What Is US Army Military Intelligence?

G. Wiesen

United States (US) Army military intelligence is the process of gathering and using information regarding battlefield activities and enemy, as well as potential enemy, movements and efforts to more effectively fight during a conflict. While the term “military intelligence” is used in a number of different countries and regions, in the US only the Army uses the term to refer to intelligence gathered by US Army military intelligence groups. The use of US Army military intelligence in combat has been a key element of numerous wars and battles throughout US history, and will likely continue to be important moving into the future of warfare.

U.S. Army intelligence units keep track of the position, disposition, and relative strength of forces like armed jihadist cells in combat zones.
U.S. Army intelligence units keep track of the position, disposition, and relative strength of forces like armed jihadist cells in combat zones.

One of the major commands in the American military for gathering military intelligence is the US Army Intelligence & Security Command (INSCOM). Located at Fort Belvoir in Virginia, INSCOM is charged with gathering and analyzing the information that is then used by military advisers to the government and in battlefields for strategic advantages and opportunities. While INSCOM is only one of several commands within the US Army charged with intelligence gathering and analysis, it is often considered one of the largest US Army military intelligence organizations.

The US Army Intelligence and Security Command is in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
The US Army Intelligence and Security Command is in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

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INSCOM oversees a number of major subordinate commands, and coordinates efforts between the various command groups in order to gather and best use the information received. This can include providing linguistic support to various commanders throughout the Army, ensuring the security and maintenance of US Army computer systems and servers, working with other intelligence agencies such as the National Security Agency, and providing location specific support and analysis in numerous military theaters across the world. Military intelligence can be used in peace time to prepare for potential attacks and coordinate defensive efforts or during wartime to give soldiers an advantage on a battlefield.

Information gathered through US Army military intelligence efforts can be used for political negotiations and treaties between the US and other nations, as well as for advising political leaders on better understanding world military actions. The information can also be used on a battlefield to allow soldiers to better understand where potential attacks may come from, or to be better aware of their surroundings during an attack. This type of US Army military intelligence is often gathered by intelligence personnel specially trained in intelligence gathering techniques. The US Army trains many of its military intelligence personnel at the US Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca in Arizona.

Military intelligence has been essential in many wars and battles in U.S. history.
Military intelligence has been essential in many wars and battles in U.S. history.

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Discussion Comments


@turkay1 - Revealing classified information is a very serious thing. It is covered under a law called the Espionage Act, and the penalties for violating it can be very severe. I don't know if they still do this, but I know that people have even been executed for deliberately giving away classified information.

Of course, that law doesn't seem to apply to the high-ranking politicians who love to leak things to the press for their own reasons. I don't understand why they aren't punished for that, and I would like to see it changed. Every time something like that is done, the people on the ground are put in serious danger. There is no excuse for that.


@sweetPeas - Like so many things in the military, I think some volunteer and some are assigned. For some it can be part of an enlistment contract. For others it may be random chance. That seems pretty consistent with how the military works, at least in my experience.

An interesting thing about their training that a lot of people don't know: Much of the schooling that you get in the intelligence world is classified. Which means that the training materials are classified. Which means that you can't take them home. So they have to go in at 4:30 or 5 a.m. to do their homework.

I had a friend in the Marines who slept so little in his training school that he used to chew instant coffee like tobacco to stay awake. It was very common in his class.

A lot of intelligence people may not fight on the front lines, but they sacrifice a lot to try and do the best job they can.


The old joke says that "Military Intelligence" is a contradiction in terms. In reality, what they do is critically important.

A good friend of mine was an intel analyst in the Marines, and has been involved in a lot of the conflicts in the last 20 years. The troops on the front line always depended on him to figure out what was going on and, if possible, what would happen next.

Without good information, it is very hard to fight effectively. We are helped a great deal by our technology, such as spy planes, satellites, and electronic gear to capture radio, cell phone, and Internet communications. But there's no substitute for an intelligent, well-trained person to interpret the data and make sure it gets to the right people.


@sweetPeas - From what I know, army intelligence officers can ask to be considered for training in the field of military intelligence. Some of them are trained to work with the combat unit, gathering intelligence that will provide information about weather, the terrain, enemy position and other factors to give to the commanding officer.

They need to be skillful in the use of many different kinds of technology. They have to be physically fit, always alert and be able to make quick decisions.


I wonder how military personnel are chosen to attend the intelligence school to be trained to become military intelligence officers. Are they just under orders, or do they volunteer? It can be a very dangerous and lonely career, but also a very rewarding one. Does anyone know any more about this?

There has been military intelligence gatherers in the country, even before the Revolutionary War. They didn't have the benefit of technology like we have today. I'm sure a lot of them were discovered and either killed or imprisoned.

They do a great service for the military personnel and to our country. Too bad we can't thank them by name.


My grandfather worked in military intelligence, and he could not tell me a whole lot about what he did. Even though it had been forty years since the time that the information he gathered was pertinent, he took his vow of secrecy very seriously. I have a feeling that he will take his knowledge to the grave.

He did say that he could have been considered a spy by the opposing forces. He was never caught at his covert operations, so the Army benefited from his work.

I find it fascinating that he knows things that he hasn’t shared with anyone other than his superiors. Even my grandmother doesn’t know exactly what he did or discovered.


Intelligence is so important for the military to be successful and for them to be able to protect us and our interests here and elsewhere. I get very upset when people who have access to this information sometimes intentionally or unintentionally allow it to leak into the media.

Don't they realize that they are putting our country, its citizens and the safety of our troops at risk?

I just cannot tolerate this. Intelligence has to be kept a secret for a reason. It's in the best interest of all of us. That's why the government needs to be very careful about who gets access to military intelligence.

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