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Indian Intelligence Organisation
Need or a Comprehensive Knowledge Management Strategy & Policy

Ldr AR Saluja, SC

Indian Intelligence Organisation

In India the highest body in the intelligence structure is the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA). It functions under the Prime Minister, and comprises Ministers of Defence, External Affairs, Home and Finance. This body is assisted by a high powered committee of secretaries, the chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee, directors Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the chairman Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC).

Next in the multi tier intelligence system is the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) in which senior representatives of the ministries of Defence, Home and External Affairs, the RAW, the IB and the three directors of intelligence of the Defence services, are integrated under a full time Secretary. This committee is the highest intelligence assessment body chartered to prepare national intelligence estimates and perspectives on short and long term basis.

The real task of collection and collation, analysis and dissemination of intelligence rests with the large number of Intelligence agencies functioning in the country. Intelligence Bureau (IB) is the oldest intelligence agency, functioning under the Union Home Ministry, which is tasked to provide inputs on developments affecting internal security and counter intelligence. Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) established in 1985 is organized to gather and analyse external intelligence inputs that affect national security. The aim of military intelligence in our country is primarily to collect information and assess the capabilities of foreign military establishments that directly or indirectly threaten the security of the country. The intelligence gathering apparatus includes a wide variety of surveillance and intelligence gathering systems including space based surveillance systems, air borne surveillance - manned and un-manned, signal intelligence (SIGINT), electronic intelligence (ELINT) and vital human intelligence HUMINT sources. In India the three arms of the defence service have their own intelligence formations, headed by directors of intelligence from the respective service, under whom there is a directorate which collects intelligence and processes it for further dissemination to the operators in the field as well as service commanders.

Besides the two primary civilian intelligence organisations and the military intelligence infrastructure, there are a number of other organisations, which carry out the task of intelligence gathering and analysis, mainly oriented towards security, vigilance, enforcement and policing functions. These agencies have their defined sphere of activities concerning their specific organisations. Some such organisations in the country are - Central Bureau of Investigation, Narcotics Control Bureau, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Enforcement Directorate, field level intelligence units of the Police Organisations of different states. Besides these, field level intelligence units of para-military organisations which include - Border Security Force, Indo Tibetan Border Force, Central Reserve Police Force, Territorial Army, Central Industrial Security Force, Assam Rifles and Railway Police.1

Need for Knowledge Management

In such a large and diverse Intelligence organisation, often there would be diverse groups or agencies flung across the organisation collecting and collating similar intelligence information. In the existing system of communications and integration, neither of these groups would have any clue about the other’s work or efforts, unless there is an effective knowledge management infrastructure.

In today’s knowledge driven military environment, the Indian Intelligence organisation needs to be integrated, responsive, innovative, competent and efficient. It can not depend on the current abysmally low levels of intra-organisational interaction and coordination to contribute towards the flow of appropriate information at the appropriate time. To effectively function as an efficient Intelligence structure there is a need to utilize the currently available technology and expertise to set up an integrated communication network based on a comprehensive national Intelligence Knowledge Management (IKM) strategy.

Components of Intelligence Knowledge Management

Over the years that these varied organisations have been in existence, their operatives and sensors have collected large amounts of data. This includes knowledge of enemy assets, his dispositions, economic, political and military activities, political ideologies etc. These data are recorded at different places in the organisation. Till date the data has probably been recorded in registers, Intelligence folders, files or lately in specific information systems that the specific department uses. However, just the intelligence data is not Intelligence by itself. Proper analyses of the data would yield useful information. Information is power. This has never been more relevant than in today’s cutting edge technology driven military warfare. Therefore, it is imperative for the Intelligence organisation to harness the available information for it to be used by the ‘right people at the right time’.

What is Knowledge?

Knowledge is a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. It originates and is applied in the minds of knowers. In organisations, it often becomes embedded not only in documents or repositories but also in organisational routines, processes, practices and norms.2

What is Knowledge Management?

It is a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, managing, and sharing all of an enterprise’s information assets. These information assets may include databases, documents, policies and procedures, as well as previously unarticulated expertise and experience resident in individual workers.3 Knowledge Management or Information Management has a vital role to play in the defence of the country. An initiative by the US DOD towards effective management of knowledge systems is the Information Technology Management (ITM) Strategic Plan. This plan provides overall direction and guidance for managing the Department’s information resources. The mission as defined in this strategic plan is to provide, in a secure fashion, the right information, at the right place and time from the right sources, in a form that users can understand and reliably use to accomplish their missions and tasks effectively and efficiently.4

Tangible Knowledge Base. The information that is collected by the numerous agencies and stored in various forms for collation, analyses and subsequent dissemination forms what is known as the tangible knowledge base or explicit knowledge. It is essentially the knowledge that can be easily recorded, stored and hence shared.5

Intangible Knowledge Base. Besides this quantifiable and recordable information, there is this collective knowledge base that comes from experience and rests in the heads of the operatives, the analysts, the area experts, the issue experts and the field users. This is the knowledge base that is more difficult to identify, record or share within the organisation. Usually this knowledge is shared through informal sources and not in a well defined or structured manner. Normally when a crisis comes up the organisation is found looking towards its employees for an expert who has had previous experience or knowledge in handling a similar crisis. If such a person happens to be available at hand, his expertise is utilized towards diffusion of the crisis. However, what happens when this expert cannot be identified or is not available when required. More often than not the organisation is not aware that they have these tremendous assets in the form of experts within their own organisation who have grown out of experience provided by their own very organisations.6

Therefore, it is important for the IKM strategy to address the issue of management of this intangible or tacit knowledge base as much as the issue of tangible knowledge management.

March towards an Informated Organization

Indian Armed Forces as well as other organisations in the Indian Intelligence structure are being transformed into informated organisations. There are individual attempts at developing MIS (Management of Information Systems and decision support systems by the individual components of the intelligence structure. There is increasing use of information in these organisations with operators and end users having more and more access to information. Most organisations today have indeed started to pay some attention to the important aspect of information management.

However, it is important to realize that though this effort at transitioning to an era of networked information systems is laudable, at individual levels, it is still a maze of plethora of organisations often working at cross-purposes and often resulting in considerable duplication of effort with little synergy or coordination of effort. Instead of a "System of systems" eventually materialising to unify the fighting forces under one information umbrella, facilitating economy of force on the battlefield, there is a plethora of competing IT systems which may not be able to talk to each other. Let us therefore, have a look at the main requirements of an effective Intelligence setup and a setup for command and control system.7

Intelligence. The intelligence community needs to be an agile enterprise.

  • Information from the best sources needs to flow into multi-disciplined, cross-organisational teams of analysts that respond quickly and effectively to continuing threats and immediate crises.
  • The astonishing volume of information that is gathered through all source collection methods, needs to be assessed, and in many cases further enriched to assure its relevance to national policy issues, mission planning and operational use.
  • A system set up wherein data is fed into models and simulations so that options can be realistically assessed.
  • Information must easily flow across security levels.
  • Information security capabilities must ensure the protection of sensitive material and sources.

Command and Control. The proverbial "fog of war" needs to be lifted through integrated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. A common operating picture would let joint commanders see the three-dimensional battle space in near-real time.

  • The command and control (C2) systems must develop courses of action and executable plans in minutes, after simulation and analysis of all options.
  • C2 systems should seamlessly link the national, theater, operational and tactical levels to ensure vertical and horizontal integration of forces.
  • Where reaction time must be in seconds, sensors must be able to acquire targets and pass that information directly to smart weapons over high bandwidth communications pipes.
  • We must be able to use information warfare against our enemies, while protecting our own vital information resources.
  • All our systems must be interoperable integrating all the three armed forces and the civilian intelligence and decision making process by interoperable and integrated systems and infrastructure.
  • Information superiority could then form the basis of a decisive edge in regional dominance in South Asia.

Knowledge Management

Tangible Knowledge Management. This explicit or tangible knowledge base needs to be worked upon in a joint manner keeping the basic tenets of Revolution in Military Affairs in mind. There is a requirement to work out a hierarchical and well-defined Communication and Information structure for the management of this tangible knowledge base. This should essentially allow for:

  • Coordinated and centralized definition of goals and objectives.
  • Sharing of sectional responsibilities for intelligence gathering in overlapping domains.
  • Making Intelligence analyses and estimates available across the organisation through an access based sharing system between different agencies.
  • Systems for appropriate "notification" and "Requests for Information" between agencies.
  • Coordinated collection, analyses, sharing and dissemination of information.
  • A responsive system for two way communication for effective and timely delivery of critical information and feedback.

This can only be achieved by setting up a secure and reliable Intelligence sharing and distribution network encompassing both the civilian and military intelligence structure. The realisation of such a countrywide information infrastructure and command and control net is an inescapable necessity. This net would need to have all necessary protection and security measures installed to ensure reliability, safety and redundancy and the time to put these measures and checks in place is now and not after the net has been established and compromised.

However just achieving what has been outlined in the preceding paragraphs would yet amount to completing only half the picture. For gaining the competitive edge over the adversary it is essential to tap the large storehouse of tacit knowledge base that is residing in the heads of the people who constitute this intelligence framework. It is towards capturing this intangible knowledge base that we need to develop a comprehensive Intelligence Knowledge Management strategy and put the infrastructure in place to implement this strategy using the KM tools available in the market today or by developing our own custom defined IKM tools.

Knowledge Management Imperatives

In order to enmesh the requirements of effective Intelligence and Command and Control setup using knowledge management tools, the Intelligence Knowledge Management strategy would be shaped by the following KM imperatives:8

Intelligence Gathering deals with the explicit knowledge base. It is based upon examining and filtering the large volumes of data that are generated or acquired by the various intelligence agencies. This data needs to be analysed and at times it may need to be enriched with background information to make the information relevant to the issue under analysis. Only when some sense is made out it is classified as Information and fed to the users. It is thus the data processed and filtered, which constitutes the explicit usable knowledge base.

Collaboration is about creating an environment in which users and different agencies can interact and share information and knowledge more freely. Here knowledge would include both explicit and tacit knowledge. All the various reports and analyses could be made available to the appropriate agencies. Besides individual agencies need to identify the experts within their organisation and have their talent pool listed on their information systems which will enable other agencies to have access to this intangible resource pool.

Knowledge Transfer is the area that actually takes into consideration the formalisation of the transfer of the tacit knowledge base. This encompasses the handing down of the experience within the organisation through inter departmental exposure, training sessions classroom sessions etc.

Knowledge Mapping deals with the identification of the body of knowledge within the organisation. Its main role is to identify the tacit knowledge base and making a repository of all those skills and expertise in the organisation. For example, we could have expert groups on Pakistan, on nuclear proliferation, on Northeast whose analyses and estimates could be called for by various intelligence agencies on ‘as required’ basis.

Expertise Management is based on the fact that a very small percentage of the tacit knowledge in any organisation can be made explicit because of the very nature of tacit knowledge. This brings out the importance of identifying a talent pool, organising it and facilitating others across the organisation to find it when required.

Knowledge Management Strategy

  • Identify the knowledge needs in the overall Intelligence Organisation. Who needs what knowledge and at what time? How much knowledge needs to be made available to which level? Who needs to be given a knowledge edge over others? Whether this knowledge edge is likely to contribute to a power base within the organisation or no. All these issues need to be considered.
  • Knowledge Acquisition. How is the knowledge going to be acquired? What kind of intelligence going to be acquired by which specific departments. Are they equipped to acquire the needed intelligence?
  • Knowledge design would require:

— Designing the network. The entire infrastructure must be able to manage the internal data and its modulation and also manage the external information flows. This phase is often referred to as the Knowledge Absorption phase.7

— Choosing the right technologies. This is where the important activities of Information Warehousing and Data mining would come into play. Information Warehouse is an information repository containing storage areas for similar set of information broken down into smallest meaningful structures for easy retrieval. This is the stage wherein the interface of IT comes into the KM initiative in the form of different software and hardware solution. This needs to be clubbed with a data mining operation in order to churn out intelligent information which greatly impacts on the operating parameters of the organisation and in turn helps in attaining the defined objectives.8

— Establishing collaborative working and knowledge sharing mechanisms. This phase, the next logical step in the KM initiative is termed as Information Retrieval. This has more to do with system designing and database applications so that the information pools synchronize with the user requirements.11

— Training all users and operatives in the tools, techniques and processes.

Basically this phase would provide a technical solution for implementing the IKM strategy. The logical solution would need to be mapped with the various KM technologies (like document management, information flow management, and collaboration) and also designing the technical architecture for the solution.

  • Knowledge Implementation. This involves:

— Implementing the network. Build a framework to determine the value of information. Our military capabilities are heavily dependent on focused information. The value of information is a primary discriminator in military decisions and information assurance protection strategies that focus on priority targets. This strategy requires developing and applying knowledge management methods and tools for helping an end user determine the value of information to their missions and tasks (and the risks of not having the information). This methodology, if successful, can help reduce the "glut" of information and enable the Intelligence community to treat information itself as a commodity.

— Developing and Refining a knowledge performance index for the activity.

— Measuring improvements on an ongoing basis.

  • Development of a Knowledge-Based Workforce. Effectively utilize existing personnel processes, collaborate with other organizations to create new policies, and implement a multi-faceted approach to acquiring, retaining, and maintaining highly skilled personnel in the Information / Knowledge Management and IT fields. Use the recruitment process to acquire skilled personnel based on core competencies.
  • Identify relationships between KM/IT activities in different domains. Identify the relationships between KM/IT applied in different domains to ensure that overarching objectives such as interoperability, information security, and efficiency are met; and mission threads, such as sensor-to-shooter, are effective. Dependencies such as those between IT activities in support missions (e.g., procurement, personnel) and the common infrastructure are described and strategies for managing them established. Interoperable IT is integral to the effectiveness of our weapon systems.
  • Ensure that the Intelligence Network’s vital information resources are secure and protected. In today’s environment of sophisticated weaponry and fast pace of the modern battlefield, the ability to provide timely accurate information is vital to all aspects of military operations. Information Assurance (IA) and security is essential to achieve and maintain information superiority which would enable free and timely flow of information to the end user.
  • Establish an Integrated Security Management Infrastructure. Integrate a broad spectrum of network services (e.g., audit, intrusion detection, operational network monitoring and control) into the Intelligence network security management infrastructure. Confidence in the secure operation of the Intelligence network must be grounded in a real-time understanding of network-wide activities. Further, the ability to identify when network users have gained access to unauthorized areas or information or to be able to attribute specific network activity to specific users of the network is an important factor in dealing with the insider threat.

To support its users as they improve mission performance, the IKM community must continue to reengineer its internal processes to be more effective and efficient. There are certain checklists, which must be complied with when managing Intelligence Knowledge Management networks and systems. These are:

  • The IKM community must maintain a user-oriented focus and must measure user satisfaction through regular feedback.
  • Systems and technical architectures must be applied to ensure interoperability and integration.
  • The IT acquisition process must use prototypes, demonstrations, and exercises to evolve IT capabilities in full collaboration with end users.
  • IT services and products must be benchmarked to achieve "world-class" performance at the lowest possible cost.
  • IKM organisations must continually improve their internal processes, such as software design and technology insertion.
  • IKM must empower its people and embody the principles of a "learning organisation".
  • The IKM community, working in partnership with its end users, must streamline the processes and the infrastructure to eliminate unnecessary headquarters staff.
  • Individuals must be empowered and accountable.
  • Vertical stovepipes and hierarchical thinking must give way to horizontal teaming and cross-functional integration.

New paradigms for IKM must fully realize the value of information as a resource. Information needs to be managed by and for users. Information specialists must help users to find the information they need, assess and assure its fitness for use, and provide professional knowledge as needed through the network to assure end user satisfaction. The entire intelligence dissemination network must be seamlessly integrated and transparent to user. Procedures to ensure new capabilities are continually transitioned into the infrastructure without any disruption in ongoing operations. Advanced technologies such as data mining, intelligent agents, and mobile computing must be made available to appropriate users regardless of their location or activity.


It is time the National Security Council and the JIC consider this important aspect which would have a telling impact on any future conflict. India is in a unique position with a talent resource, which is the envy of most nations in the world. If we do not tap the requisite human resources and do not assign adequate funds to put in place the necessary infrastructure we would have no one else to blame but ourselves for not paying heed to the winds of RMA which are sweeping the armed forces the world over. Mission processes, information uses and services must be clearly understood and communicated to drive Knowledge management planning and resource decisions. The link from doctrine, strategy, goals, measures, and architectures to IT must be clear and compelling. The time to act is now and not after the gaping holes in our (Intelligence) Knowledge Management strategy is exposed.


1. Sqn Ldr AR Saluja "Reorganizing Indian Intelligence Organisation", Indian Defence Review Jul-Sep 1998 Vol. 13 (3) pp. 35-44.

2. Thomas H Davenport & Laurence Prusak, "Working Knowledge: How Organisations Manage What They Know." Harvard Business School Press. Boston, MA: 1998.

3. Gartner Group Inc 1996 – as quoted on their web site.

4. "Information Management Strategic Plan" - Information Superiority Version 2.0 published by the Chief Information Officer, US DOD in Oct 1999.

5. Sutapa Balaji "How Much Does your Company know?" Express Computer, 17 April 2000, p. 15.

6. Ibid.

7. "Cost Effective Defence", Bharat Karnad, Indian Defence Review Jan-Mar 1998, Vol. 13(1).

8. Refer 5 above.

9. "Knowledge Absorption" Mahendra Saxena, Express Computer, 17 April 2000, p. 6.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. Considerable inputs have been derived from the "Information Management Strategic Plan" - Information Superiority Version 2.0 published by the Chief Information Officer, US DOD in Oct 1999. The ideal projected intelligence setup and command and control setup referred to in the text is modeled on the existing features of the corresponding systems in the US DOD.





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