Applying Information Theory to Validate Commanders’ Critical Information Requirements

Authored by: Mark A.C. Timms , David R. Mandel , Jonathan D. Nelson

Handbook of Military and Defense Operations Research

Print publication date:  March  2020
Online publication date:  February  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138607330
eBook ISBN: 9780429467219
Adobe ISBN:


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The primary aim of this chapter is to introduce a novel approach to strengthen contemporary intelligence community practices for establishing intelligence collection priorities based on expected information value. We propose the integration of quantitative measures of information utility that have been discussed in the literature on information theory (Lindley, 1956; Nelson, 2005; Crupi & Tentori, 2014) as a method for optimizing intelligence collection planning. We argue that enhancing the effectiveness through which command information requirements are established can improve consequent intelligence collection priorities. We contrast this approach with the structured analytic technique (SAT) approach that is currently described as a method for prioritizing information requirements in intelligence collection. Specifically, we proceed with a review of the Indicators Validator™ (IV) SAT (Heuer & Pherson, 2008, 2014) for establishing information value, illustrating how it works, and where it falls short as an analytic method. Next, we introduce a quantitative information-theoretic measure of information utility called information gain (Lindley, 1956). We illustrate the contrast between these approaches using a practical example featuring a hypothetical North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) dilemma. This analysis shows how information gain overcomes many limitations of the IV technique, along with how it might be applied to modern NATO operational practice.

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