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What Does an Intelligence Operations Specialist Do?

Benjamin Arie
Benjamin Arie

An intelligence operations specialist is responsible for gathering vital information that is used for military and law enforcement missions. Within governmental agencies these professionals are typically employed by a department of defense or an anti-terrorism group. Intelligence operations specialists must analyze data that pertains to a specific assignment, and provide critical advice to decision makers.

Typically, intelligence operations specialists have experience and education in political science or international relations. This background helps them to understand current events, and quickly see the connections between complex political and military variables. Many intelligence specialists also have training in communications or electronics, and apply this knowledge to gather useful facts about a target area.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

Some workers in the intelligence field deal with broad concepts and long-term forecasting. An intelligence operations specialist, in contrast, is primarily focused on the details of a specific area. These specialists deal more with tactical mission information than strategic planning. In a military situation, for instance, operations specialists focus on the actual short-term capabilities of enemy units.

An intelligence operations specialist creates databases and printed materials to summarize information. These collections of information are used to brief commanders and mission planners. To form an accurate intelligence synopsis, operations specialists must consider many factors such as the location and equipment of a target. Specialists try to predict an enemy’s potential moves by carefully considering the capabilities and motivations of the adversary.

Tactical information is useless unless it can be put into action, so an intelligence operations specialist must communicate well and provide effective briefings for other personnel. Specialists often hold conferences with officers or supervisors, and must be able to convey vital intelligence details quickly but accurately. Interviewing and critical listening skills are also important for these individuals. An intelligence operations specialist may have to debrief soldiers or agents who have firsthand information. The specialist must be able to listen carefully to new information, and rapidly determine which details are significant.

These professionals are often members of the military, but other groups also have intelligence operations specialist positions. A number of countries around the world have agencies that employ operational experts to help combat terrorism. Since many criminal organizations use military-style hierarchies and tactics, the skills of an intelligence specialist can also be useful for fighting organized crime. The same process of gathering information can be used whether the adversary is a hostile country or a large criminal gang.

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