Speaking prose in a world of verse

FMSO-JRIC and Open Source Intelligence: speaking prose in a world of verse

Jacob W. Kipp

The views expressed are those of the author and should not be construed to represent the views of the Department of the Army or the Department of Defense.


There has been much debate about the role of open source information and Open Source Intelligence (OSINT)in national security since the events of 2001. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 calls for the newly created Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to create a “center for the collection, analysis, production and dissemination of open source intelligence to the Intelligence Community (IC).” (1) The Act further calls upon the DNI to ensure that the IC makes efficient and effective use of open source information and analysis and integrate open source intelligence into the national intelligence cycle. (2) In response to this interest and legislative action, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (OUSD(I)) undertook a broad assessment of OSINT organization and practices within the Department of Defense (DOD) and reported that there was a lack of formal doctrine, policy, and design.

In response to this assessment, the OUSD(I) chartered the Defense Open Source Council (DOSC) to establish OSINT as an intelligence discipline. On the basis of his involvement with the OUSD(I) working group, Mr. Craig Manley, Department of the Army (DA) G2 Functional Coordinator for OSINT, noted the challenges before DOSC were significant and involved. The challenges included: developing a comprehensive understanding of open source requirements, developing an open source intelligence strategy for DOD, formulating an investment strategy, recommending a management construct, facilitating the development of open source policy and doctrine, and increasing DOD participation in IC-level open source forums. (3)

Given this increased interest in OSINT, the obvious first question is the definition of this type of intelligence. The classic definition of the intelligence process has been “the discovery of secrets by secret means.” (4) The distinctive feature of the other forms of intelligence has always been the technical and human difficulties associated with the covert collection of materials and their application within the Intelligence Cycle (requirements definition, collection management, source discovery and validation, multi-source fusion, compelling presentation). OSINT differs from these in that it applies the Intelligence Cycle to the abundance of publicly available materials. Obtaining the materials does not pose a first-order problem. The primary task is transforming such source material into products that are useful for the IC and larger Joint, inter-agency, and inter-governmental communities.

The value of open source information has long been recognized by intelligence professionals. Robin Winks in his history of the relationship between academic research and intelligence made this point one of his critical conclusions. The two worlds share much in method but are distinct in product. They must share an equal commitment to civic virtue in a democratic society. The late Sherwood Kent, a leading practitioner and student of intelligence, spoke of the overwhelming majority of all information needed for the production of classified intelligence as coming from open source information, “of the things our state must know about other states some 90 percent may be discovered through open means.” (5) In 1946, on the eve of birth of the modern U.S. IC, Kent noted the difficulty of defining intelligence, since the term was and is applied to both the craft and the product. (6) The product might better be called knowledge, and the Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) has been in that business since its founding. All-source intelligence, which includes the ten percent information, produces a special kind of knowledge that must be protected with varying degrees of classification and by what Churchill called a “body guard of lies.” FMSO’s products are a lesser but important sort of knowledge that can be used for the training and education of the force.

Cold War Origins of FMSO

The veterans of the FMSO, a small organization at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, belonging to the US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), have been producing unclassified intelligence since its founding during the Cold War. (7) They find themselves in a situation similar to that of Monsieur Jourdain, protagonist of Moliere’s play, “Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme.” Jourdain, anxious to ensure the successful pursuit of a lady of great rank and quality, seeks the assistance of the Philosophy Master to compose a note to that purpose. When told that he has two options, verse or prose, Jourdain is pleasantly surprised: “Well, what do you know about that! These forty years now, I’ve been speaking in prose without knowing it!” Instead of prose and verse, the Soviet Army Studies Office (SASO), the precursor of FMSO, confronted the choice of tasking it to provide unclassified or classified knowledge. As a result of that choice, FMSO has many years of experience in providing the former. In this case, the lady might be called funding, and the pleasant surprise was that unclassified knowledge was and is increasingly in demand.

Thus, FMSO’s unclassified experience was the direct result of command intent. General William Richardson, then TRADOC Commander, created SASO on the model of the Soviet Studies Research Center at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, which was founded by Peter Vigor and then headed by Christopher Donnelly. It conducted open source analysis of the Soviet military for Britain’s Battle Command Doctrine. General Richardson’s intent was explicit–create an analogous research center to engage in the same process and in close cooperation with its British counterpart. He selected Fort Leavenworth as the location because of the critical role that the Combined Arms Center (CAC) played in the development of Army doctrine. FMSO’s method was to conduct deep, mid- and long- term research on topics in order to create a context for understanding emerging trends in the Soviet military and state.

General Richardson sought to create a team of military and civilian experts to conduct such research, develop relevant archives of open source materials, and publish broadly to encourage debate and discussion of relevant aspects of Soviet doctrine, force structure, military art, history, and technology. The audience was to be the U.S. Army, the Joint Community, and the National Security Community. Taskings were to come from the Chief of Staff of the Army, the TRADOC Commander, and the CAC Commander. By common agreement, a fourth tasker was added: the Soviets themselves, with the understanding that analysts would address new topics and subjects which emerged from the Office’s deep study of Soviet open source materials. Publications were to be in the marketplace of ideas, subject to open debate and discussion. The military experts were to be drawn from Foreign Area Officers (FAOs) possessing knowledge of Russian, and having advanced civilian education and deep expertise on the Soviet military. Most were graduates of the U.S. Army Russian Institute in Garmisch, Germany. The civilian experts were to be drawn from academe with advanced graduate degrees in Russian studies and extensive publications on Russian and Soviet military history and affairs with many having broad experience in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. The concept depended upon a culture of mutual respect and support across the “two cultures” of academe and the professional military. The team concept was embedded in SASO’s initial leadership, Dr. Bruce Menning served as director and Colonel David Glantz served as head of research. Both men encouraged close ties between SASO and the Army “school house,” especially the Command and General Staff College (CGSC) and the School for Advanced Military Studies (SAMS). Their admonition echoed that of Moltke the Elder to officers of the Prussian General Staff to “be more than you seem.” SASO served the Army well by providing a comprehensive understanding of Soviet operational art, tactics, and military doctrine.

The emblem of SASO, which is the basis of that of FMSO, had a Red Star and the single Russian word, “znanie,” (knowledge) upon it. The current emblem carries the globe inside a star with words for knowledge in ten languages surrounding the star. While the focus of FMSO research has become global, the method applied remains the same. The corpus of SASO’s products is still available on FMSO’s website or at the Combined Arms Research Library (CARL) at Fort Leavenworth. (8) Another key repository of SASO materials is The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, a quarterly scholarly publication, founded and still edited by David Glantz. (9)

FMSO and Post-Cold War World

With the end of the Cold War, the Velvet Revolutions in Eastern Europe, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, SASO became FMSO. Over the next decade and a half the organization’s focus shifted with the Post-Cold War environment and emergence of new regions of crisis and transnational threats. No small organization devoted to a single state can easily evolve into a robust organization covering the entire globe. FMSO’s leadership focused on maintaining the methodology, which had sustained the organization during the Cold War and gradually built up analytical expertise and research support in critical areas. Transnational threats, narco-trafficking, international criminal organizations, and terrorism became one area of focus with a particular investment in Latin American expertise. Graham Turbiville, a FMSO senior analyst, founded and edited the journal, Low Intensity Conflict and Law Enforcement, which addressed these topics. A second area of focus was the new security environment in Europe and the transitions of former Communist states of Central and Eastern Europe and the successor states of the Soviet Union. A third initial area emerged out of the crisis in the Balkans. FMSO drew upon its existing expertise, drew in Yugoslav FAOs, and engaged in outreach to academic expertise in the United States and Europe. Christopher Donnelly and I collaborated in founding European Security, which addressed the latter two topics.

As the Post-Cold War environment gave rise to new areas of interest and new requirements, FMSO continued to evolve. With the reduction in the number of FAOs and the emergence of new and exotic areas of national interest, FMSO faced a challenge to find new sources of talented military analysts. The “luxury” of a single, primary threat had given way to a more dynamic international order, which was being recast by the forces of globalization. FMSO became part of the Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) but continued to follow its own research plan and its distinct methodology. FMSO analysts conducted extensive research on peace and stability operations, the Chechen War, the Revolution in Military Affairs, and Information Operations and Information Warfare. It actively supported U.S. missions in the Balkans. FMSO analysts have taken an active part in the on-going debate over asymmetric threats across the full spectrum of conflicts. In short, FMSO focused on emerging threats in a new and dynamic international security environment.

Emerging threats gave rise to the need for a repository of open source materials devoted to more remote regions and states where crises might ignite and demand that officers and actors become “instantaneous” experts. The IC’s response was the creation of the World Basic Information Library (WBIL), which it entrusted to FMSO’s management. The IC provided a basic taxonomy to guide the effort. FMSO began a close collaboration with the Open Source Information System (OSIS), an unclassified network established in 1994, and serving the IC with open source materials. Under the leadership of Graham Turbiville, Karl Prinslow, and Robert E. Waller, FMSO took a unique approach to this task and enlisted Reserve Component (RC) personnel from all Services to act as the collectors. The Reservists, who were recruited from the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) and volunteered to provide entries for WBIL, served for “points” towards retirement and were organized into special teams covering various topics. (10)

The Reservists, who now number more than 160, are part of the Joint Reserve Virtual Organization (JRVO). FMSO also found another pool of Reservists among Military Intelligence (MI) personnel waiting for clearances who could also be utilized for open source collection. As a result of this successful utilization of reserve personnel, FMSO was selected in January 2001 to manage the newly established Fort Leavenworth Joint Reserve Intelligence Center (JRIC) joining 27 other JRICs around the country. With the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) and the decline in the available IRR pool, FMSO turned to contract support to sustain the effort, utilizing workers with disabilities from Digital Consulting and Software Services (DCSS)Ability to provide entries. (11) At present, WBIL has more than 400,000 entries. Many Reservists have proven their capacity for independent research and have made critical contributions to FMSO’s production on issues relating to transnational threats, proliferation, and terrorism.

Critical changes for FMSO began as result of its deepening involvement with the Joint and Reserve Communities. In 2000, TRADOC DCSINT became the parent headquarters for FMSO, terminating its direct tie to CAC, where it remained a tenant organization under the TRADOC DCSINT and working closely with Threats. Its missions under TRADOC DCSlNT are to–

[] Analyze foreign dimensions of emerging operational environments (OEs) for the Army, the IC, and the Joint Community.

[] Produce quality assessments and databases.

[] Provide intelligence support to operations, training, and Army and Joint Transformation.

[] Build productive relationships with foreign security specialists around the world.

[] Base production and database development efforts on a robust Joint Reserve Component utilization program.

[] Operate and staff the JRIC at Fort Leavenworth and integrate IC programs.

TRADOC DCSINT approves the annual FMSO research plan. FMSO works closely with other elements of TRADOC DCSINT in the development of the OE, the Contemporary Operational Environment (COE), and the Joint Operational Environment (JOE). FMSO supports the JOE by providing international speakers for international conferences over the last two years. With TRADOC DCSINT support, FMSO has retained a close connection to CAC. Its director serves as a member of the editorial board of Military Review. Its analysts support the CGSC and the SAMS and are academic advisors to CGSC Masters of Military Art and Science (MMAS) theses and SAMS monographs. FMSO’s researchers contribute to the formulation of the CAC Commander’s annual list of Top 28 Research Topics. (12) FMSO works closely with CAC in identifying sources of international conflict and regional instability which might prompt U.S. engagement.

Impact of the GWOT on the FMSO

The GWOT brought other changes to FMSO. Earlier in-depth research on the Soviet-Afghan War proved particularly valuable. Les Grau, the author of The Bear Went Over the Mountain, The Other Side of the Mountain, The Soviet-Afghan War and 29 related articles, found himself very much in demand with senior headquarters and deploying units. In 2004, General John Abizaid, named Mr. Grau a U.S. CENTCOM Fellow. The Other Side of the Mountain, an account of the Soviet-Afghan War from the Mujahedin side by Grau and Ali Jalali, later Minister of Internal Affairs of Afghanistan, remains popular with those deploying to the theater. Mr. Grau heads a team of civilians and Reservists devoted to research on the Middle East and Central Asia.

In the fall of 2001, close cooperation with Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) led to the creation of a Joint Reserve Team tasked with addressing issues of Homeland Defense. This team evolved into the Northern Command (NORTHCOM) J2 Detachment at the Fort Leavenworth JRIC. FMSO also undertook on its own initiative, the creation of its Mexico Southwest and Canada Border Team. The team, composed of one civilian analyst and four reservists, produces two periodicals: The Mexico Newsbriefs (five issues weekly) and the Canada Newsbriefs (two issues weekly). These reports are unclassified intelligence summaries of articles relevant to U.S. security, primarily aimed at the tactical level but including operational and strategic reporting. They are collected and translated from approximately 50 Mexican, Central American, and Canadian press and public information sources. The team and the NORTHCOM detachment developed a close, cooperative arrangement around the exploitation of open source information. NORTHCOM appreciated the advantages derived from the close association between its detachment and the FMSO analysts and assisted in the relocation and expansion of the Fort Leavenworth JRIC into its new, three-story facility with enhanced connectivity, thanks to the support of the Joint Reserve Intelligence Program (JRIP). This expanded facility has created opportunities for more reserve intelligence units to drill at the JRIC and other agencies to locate there. Thanks to the team’s efforts, FMSO has also forged productive partnerships in the area of OSINT with the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS)–now the Open Source Center–and the Border Patrol’s Field Intelligence Center (BORFIC). Recognizing the need to train personnel in open source methodology, FMSO in conjunction with the NORTHCOM J2 Detachment developed the Open Source Intelligence Research and Analysis (OSIRA) course. FMSO has also supported the National Guard Bureau’s training effort in the same area.

Two other areas have enjoyed rapid growth over the last few years. FMSO’s traditional focus on Latin America has taken on new direction with the application of a global information system (GIS) to support digital database development. Dr. Geoffrey Demarest has been particularly active in applying multiple layers of digitized data to the study of criminality and insurgency and incorporating property data into his analytical efforts. The intent is to use the GIS project on Colombia as a test bed for more general application into other regions of conflict. Dr. Demarest is also in the process of founding a scholarly journal, Ibero-American Security, the first issue of which will include papers published at a recent conference on Latin American security held in Colombia. FMSO provides foreign language news monitoring and Internet monitoring service on U.S.-Mexico border issues and on Venezuela-Colombia border issues. FMSO funds and guides extensive unclassified research on violence in Colombia as well as a major cultural geography study in Mexico. FMSO identifies threats to U.S. security emerging from the region and plans unclassified approaches to understanding those threats.

The second area has been the development of a FMSO research program on China. Mr. Tim Thomas, who has spearheaded FMSO’s work on Information Operations (IO), published a collection of essays on Chinese IO under the title Dragon Bytes in 2004. A second volume devoted to Chinese, Russian and other approaches to IO will appear shortly under the title Cyber Silhouettes. In August 2005, FMSO hosted a conference on Chinese views of Central Asia. The proceedings of that conference should appear shortly. FMSO and the Asian Security Detachment, located at Camp Zama, Japan, and sharing a long-term commitment to OSINT, are looking for ways to engage in closer collaboration and mutual support. In addition to these new areas of study, FMSO continues to address Russia and other Eurasian countries. A major focus remains the conflict in Chechnya. FMSO recently began production of the unclassified Russian Defense and Security Watch, an Internet publication available on a weekly basis on OSIS.

FMSO’s Future: Building on the Past to Meet New Challenges

Over the last several years FMSO has enjoyed sustained support from Congress, the JRIP, and the DA G2, who have seen value in its open source efforts. The OUSD(I) noted several areas of FMSO “best practice” in OSINT. INTELINK gave FMSO its annual award as the best website on OSIS. Recently, Representative Rob Simmons, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information-Sharing and Terrorism Risk, invited FMSO, OSIS, and FBIS to participate in a Capitol Hill fair on OSINT. FMSO is actively involved in the process of reviewing the initial draft of FMI 2-22.9, Open Source Intelligence, which is intended to be the Army’s basic guide to OSINT and will be the first such service level publication.

FMSO benefits from the engaged leadership of TRADOC DCSINT. The TRADOC DCSINT’s guidance regarding FMSO’s organizational culture and mandate has eleven points:

1. FMSO is to act as a bridge between the worlds of intelligence and academe in the search for knowledge.

2. FMSO’s contribution to the body of security-useable knowledge must show a valuable return on investment.

3. FMSO is to support the main effort of the U.S. military, but should not lose sight of its mandate to look away from the herd and over the horizon, to be vigilant of new threats and sensitive to the certainty of surprise.

4. FMSO should address not only threats but also the business and science of OSINT. It is a Research and Development (R&D) shop for best practices and new opportunities for security-relevant scholarship.

5. FMSO’s focus is beyond the borders of the U.S., and so it must maintain competence in foreign languages and culture, remain in direct contact with and among foreigners, and is to be familiar with their ideas and work.

6. FMSO can assist current intelligence surge requirements, but its vision is fixed on mid- and long-term trends and developments.

7. FMSO should not be in the business of advising on the organization or method of U.S. forces, but its unique perspectives on the OE and on foreign experiences call on it to write about tactics, operational art, and strategy as informed observers regarding concepts and experiences of our potential opposition whether insurgents or conventional armed forces.

8. FMSO is to capture and report allied foreign lessons-learned and foreign perceptions regarding U.S. policies and actions.

9. As the FMSO mission grows, it must maintain information security even as it works in an unclassified world.

10. FMSO should participate in the development and training of future unclassified intelligence analysts.

11. FMSO needs to manage its growth to ensure its matrix culture by effective networking, which will involve a wide range of associations and cooperation.

In accomplishing these tasks, FMSO will deliver a range of products to its consumers in the Army, Joint, Intelligence, inter-governmental, and inter-agency communities. These will include foundation knowledge (including basic infrastructure, institutional and cultural data); shaping information (including more specific military, cultural and legal data, such as property ownership, family and business associations, legal and institutional structure, religion and religious leadership, opinion and predilection surveying, biographic and historical items); situational data (including recent history and event geography and daily monitoring of some areas); and complex analyses (including its mid- and long-range studies on security-related topics.) The goal is to make this web of products valuable to a wide range of consumers. FMSO looks forward to working with the DA G2 Coordinator for Open Source and other Army open source centers to develop “best practices” in the application of OSINT to the creation of knowledge useful to warfighters.


(1.) Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, Public Law 108-458 December 17, 2004, Sec. 1012 Revised Definition of National Intelligence, http://travel.state.gov/pdf/irtpa2004.pdf accessed 4 October 2005.

(2.) Ibid., Sec. 1052 Open Source Intelligence, Sense of Congress, http:// travel.state.gov/pdf/irtpa2004.pdf accessed 4 October 2005.

(3.) Craig Manley, “Managing Army Open Source Activities,” Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin, 31, no. 4, (2005): 5-6.

(4.) “A Consumer’s Guide to Intelligence,” CIA (Office of Public Affairs), Washington, DC, 1999), p. vii.

(5.) Robin W. Winks, Cloak and Gown: Scholars in the Secret War, 1939-1961 (New York: William Morrow, 1987), 456.

(6.) Michael Warner, “Wanted: A Definition of ‘Intelligence’,” http://www.cia.gov/csi/studies/vol46no3/article02.html accessed 4 October 2005.

(7.) The author wishes to thank Ms Karen Gaffin, a former FMSO intern, for the research on “The Foreign Military Studies Office: An Institutional History,” which made possible the writing of this section of this article.

(8.) For access to these publications consult Foreign Military Studies Office, Military Experience and Assessments from the Soviet Union and the Cold War Period, http://fmso.leavenworth.army.mil/products.htm#MilEx accessed 10 October 2005.

(9.) The Journal of Slavic Military Studies was originally titled The Journal of Soviet Military Studies. The change of names reflected a broadening of interest to the militaries of the Post-Communist states of Central and Eastern Europe and those of the successor states to the Soviet Union.

(10.) Graham H. Turbiville Jr., Karl E. Prinslow, and Robert E. Waller, “Assessing Emerging Threats Through Open Sources,” Military Review, September/October (1999), 70.

(11.) For more on the DCSS Ability program in support of the WBIL see: Matt Stearns, “Bill gives Boost to Disabled Workers,” The Kansas City Star,” 8 October 2005 at http://www.kansas.com/mld/kansas/news/state/12850405.htm accessed 10 October 2005.

(12.) For an examination of FMSO’s role in CAC research and publications see: “Combined Arms Center Annual Research Index-2004,” A special issue of Military Review, 2005.

Dr. Jacob W. Kipp is Director, FMSO, Fort Leavenworth. Kansas He received his BS front Shippensburg State College. Pennsylvania and his MA and PhD in History from Pennsylvania State University. From 1971 to 1985 he taught Russian and Military History at Kansas State University. In 1986, Dr. Kipp joined the SASO as a senior military analyst, and in 2003 he became director of FMSO. He has published extensively on Soviet and Russian military history and affairs.

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