Embracing Problem Solving in ISR Analysis

Due to specialized skill sets required in fields of advanced commercial analytics and data science, USAF’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance field does not stand a chance of keeping much of the uniformed or civilian human capital in these careers as opposed to the private sector, USAF’s top ISR official said Sept. 14 at ASC15. “Do we need to have that talent, or can we access the commercial sector?” Lt. Gen. Bob? Otto, the Air Staff’s head of ISR asked at a panel on the future of intelligence analysis. Otto noted that since September 2001, USAF has used flight hours to measure the merit of MQ-1 and MQ-9 operations but “we have not wrapped our arms around whether we are effective with this stuff … is it doing any good? Nobody can tell us that answer.” Commercial analytics may be able to “wrestle” with problems like this, Otto noted. He also pointed out USAF is taking bright geospatial analysts and having them do “some pretty mundane stuff” and they are getting burned out in the process. “If we told them to go solve problems, access different databases, and use their analytic insights—applied to a key intelligence question—we are much more likely to harness their interest and then retain them over time,” he added. This is why Otto believes the workforce needs to shift more to utilize “all source” analysts. “It’s going to take a few years to get to this,” but USAF needs to take a more flexible approach to retain talent.