Question about Army vs Navy Intelligence.

Discussion in 'Naval Academy - USNA' started by CMG8122, Dec 31, 2015.

  1. CMG8122

    CMG8122 New Member

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    Hi,
    I would like to make a career in military intelligence, but I can't decide if I should apply to West Point or Annapolis. I realize that there are more opportunities to get into Army intel, but the Navy is very appealing to me.
    Could you please explain what kinds of tasks a Navy Intel officer might have, and what things I should focus on now (I am a senior in high school who plans to apply to a SA during my first year of college.)
    Also I am almost fluent in Mandarin. Would this be more useful to me in one branch over another?
    Thanks!
     
  2. AROTC-dad

    AROTC-dad Just a dad

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  3. usna1985

    usna1985 USNA Alumnus

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    It is almost impossible to go Navy Intel directly out of USNA. You must be NPQ (not physically qualified) for unrestricted line. I believe there may be a program to go SWO and then be guaranteed Intel after a tour but am not sure about this.

    As for what it's like . . . my info is somewhat dated but I don't think it has changed all that much. You go to Intel school in Dam Neck VA for about 6 months. You're then assigned to a squadron (most likely), junior Intel Officer on a carrier (less likely) or some other job. There you'll support your squadron/ship primarily with tactical info -- what they need to accomplish their mission. After 2.5-3 yrs, you'll go to shore duty. There you'll likely do more intel analysis and also likely do "briefing" of more senior officers. That tour lasts about 3 yrs. Then you go back to sea -- typically to a carrier -- or go to "remote" shore duty in garden spots such as Keflavik, Guam, Diego Garcia. And so on.

    In your first 5-10 years, the work is not glamorous. It's not what you see in the movies. Rather, you're learning the building blocks of Intel. You understand what the folks on the front line need. You understand where Intel comes from (e.g., CIA, NSA, etc.) and the issues with dissemination. You learn what is important to the most senior officers vs. what the front line pilots/SWOs need. You begin to understand who do to analysis. Later, there may be options to go to an embassy but, honestly, most of those billets go to line officers. You will NOT be James Bond or the guy/gal "running" spies -- that's the CIA. The work is generally interesting and fun but it's mostly reading, thinking, briefing senior people about what they need to know, etc. You definitely learn to condense information, ferret out what's important, think on your feet, etc. You also get to deal with really senior officers as a very jr. officer (I was briefing the CNO as a junior LT and briefing the Secretary of Defense as a senior LT).

    Also, an an Intel officer, you'll do a LOT of shift work, especially when you're on shore duty. One year, I worked every single holiday. Every one. You work lots of nights. Lots of WEs. Intel is a 24/7 job. I often felt my life was controlled by CNN -- if something big happened, my day, week, vacation, etc. was ruined. Not saying the rest of the military doesn't do the same, but night work is a way of life for Intel folks.

    There is NOTHING special you need to do at USNA, let alone in high school. THAT SAID, there is an increased focus today on cyber warfare. In some ways, that is the new frontier of Intel. Each year, a very small number of USNA grads can commission directly into cyber warfare -- they need not be NPQ. It's cutting edge. For that, math and computer science are probably important. But it's also taking cyber courses at USNA. A more recent mid/grad can probably provide more on this.
     
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  4. usnabgo08

    usnabgo08 USNA 2008/BGO

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    Very good summary...I believe the NPQ requirement for Intel is also a bit flexible these days.
     
  5. Annapolis2020

    Annapolis2020 Member

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    I do not know a whole lot about the opportunities once you are in the service, but USNA does offer a new and unique major called Cyber Operations that USMA does not currently have. I am also looking to get involved with intel and as a computer nerd this degree is appealing to me and seems relevant to the field. I don't doubt that every SA will eventually offer something like this but right now only USNA has Cyber Ops (although USAFA does have Computer and Network Security). I'm sure you can't go wrong whichever you pick. Best of luck!
     
  6. nuensis

    nuensis USNA 2016

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    The only way to get Intel at USNA while PQ is SWO-Intel. SWO-Intel has had two slots per year for a long time, and I don't think that's going to change. I believe USMA allows for direct accession into Intel without being NPQ, but it is still extremely competitive.

    The Navy Times article listing numbers for service assignment is wrong. There were not nineteen Intel selects. The number is much less.

    Other options:
    Look into Foreign Area Officer if you want to use your language skills. Of note, Army and Marine Corps will assign specifically to China (China FAO only does China/Taiwan) while Navy assigns entire regions (Pacific). Otherwise, enlisted CTIs (Cryptologic Technician, Interpretive) are the linguists, there are no linguist officers in the Navy. You might run into Chinese as an Information Warfare officer, but even then it won't be your job to translate it. At most, the CTIs might appreciate an officer that actually speaks their language.

    Information Warfare (Navy)/Signal Corps (Army) may interest you; signals intelligence is intelligence as well. Intel will work with reporting from the IW community, but the IWs will do the collection and analysis of intelligence from cyber sources and computer network operations to turn raw data into stuff the Intel community can use.

    Cyber Operations is a stripped-down computer science major that takes a few political science courses. The name sounds nice, and someone got a bullet point for it. Don't let that dissuade you from USMA or USAFA, it's really not that groundbreaking. You might be able to do the same or better by just majoring in computer science and taking cyber history, ethics, and law courses as your humanities and free electives and doing the Cyber Defense Exercise, which is doable at any academy. Overwhelming majority of Information Warfare and Information Professional selectees that will work with cyber warfare and computer network operations in the fleet were still Computer Science or Information Technology majors.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2016
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  7. Coach62

    Coach62 Member

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    Well USNA gave my DS and LOA, USMA did not, so obviously USNA intelligence is superior :)
     
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  8. hawk

    hawk ButterBar Dad

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    If you include the branch detail slots MI is only moderately competitive at USMA. But even without branch detail many more slots than 2.

    Before his USMA career, DS was heavily coached by blue and gold officer as well as usna admissions rep not to state a desire for Naval Intelligence in his apps as it would work against him. (He had a mild interest) They want command track (line certified?) types.

    Also, clear indication that culturally Intel is not well respected as peers as the command track options in mainstream Navy ops.

    Many USMA grads/cadets pick the branch detail option by choice as the Intel job as LT is fairly limited. And far more peer respect apparently if you have maneuver unit experience before Intel.
     
  9. VelveteenR

    VelveteenR Just gathering dust in the nursery...

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    Army offers a new Cyber Security major:

    arcyber.army.mil

    We received a communication about this new field and when I find it I'll share it, but it is highly selective.
     
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  10. usna1985

    usna1985 USNA Alumnus

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    This is simply not accurate. It's like saying Navy aerospace maintenance officers (restricted line) aren't as well respected as Navy pilots (unrestricted line). Try telling that to either of those communities. Having served in a squadron, I can tell you that Navy pilots and NFOs have the UTMOST respect for the folks responsible for the maintenance of their aircraft.

    Intel is a Restricted Line community (as is aviation maintenance). Restricted line literally means you aren't qualified for command at sea; restricted line officers can and do command ashore. As a practical matter, it means you're a speciality officer. Other restricted line communities include cryptology, engineering duty officers, public affairs officers, etc. The USN also has staff corps officers, such as doctors, dentists, supply corps.

    Each of these communities serves very valuable roles and the military couldn't function w/o them -- try going to war without supplies or medical support or an idea of the capabilities of the enemy you will be facing (which Intel provides). Line officers realize this just as restricted line/staff corps officers understand their role is to support the unrestricted line. It's a symbiotic relationship. To say one is not "well respected" is not only wrong, but does a huge disservice to the men and women in the restricted line and staff who are critical to mission success.
     
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  11. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ Member

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    Hear, hear usna1985.

    Inside the Navy-Marine family, the entire military family, there is a lot of joshing and nicknames for various services, communities, branches, roles. It does not equate to lack of respect in the Fleet or Corps. The Intel officers I know worked long hours, crazy shifts, in buildings with no windows, and could never talk about what they did, saw or heard. Their clearances were a real PITA to maintain. Their product informs and shapes strategic and tactical operations at every level.

    Sure, I called them "Intel weenies" or "secret squirrels," along with the weather-guessers, pork chops, rotor heads, jet jocks, tooth fairies, legal beagles, bubbleheads, chapsters - we were/are all weenies of some kind or another.

    I respect all the Services and communities/branches for the mutually supportive roles they play. There might be individuals I didn't/don't respect because of their performance or attitude, but not their community. The goal of unrestricted line warfare communities is command. Restricted line and staff communities also have the opportunity for command, in their own professional areas, but that is not the driver for those communities - the delivery of specialized top-quality expertise and professional advice is.

    And, those Intel officers, when they choose to leave their service, have DOD contractors, HLS and other agencies beating down their doors with job offers. Those clearances are expensive, and their skills immensely valued in today's world. There are events called "cleared job fairs" just for those in the greater Intel/crypto/cyber community.

    Just had to pile on. If comparing service Intel communities, look at missions, jobs, pipeline, culture. See what fits with in the Service that appeals most. If the opinion about lack of respect is formed on water cooler chitchat, hear any community-bashing for what it probably is - family fun - if it is used by those who know whereof they speak.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2016
  12. hawk

    hawk ButterBar Dad

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    Understood on the family aspect, just relaying what DS was told in my presence by a BG officer and similar by USNA admissions rep... Don't indicate you want to go Intel during the admissions process.

    And gave those reasons. Indicated there is time after you are in to pursue that if still interested.

    Point being, it was not in the context of bashing... Pretty much stated that USNA did not want to waste slots on candidates who *knew* they wanted to pursue restricted line roles.

    Likewise, I did not say "respected", my post was "respected as peers". Again direct from serving officers.

    Maybe all this has changed, just one candidate's input from admissions types. And maybe now everyone can wear brown shoes as well. (Or no one, did they abolish that tradition?)
     
  13. hawk

    hawk ButterBar Dad

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    With all respect, this is not about how mainstream Navy folks feel about different roles... It's about the focus of USNA as a commissioning source. And whether Intel as a restricted line has much of that focus.

    All indications I've seen, including in this thread, is not much focus at all. (2 slots? What's that, 0.2% USNA grads each year?)

    Even USNA points this out: http://www.usna.edu/Viewbook/careers.php Restricted line total of 51 for c/o 2014... Almost that many went SEAL+Spec Ops. And specifically mentions physically disqualified.

    I'll defer to your experience and insight. But please keep in mind the context of the original question. I don't have a dog in this hunt.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2016
  14. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ Member

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    All is well. Certainly understood BGO and Admissions making it clear the primary mission is production of unrestricted line warfare officers. Good discussion to have for all the lurkers and non-military readers, to have a bit of context.
     
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  15. usna1985

    usna1985 USNA Alumnus

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    That is absolutely true. The primary reason USNA exists is to commission unrestricted line officers. It's essentially impossible to go Intel directly if qualified for unrestricted line and very, very difficult for someone to go Intel directly out of USNA even if NPQ b/c there are very few Intel billets.

    Thus, saying you want to go Intel during the admissions process suggests that: (1) you haven't adequately researched/don't understand your career options; and/or (2) when you find out you can't actually go Intel, you might not be happy with the alternatives. So, it's not a winning strategy during admissions b/c it's not a viable option for 99% of mids. The same is true for those who want to become dentists, lawyers, aerospace maintenance duty officers, public affairs officers, etc. directly out of USNA. There are other accession sources (e.g., OCS) for such individuals. A BGO should be able to explain that to candidates.

    Intel is a terrific career field (though not as "sexy" as many believe) but it's not a realistic option directly out of USNA.
     
  16. usnabgo08

    usnabgo08 USNA 2008/BGO

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    My view of this...it isn't for BGOs (and I would throw in admissions) to judge what a candidate would like to choose. Is Intel an option and a possibility? Certainly is. Is becoming a doctor and option? Certainly is. The more appropriate question is what if it you aren't selected...then what? That is the more telling question about whether a candidate has done their research and is prepared to really "serve." But I think it is extremely inappropriate for a BGO to say that any of those choices are wrong, to view the candidate in a different light, or to coach them to "pick something else." As it was stated, SWO-Intel IS an option, albeit it is limited, but it is on the table.
     
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  17. usna1985

    usna1985 USNA Alumnus

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    Fair point. I probably wasn't as clear as I should have been. Not suggesting the BGO should indicate Intel is "wrong." However, IMO, the BGO should make clear to a candidate that selecting Intel directly out of USNA is a remote option and the candidate should be prepared to pick something else if that doesn't pan out. Kind of like what BGOs should tell folks who want to be doctors. Yes, it may be possible. It's not likely. Chances are you will be a SWO, aviator/NFO, submariner, SEAL, USMC, etc. Be prepared for that. Other options exist but the odds are very long.

    If going Intel is your overwhelming desire, then you may want to consider another accession source -- same advice I give folks who more than anything want to be a Navy doctor. Could happen out of USNA but there are other routes that make being a Navy doctor (or Intel officer) a more likely scenario.

    It's also important to realize that your desire as a 17-yr-old could well change. Once at USNA, you may quickly find that unrestricted line is actually really neat (which it is) and that could quickly become your #1 choice. The key is being open-minded; if you take that approach, you'll be fine.
     
  18. usnabgo08

    usnabgo08 USNA 2008/BGO

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    USNA1985, my post was directed at hawk's post...how his son's BGO and/or candidate guidance told him to not state a desire of intel. I completely agree with what you said above. However, it isn't a BGOs role to say...well choose something else.

    It should be something like....Joe would like to enter the Intel community via SWO-Intel option, but also has a strong desire to serve in XYZ community if not selected for the limited spots.
     
  19. hawk

    hawk ButterBar Dad

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    If you look at my comment above I clearly stated the BGO said there was time and place to pursue Intel once at USNA if still desired... Just don't state it up front during admissions process. Exactly for the reasons USNA1985 mentioned above, it would likely work against the applicant.

    The BGO did his job, educating the candidate along the way. And a glance at the careers section of the USNA website bears that out.

    He did not say "don't go Intel", but did indicate that doing so would significantly reduce career opportunities just due to relative size. And also advancement due to the restricted aspect. Again, factual and appreciated.

    Army does not have the restricted aspect, but there are apparently still defacto constraints. This is not unique to intel, the higher you go in the pyramid the less support branch officers you see as a percentage.

    USMA 2015 had over 80 branch MI, and for most recent classes over half are direct into MI without branch detail.
     
  20. usnabgo08

    usnabgo08 USNA 2008/BGO

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    That's my point...why is Admissions holding it against a candidate if they want a career in a limited spot, even though they would just be as happy with another community. That is exactly why service assignment has preferences. If it is an option a candidate should not be dissuaded from it because it "looks good" to Admissions. So basically, we are asking candidates to tell half truths instead of what they desire, in order to game a system. I'm not advocating that BGOs shouldn't provide the tradeoffs and career opportunities.

    The better thing to do is have the HONEST career choice with a question about their ability to serve in other communities...this could be accomplished/amplified in the BGO interview.

    I think it is horrible to tell a candidate....oh we know you want Intel, but don't put it down because it looks bad when calculating the WPM.

    What about a candidate who want to go IW, like Keenan Reynolds, should we say the same thing...well there are only about 8 spots and it's RL, so don't put that down as a preference cause USNA commissions URL and it looks bad....oh wait, we are also putting an emphasis on cyber.

    As a BGO, I have had the same discussions USNA1985 has had (pros/cons, etc) and I clearly indicate in my report, if a candidate prefers a RL or a limited community, that we discussed it and they are or are not happy with other URL communities. I think that's the right way of doing business.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2016

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