Marine Corps intelligence is the defense information-gathering arm of the U.S. Marine Corps. Officially known as the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity, this department is responsible for gathering information needed to carry out functions such as planning, programming, budgeting, and making operational or policy decisions for this branch of the military. Information gathered by this department helps Marine Corps commanders decide what missions will need to be carried out as well as what personnel and equipment will be required. Marine Corps intelligence also shares information with other branches of the U.S. military as well as civilian intelligence agencies.
The Marine Corps gathers and analyzes intelligence information from a wide variety of sources. The information is then analyzed and packaged for presentation to policymakers to determine if any action needs to be taken. If these officials determine that a credible threat exists, military commanders must decide on an appropriate course of action. Under ordinary circumstances, intelligence information is usually presented to decision-makers during a daily intelligence briefing. In times of war, however, these intelligence briefings may occur more frequently.
The most basic intelligence information is often collected from public sources. This type of publicly available intelligence can include the operational environment — such as whether forces may be hostile, neutral, or friendly — industries, and population of a particular region. Other sources of information that may be used by Marine Corps intelligence are newspapers, maps, and satellite photos. Intelligence gathering units may also monitor television and radio broadcasts as well as military and satellite transmissions for important information. Under certain circumstances, Marine Corps intelligence will intercept cellular and satellite traffic using sophisticated computer equipment and programs.
Intelligence data that has been gathered from all available sources is turned over to Marine Corps intelligence analysts for assessment. During this assessment, analysts attempt to determine both the abilities and vulnerabilities of an adversary. These analysts look for ways to cut-off or destroy vital military resources such as fuel and ammunition supplies. Analysts also assess whether Marine Corps troops or equipment may need to be moved to certain locations to make them less vulnerable to attack. Intelligence analysts may also assess troop and equipment build-ups to warn leaders of impending attacks.
Once the assessment process has been completed, information concerning enemy threats and vulnerabilities must be packaged for presentation to civilian policymakers. These intelligence packages are used to brief officials who will make important decisions about whether to engage in armed conflict with an adversary. Marine Corps commanders also use intelligence packages to decide what type of equipment and personnel will be needed if a military strike is called for.