April 26, 2017

Setting Up a Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) Center

So far, a lot of SIGINT/COMINT articles written by the author and others have dealt with the technical aspects of SIGINT/COMINT collection. In this article, the author will discuss the operational aspects of setting up a Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) Center. The purpose of a SIGINT Center is to collect and analyze SIGINT information, working with other intelligence disciplines (HUMINT, OSINT, IMGINT, etc.) to produce an intelligence product that is up-channeled to an organization's leadership. Towards this end, there are several job functions that need to be filled for successful operation. Consider each job function to be an element in your SIGINT Center. They are:
  • SIGINT Acquisition
  • COMINT Collection
  • ELINT Collection
  • SIGINT Analysis
  • S-2 Liaison
  • Logistics & Security
  • Maintenance & Repair
The SIGINT Acquisition Element uses technical means such as spectrum and band searches, and via point searches based on information from other disciplines (OSINT, HUMINT, IMGINT) to find monitoring targets to pass along to the Collection Elements.
The COMINT Collection Element collects intelligence information via point searches on communications emitters based on data acquired from the SIGINT Acquisition Element. They pass that information to the SIGINT Analysis Element.
The ELINT Collection Element collects intelligence information on non-communciations emitter data such as aircraft ADS-B “squawks”. They pass that information to the SIGINT Analysis Element.
The SIGINT Analysis Element takes the intelligence information provided by the Acquisition and Collection Elements and converts it to an intelligence product based on the organization's intelligence requirements.
The S-2 Liaison Element works with other intelligence centers, handles OSINT, HUMINT, IMGINT, etc. information that is of interest to the SIGINT Center, and acts as the SIGINT Center's representative when working with the organization's S-2. The S-2 Liaison Element also works extensively with the SIGINT Analysis Element in providing the intelligence product to S-2.
The Logistics & Security Element is primarily responsible for supplying the SIGINT Center with all the items they need to maintain operations. This includes food, consumable items (toilet articles, writing implements and paper, et al), and laundry service. They are also responsible for the safety and security of the SIGINT Center. This includes physical security, operational security, counterintelligence operations, force protection, and medical support.
The Maintenance & Repair Element is responsible for keeping everything working in good order. This includes not only the radios, but also any computing equipment, network infrastructure, power generation & lighting, and shelters.
Once a SIGINT Center is properly staffed and equipped, they can being the process of providing the intelligence product. The process goes like this:
  1. The S-2 Liaison receives its tasking, requirements, and any relevant intelligence acquired via other disciplines from the organization's leadership via S-2
  2. The S-2 Liaison works with the SIGINT Acquisition Element to use technical and non-technical means to perform their mission.
  3. The SIGINT Acquisition Element passes information they acquire to the Collection and Analysis Elements for further action.
  4. The Collection Elements use technical means and information received from the SIGINT Acquisition Element to perform their mission. They pass information they acquire to the SIGINT Analysis Element for further action.
  5. The SIGINT Analysis Element takes the information they receive from the other elements, and processes it via technical and other analytical means into an intelligence product based on the requirements received via the organization's S-2. That product is then passed to the S-2 Liaison.
  6. The S-2 Liaison then passes the product to the organization's S-2, receives feedback, and brings updated requirements back to the SIGINT Center. The process repeats.
  7. During the entire process, the support elements ensure the logistics, security, and maintenance requirements of the SIGINT Center are met, working with the relevant staff (S) functions of the organization to accomplish their mission.
A SIGINT Center will require no less than four people for each workstation in the operational elements. This provides an equipment operator and logging assistant/messenger for two 12-hour shifts over a 24-hour period. Support elements will be by necessity much larger, due to the greater variety of functions required by them. Adequate personnel should be available to provide for two 12-hour shifts over a 24-hour period for each job function, with adequate back-up coverage available in the event of sickness or other incapacitation. It should also be noted that the SIGINT Center is subordinate to the organization's S-2, so a competent S-2 staff (and by association a competent organization) is also required for the SIGINT Center to produce a quality product.
Lone wolves can also make effective use of this process on a smaller individual scale provided they are able to mentally separate different functions at the appropriate times while keeping an eye on the big picture.


  1. Thank you for the recent blog articles. Your book and Signal-3 newsletter have been top notch as well. There is a vast amount of info on this blog the last couple of days and I appreciate you sharing it with us.


  2. Thanks, I see how different this is from civilian and military EOCs.