with technology as artifact. This trend continues in other articles concerned with intelligence failure. In an article less concerned with technology than with consequences, Honig (2008) discusses why surprise attacks continue to happen, but again does not identify something that Hughes in T837 immediately recognizes - technology related information systems have value only when they model information content drawn from the environment (technology as knowledge).

Of course, it would be disingenuous to suggest that Evans and Honig are not aware of the operational environment to a greater or lesser extent. Their approach however does appear to be atypical, in that they fail to challenge underlying assumptions; this ultimately affects how they approach the problem of intelligence failure.

Pascale (1999) argues that strategic theories that underpin the rationale behind most decision making processes today have their roots in the decade following World War II; which saw a world operating within a dynamic equilibrium, codified by the cold war stand-off. Hulnick (2006) supports this view when discussing one of the main vehicles for intelligence assessment in use today. The intelligence 'estimate' (technology as knowledge), Hulnick argues, is a creature of the Cold War, but has its roots in the 1939-45 conflict.

The assessment of sources which critique strategic theories will be important as ultimately theories guide investment. The Open University Course T840 'Technology Management' discusses the difference between conventional product and process development and the reverse product cycle. Cited in T840, the Abernathy-Utterbck model (1978) identifies that where revolutionary technology is utilised, development is fluid and prototype innovation is high. This paper will examine evidence which suggests that decision makers may seek to address failures in intelligence by high-end technology investment, accompanied by high risk, high cost, and long lead times.

Sources which challenge the prevalent, underlying strategic assumptions, from the viewpoint of understanding target groupings in the light of complexity theory, will be assessed by this paper. The reverse product cycle as described by Barras (1986, cited in T840) might be seen as a more prudent approach to technology management (when developing artefact) if the full implications for complexity theory are realised, with high-end investment utilised only when the implications for intelligence related technology management are more fully understood.

Whilst critiquing current approaches to intelligence related technology management, the use of sources which seek to understand complexity theory will be drawn on. Pascale (1999) provides a useful background of how complex adaptive systems operate, particularly in the oil industry, whilst Peters (2008) expands on the issues with a more in-depth overview of the implications for education. Pascale's article is of primary importance, as it demonstrates how even high tech organisations like Shell might be viewed as complex adaptive systems. The implications of this for military intelligence related technology management are wide ranging, but will remain outside the scope of this research paper.

The aim will be to concentrate on understanding asymmetric societal-terrorist groups as complex adaptive systems only; and the associated implications for military intelligence related technology management when considering technology as knowledge and as a process of enquiry and action.

Chapter 3 Methodology

3.1 Proposed research methods and techniques

The research will involve interacting with intelligence professionals. All of these individuals, to a greater lesser extent, will have been, or remain, involved in intelligence related technology management in real world operational scenarios. Because of the sensitivity involved, the research will be tightly controlled (see section 3.4 - Ethics). The key points of the primary research phase are based on Case Study Research Design and Methods, Third Edition (Yin, 2003).

Primary Research

Determine and define the research scope

Unstructured and semi-structured interviews will be used.

10 experts will be used to provide information through discussion and prompting.

The complexity of intelligence related technology management and vagaries of operational experience will be poorly served by the use of set questions.

The sensitivity of the subject matter will preclude questionnaires being issued.

Each expert will be asked to choose an exemplar case study to discuss how 'complex adaptive systems' might impact intelligence related technology management.

Determine how to gather the data on the research topic:

Face-to-face meetings will be arranged at the respondents place of work, or at a neutral setting.

Personal contacts will be utilised to identify the experts from across a range of operational areas.

Phone-calls will be used to set up the meetings initially.

The results will then be collated.

Evaluate and analyse the data:

Notes from each interview will be analysed using analytical techniques, to include, but not be limited to:

Systems mapping.

Cause & Effect diagramming.

Rich Pictures.

Functional breakdown structures.

Flow diagrams.

UML modelling; viz. use cases.

The information will be interpreted in order to answer the aim and objectives of the research.

Conclusions will be derived with regard to the aim and objectives.

Conclusions will be derived regarding the wider applicability of the research.

Suggestions will be made where further progress could be made by continuing the research.

Secondary research

Review of the relevant academic literature:

An assessment of the related academic literature is required.

Section 2.1 provides an initial literature review.

Section 3.2 identifies additional sources identified, but not reviewed in the initial literature review.

The reference list will continue to be developed as the research develops.

3.2 Sources of literature and other information

The Open University Postgraduate Certificate/Diploma in Technology Management course(s) will provide the underlying sources and theoretical approach to research. This will be supplemented primarily by the Open University on-line library, which through the initial literature search, has proved to hold an abundance of relevant material, particularly with regard to complexity theory and military intelligence.

The aim will be to further supplement the research by drawing on the research facilities available at The University of Bristol. The university has an excellent international reputation in research. In the latest independent assessment of research quality (RAE 2008), over 61 per cent of the research work assessed in 48 research fields at Bristol was awarded either the top 4* rating, defined as 'world leading', or the 3* rating, classified as 'internationally excellent'. The library services are made available to Open University students via the SCONUL Access scheme.

Finally, and for completeness, the list below identifies sources found during the initial literature search, or used during the certificate / diploma level courses, but which have yet to be drawn on. As they have not been quoted, they are not included in the reference section at the end of this proposal.

Fowles, M. 2004, T846 Technology Strategy, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes.

Gintis, H. Dec 2006, "Review of: The Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity, and the Radical Remaking of Economics", Journal of Economic Literature, vol. 44, no. 4, pp. 1018-31.

Hayden, M.V. Sep/Oct2010, "The State of the Craft - Is Intelligence Reform Working", World Affairs, vol. 173, no. 3, pp. 35-48.

Martin, John., Bell, Ros. 2007, "Managing Problems Creatively" in B822 Creativity, Innovation and Change, ed. The Open University, 2nd edn, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, pp. 29-57-71-95.

Studeman, C.M. Feb 2009, "7 Myths of Intelligence", U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, vol. 135, no. 2, pp. 64-69.

3.3 Planning and scheduling

A Gantt chart has been utilised to illustrate key dates for the complete period of research, working at the level of separate weeks. The T802 MSc Research Study Calendar provides a breakdown of the key stages and associated tasks. These have been transposed onto the Gantt chart below, with key holiday periods (red bar) included for completeness.

3.4 Ethical considerations

I have read and understood the ethical considerations, as described in section 7.3 of The Open University Course Guide for the T802 MSc Research Course. All material used, will be referenced in the appropriate manner, taking note of the data protection issues that may arise. Where source information is not already in the public domain at the time of use for the T802 course, permission will be requested to use the material in the normal manner.

There is a moral obligation to sensitively handle the viewpoints of serving intelligence professionals in gathering the research data, and not to misuse professional trust built up over many years. The information presented will be generic in nature, whilst not referring to real world operations or capability, but rather to how technology management might be impacted in broad operational terms. Where actual operational experience may be valid to illustrate particular points made by the interviewee; the author's experience will be drawn on to illustrate the point that is being made.

3.5 Risk assessment

Development of the research phase is low risk. The structured and semi-structured interviews will be conducted in an office based environment, acknowledging appropriate awareness of emergency exits and fire muster points. Site visits are specifically excluded.

Chapter 4 Supporting information

4.1 List of previous courses

T837 Systems engineering

T840 Technology management: an integrative approach

M883 Software requirements for business systems

B822 Creativity, innovation and change

T846 Technology strategy

4.2 Relevance of subject matter to declared degree

The proposed research has strong synergy with the declared degree. It draws on many aspects of the subject matter discussed in the compulsory modules. T840 discusses product cycles and their appropriate application; a subject very relevant to intelligence related technology management. Intelligence related equipment procurement and its appropriateness to extant target groupings is at the heart of this research.

Technology strategy (T846) expands on these elements when looking at the various schools of strategy that have come to the fore at various points in recent history. The relevance of these to the subject matter, not least the Learning School and the ideas behind emergence and complexity, will be central to understanding the impact of complex adaptive systems on intelligence related technology management.

When considering optional modules within the declared degree, both T837 (Systems engineering) and B822 (Creativity, innovation and change) address, to a greater or lesser extent, the theories behind complexity and emergence.

The subject matter for this research proposal therefore provides a vehicle to draw many of these elements together. The research will provide an opportunity to explore the relevance of the identified elements in a contemporary and highly topical domain, and perhaps importantly, begin to fill a knowledge gap which on first look, does not appear to have been addressed.