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Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) is the
|“||[i]ntegrated capabilities to collect, process, exploit and disseminate accurate and timely information that provides the battlespace awareness necessary to successfully plan and conduct operations.||”|
|“||[a]n activity that synchronizes and integrates the planning and operation of sensors, assets, and processing, exploitation, and dissemination systems in direct support of current and future operations. This is an integrated intelligence and operations function.||”|
ISR has become fundamental to successful military operations. ISR assets seek to obtain a superior understanding of an adversary’s information and other strengths and weaknesses to provide information vulnerability analysis. In some cases, it is difficult to distinguish between what is an ISR capability versus an information warfare (IW) capability; in fact, sometimes a platform or system can be both. Thus, ISR is also a critical part of the DII and must be protected, while it provides key information-enabling protective, retaliative, and offensive IW activities.
|“|| While the ISR system is usually thought of in terms of the high-technology hardware that collects much of the raw data, its most vital component is the group of intelligence analysts who take raw information from a number of disparate sources and compile it into a coherent picture. Collecting information, integrating it, and turning it into a product that someone can use is a monumental task. This processing is still expected to be heavily dependent on people. Without evaluation and analysis by trained human beings there is only data — no information, no intelligence — only data: and a lot of it too.
ISR is not a panacea. It has limitations both technological and human. Technology will remain limited by the laws of physics; there are things (like enemy intent) that it can rarely tell us; it is not omnipresent; it is not immune to countermeasures, destruction, or spoofing; it is highly dependent on communications throughput; and it depends on people making good decisions and doing good analysis. While new sensors and systems will improve ISR over the next decade, they will not eliminate any of these systemic problems.
- ↑ U.S. Air Force Glossary (Air Force Doctrine Document 1-2 (Jan. 11, 2007) (full-text).
- ↑ ADP 2-0, at Glossary-2.
- ↑ Information Operations, at 5.
- ↑ H. Kamradt & D. MacDonald, "The Implications of Network-centric Warfare for United States and Multinational Military Operations," at vi (Decision Support Department Occasional Paper 98-1) (U.S. Naval War College, Center For Naval Warfare Studies 1998) (full-text).