Chapter 1: Fundamentals of the sense function (B-GA-402-000/FP-001, Canadian Forces Aerospace Sense Doctrine)


Air forces exist to exercise aerospace power on behalf of the nation. This is accomplished primarily through the exploitation of the air and space environments to achieve assigned objectives. A century of air warfare has demonstrated that all effective air forces, whether they are large or small, are capable of performing a number of specific functions. These functions are influenced by the physical possibilities and limitations imposed by the environments and by each other. One cannot efficiently or effectively work without the other; however, it is the unique capabilities of each function that when integrated with the other functions ensure the proper application of aerospace power. Aligned with Canadian Forces (CF) doctrine,[1] Canadian aerospace doctrine consists of the following six functions (Figure 1-1[2],[3]):

This figure illustrates the interrelationship of the six Royal Canadian Air Force functions: Command; Act, which comprises two subfunctions (Shape and Move); Sense; Shield; Generate; and Sustain. The enabling functions (Shield, Generate and Sustain) are equally spaced on a large outer ring. Within the outer ring, the core functions (Command, Act and Sense) are placed in their own rectangles and form a pyramid. Command is top centre; Act (Move and Shape) is bottom right; and Sense is bottom left. An arrow runs from the bottom of the Act rectangle to a circle labelled “Effects.” From this circle, a second arrow runs to the bottom of the Sense rectangle. The overlap between Sense and Command is labelled “Assess,” and the overlap between Command and Act is labelled “Plan.” Inside the Command rectangle, a downward arrow runs from Command to a small circle labelled “Decide.” An arrow labelled “Current State” runs from “Assess” (overlap of Sense and Command) to “Decide.” A second arrow labelled “Direct” runs from “Decide” to “Plan” (overlap of Command and Act). End figure.

Figure 1‑1. The Royal Canadian Air Force functions

In order to conduct aerospace operations and activities, the core functions of Command, Sense, and Act operate within a continuous cycle of activities. The outputs of Sense activities are assessed during Command activities to orient and assess data and information in order to provide awareness and knowledge. After this evaluation, Command activities direct and plan actions. The Act activities execute this plan to create effects that will ultimately achieve the desired state. Sense activities assess the results of these effects, and the cycle is repeated. As well, this cycle of activities will influence—or can be influenced by—the ongoing enabling function activities of Sustain, Shield, and Generate.

The Sustain, Shield, and Generate activities must be performed continuously in order to effectively maintain, protect, and develop Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) assets and capabilities. Without the activities of these functions, Command, Sense, and Act activities could be compromised or even eliminated. Consequently, a weakness in or failure of one function will negatively impact not only the other five functions, but also the force’s ability to achieve a desired state.

With the aforementioned description of the RCAF functions, this doctrine manual will now devote its focus to the Sense function. Within the RCAF, Sense is understood to be the capability that provides the commander with knowledge. It incorporates the concepts and all activities that collect and process data. The aim of Sense is to enable the decision makers to achieve decision superiority. Decision superiority is the competitive advantage enabled by ongoing situational awareness (SA) that ensures the implementation of more effective and efficient actions than those of an adversary. In essence, Sense is about providing a perception of the "state of the world" to commanders in order to enable them to make decisions and to optimize the other functions. Sense ultimately provides commanders the knowledge necessary to direct their forces to achieve the most appropriate effect on the operational environment. Modern operations can be extremely complex and time sensitive, meaning commanders must have knowledge to be able to make informed decisions and achieve their desired effects. It is the Sense function that defines the concepts, structure, and process to achieve situational understanding and, ultimately, decision superiority over an adversary.

Further, modern military operations have become inextricably linked to the cyberspace domain to such a degree that access and management of network-enabled operations are essential in providing commanders with SA and knowledge. The advances in computer technology have revolutionized the conduct of aerospace operations to the point of allowing commanders access to near real-time (NRT) SA of the operating environment. The global network of computer systems has also introduced a new reality for Sense functions whereby the traditional boundaries of the strategic, operational, and tactical levels are often less relevant, as tactical commanders routinely have access to information of strategic importance and, conversely, strategic and operational commanders often can access detailed tactical information.[4] Ways and means from traditional operations have evolved greatly over the course of the last century, and the evolution of technology is continually reshaping the conduct of warfare in the information age. The following vignette provides some historical context and insight into the challenges of attaining knowledge in modern operations.

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"Some assume the future will simply be an extension of the past. Yet we’ve never been accurate in predicting the next security challenge, so beware when folks tell you the future will be like today, because that’s never been the case. There’s no ‘certainty’ about what’s next, other than we’re very likely to get it wrong. Let me give you some examples.

In the summer of 1920, Europe had been torn apart by an agonizing war. Millions had died, but one thing was supposedly ‘certain’—that the peace imposed on Germany guaranteed it would not soon re-emerge.

Yet by the summer of 1940, Germany had not only re-emerged, but it had conquered France and dominated Europe.

But by the summer of 1960, Germany had been crushed, Europe was split down the middle with two sides threatening each other with nuclear weapons.

Jump to the summer of 1980. The [United States (U.S.)] had been thwarted in a seven-year war against North Vietnam, expelled from Iran, and the only way we saw to contain an enormous Soviet Union threat was to outspend it and draw its ally, a communist China, closer to us.

Yet in 2000, the Soviet Union collapsed, China was communist in name but capitalist in practice, and the U.S. had liberated Kuwait from an invasion by Iraq, economies were booming and the accepted future was that geopolitical considerations had become secondary to economic ones, right up to Sept. 11, 2001.

Using these examples from history, I’d suggest that the 2020s will be nothing like what we’re experiencing today.

The Need to Change

This uncertainty of the security environment, evolution of technology, proliferation of information flow, shrinking of decision cycles and blurring of disciplines underlies a need to change. [This] is not just about the design of our traditional legacy intelligence architectures, but also the traditional segregated approach to the cultures of intelligence and operations that we’re all too familiar with from the last century.

Over the last four years inside the Air Force, we worked hard to move from the traditional stovepipes and segregation of operations and intelligence to the integration of intelligence and operations."[5]

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This manual provides guidance on the RCAF approach toward the principles and processes for the conduct of the Sense function in relation to aerospace operations. Its purpose is to provide a broad overview of the CF aerospace Sense concepts along with other processes which enable a commander to understand the operating environment.

Sense Concepts


In the military context, the Sense function is defined as "the operational function that provides the commander with knowledge."[6] The term "knowledge" is defined as "analyzed information that provides meaning and value."[7] Thus, "Sense" is meant to provide commanders (i.e., decision makers as well as other end-users) with the knowledge of the situation they require. This required knowledge is thus tied closely to the execution of the Command, Act, Shield, and Sustain functions. In other words, the knowledge that we refer to when we describe Sense as a military function is that knowledge required to make decisions about how to take action.

The Commander

The importance of the commander. For the purposes of understanding the Sense function, the term "commander" is used throughout this manual in reference to every decision maker. This is not meant to imply that staff or subordinates at all levels do not make decisions; quite the opposite. Sense activities at every level must be focused on the commander’s need for knowledge, and by focusing on this, the overall Sense function provides all decision makers with the knowledge they need to make appropriate decisions.

The raison d’être of the Sense function is the provision of an accurate comprehension of the operational environment to decision makers. In order to achieve this, Sense aims at collecting, processing, and reporting on:

  1. elements of the operational environment that commanders control, such as their own or allied forces’ dispositions via reports and returns from subordinates; certain dedicated sensor applications; and from liaison with other forces, other government departments as well as international and non-governmental organizations (see Chapter 2); and
  2. elements of the operational environment that the commander does not control, such as actual or potential adversaries, neutral elements, and environmental issues, including weather and terrain (see Chapter 3).

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Cognitive Hierarchy

The cognitive hierarchy is defined as the stages by which understanding of the situation can be achieved.[8] It is a generic model that, as Figure 1–2 illustrates, consists of four stages in ascending order: data, information, knowledge, and understanding. In the Sense context, information is not enough—it must be processed into knowledge in order to be useful to commanders. This applies to all categories of information: the knowledge and understanding of one’s own forces, adversaries, and the operating environment.

Figure 1-2 illustrates the cognitive hierarchy. Its four levels from lowest to highest are data, information, knowledge and understanding. Data is raw observations and can consist of raw radar feeds, raw intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance collections as well as subordinates’ raw reports. When data is processed it becomes information. Information is processed data; it has been summarized, cross-referenced, etcetera. Conclusions have not been drawn but the data has been organized to enable analysis. Information can consist of enemy order of battle, recognized air picture as well as own forces’ readiness and disposition. When information is processed it becomes knowledge. Knowledge is the meaning that is derived from information. It may be static and may not necessarily lead to predictions or decisions. Knowledge can consist of the capabilities and options of both the adversary and own forces. When knowledge is processed it becomes understanding. Understanding is the mental comprehension of the situation and the meaning behind it. It leads to predictions and enables decisions. End Figure 1-2.

Figure 1-2. The cognitive hierarchy

Importance of the cognitive hierarchy. The cognitive hierarchy highlights that the mere gathering of data is often insufficient. Data must be prioritized and processed into useable information and must, then, be processed into knowledge, which then can be processed into understanding. It is only understanding, in the minds of those who need to understand (in particular, commanders), that allows for effective command and control (C2). The key point is that this is a hierarchical process. It is critical to ensure that there is a deliberate enterprise established to enable these processes, as they will not just happen spontaneously from the mere availability of data.

Resources (including time and command attention) must be dedicated to the process of creating understanding.

Decision Superiority

The concept of achieving decision superiority is key to the Sense function. Fundamentally, decision superiority is served by the Sense function and provides the context for linking it to the Command function. Given that the purpose of the Sense function is to provide commanders (and all decision makers) with relevant knowledge, there is a conceptual hierarchy and processes that can be applied to illustrate how this knowledge is gained. Decision superiority cannot be achieved unless the right data and information are acquired to provide the relevant knowledge about any given situation. Conversely, having the right data and information does not guarantee superior/better decisions will be made by a commander. It simply serves to illustrate the requirement to transition the right data and information into relevant knowledge and situational understanding of the battlespace to set the conditions for an advantage over an adversary. In the RCAF context, the process by which a commander gains this relevant knowledge can be visualized as follows:

Figure 1-3 shows the process by which a commander gains relevant knowledge for their decision making. The image is divided into four horizontal bands, from bottom to top as follows: data, information, knowledge and understanding. In the centre of the diagram are the commander’s critical information requirements and critical information requirements. This box straddles the information and knowledge bands. The commander’s critical information requirements and critical information requirements are fed by friendly force information requirement, essential element of friendly information and priority information requirements. These three boxes are all in the information band. Priority information requirements are fed by information requirements (also in the information band). Information requirements are fed by essential elements of information. This box straddles data and information bands. Also found in the data band are networks, sensors and collection operations. Found in the information band are reports and returns; liaison; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and the intelligence cycle. Found in the knowledge band are awareness of own and other forces. From the centre of the diagram, the commander’s critical information requirements and critical information requirements feed into situational awareness which straddles the knowledge and understanding bands. Situational awareness feeds into decision superiority which is in the understanding band. End Figure 1-3.

Figure 1‑3. Decision superiority model

Information Superiority

Modern military operations are, increasingly, dependent on information in order to succeed. Information superiority (IS) is defined as "the operational advantage derived from the ability to acquire, exploit, protect and disseminate an uninterrupted flow of information while denying an adversary’s ability to do the same."[9] Sense participates in the achievement of IS along with the Shield and Shape functions. Information superiority is an objective but is also used as a descriptor to define the causal relationship between the decisions taken by friendly forces and the subsequent effect that they have on their adversary’s ability to influence the operational environment. Ultimately, it contributes to enabling the commander to make better decisions and also to anticipate and respond to changes in the operational environment faster than an adversary.[10] Presumably, if a friendly force can achieve IS over an adversary, it will be able to make better decisions faster than the adversary can react and will have a decisive edge in the information and operations domain.

Situational Awareness

Since what is required from the Sense function is knowledge of the situation that will enable action, SA is critical. Situational awareness is the perception of the circumstances and participants, subsequent comprehension of the causal factors and consequences, and the ability to apply this comprehension to determining the desired future circumstances as well as the course of action to get there.[11] Thus, SA contributes to creating understanding in the minds of information users at the pinnacle of the cognitive hierarchy. The basic requirement for SA can be divided into two general categories as follows:

  1. Situational awareness for self. Includes that data and information that is collected by operators, commanders, and staff that is then used primarily to self-orient and assess activities in order to gain sufficient knowledge to make real-time decisions about future operations within that particular environment. Often, SA for self is an internalized process and is not integrated into the common operating picture (COP) as it serves the cognitive, orientation requirements of the operators that are necessary in order to take action or make adjustments to achieve optimal or desired effects.
  2. Situational awareness for others. Includes that data and information that has been collected, assessed by assets, and then transmitted or integrated into the overall COP to support the decision making of commanders at all levels. Situational awareness for others can be seen as the fusion piece of SA, whereby the information collected by aerospace forces is then used by a commander to shape the battlespace.

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With the requirements for SA described above, the categories of SA generally consist of:

  1. Enemy SA. That data, information or knowledge which provides understanding of an adversary’s location, disposition, status, and intentions (sometimes referred to as "red" SA) gained through the intelligence enterprise.
  2. Friendly SA. That data, information or knowledge which provides understanding of friendly forces’ disposition and the overall battlefield geometry (i.e., boundaries and control measures). Note that this includes both own forces under command and flanking/ allied forces and is sometimes also referred to as "blue" SA.
  3. Other entities’ SA. That data, information or knowledge which provides understanding on all aspects of the environment where operations are conducted and includes geospatial, meteorological information, and the "human terrain" (i.e., the politics, economics, and sociology affecting the local population as well as the disposition of elements of key other government departments [OGDs] and non-governmental organizations [NGOs]).


Common Operating Picture

In order to rapidly facilitate SA, most modern operations utilize a COP to provide "an interactive and shared visual representation of operational information gathered from various sources."[12] The aim of a COP is to provide a fused NRT picture that coherently answers all of the information requirements (IR) as quickly as possible and can be tailored to meet the operational, tactical, or strategic needs of the user. Consequently, the COP is not limited to simple contact or track data. Instead, it provides that data, information, and knowledge required by commanders to visualize the battlespace and support the command decision making necessary to successfully achieve their mission.[13]

History has demonstrated that a COP is most easily understood when presented graphically relative to a map or on a geographically referenced display. Standardized symbology is used to show an important amount of information beyond track data (e.g., readiness levels of units and their command relationship), but it will usually be necessary to include more detailed non-graphical information as well. Textual and numerical information can be included as "bullet points" to a graphical display. A feature of a digital COP is that the "picture" can be defined by the user to customize what information is displayed (this is sometimes referred to as a user-defined operating picture). This allows "de-cluttering" of the COP for a high-level (strategic/operational) view or the ability to "drill down" into additional supporting (tactical) detail. The key purpose is that the COP visually represents both time and space relationships, known force dispositions, and any other relevant information that contributes to or affects the operation. The COP should answer the IR, thus enabling collaborative planning and the effective synchronization of resources as well as facilitating all commanders in achieving their desired or required level of SA.

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Information Management

Information management (IM) normally refers to the governance structure and tools adopted by an organization to provide quality information to the right person at the right time in a usable form to facilitate understanding and decision making. The goal of IM is to enable the efficient retrieval and display of relevant, precise, complete, usable information in a timely manner.[14] The format of data and information must be interoperable, understandable, adaptable, and in line with the needs of the operation. Challenges in IM are having confidence that the information is the most accurate, valid, and recent and that outdated material is not used for decision making. It is through the operational process and decision-making cycle that the commander (or staff) defines "how" information and data is exchanged both vertically and horizontally through the operating environment. The relevant data and information to be sought (i.e., the "what") is driven by the commander’s critical information requirements (CCIR).

Commander’s Critical Information Requirements

As outlined above, a broad spectrum of data and information is required to be processed in order to gain knowledge and understanding of any situation. There is an inherent difficulty with this in that the complexity of operations can generate huge amounts of information that commanders and decision makers may have rapid access to but may not be able process in the time available. With the fluidity of modern operations and the speed at which information can be shared across networks, providing unprocessed tactical-level information quickly to operational or strategic commanders is often required for shared SA. But, in some cases, this can result in information overload or a tendency for the higher-level commanders to be drawn down unnecessarily into details of the tactical level.

Commanders, at all levels, must have an active plan for IM. Staff must process data (organize, prioritize, filter, analyse, sort, etc.) into useable information that can be easily retrieved and displayed in a timely, relevant, and understandable format so that commanders make accurate and informed decisions. Without proper structure or focus to find the "right" information, people can be overwhelmed by the volume of data and information that needs to be processed (often referred to as "information overload"). This situation can lead to missing critical information or to operational paralysis wherein commanders and staff, in trying to manage overwhelming volumes of unfocused data and superfluous information, delay decision making while they seek to acquire more information or to ascertain the relevant information. The key is for commanders to prioritize and focus the data and information processing activities. This is best accomplished by clearly defining the commander’s intent[15] and the establishment of CCIR. Within this guidance, the conditions are set for the creation of the relevant knowledge and the situational understanding necessary to achieve the commander’s desired effects.[16]

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Commander’s Critical Information Requirements – Defined

The primary mechanism by which commanders can manage information is through the articulation of CCIR specifically defined as the "crucial elements of information identified and required by the commander that directly affect decision making and successful execution of operations."[17] In the strategic, operational, or headquarters (HQ) context, CCIR should be personally and formally expressed by the commander, usually in written format, and they should be continually re-affirmed, re-prioritized, or amended during the conduct of operations to ensure that the right data and information are sought and processed.

Commander’s Critical Information Requirements – Categories

There are two categories into which CCIR can be subdivided: priority intelligence requirements (PIR) and friendly force information requirements (FFIR). The PIR aim to fulfill a commanders’ requirement about aspects of the battlespace that they do not control. The PIR are normally related to the enemy, weather, and terrain and usually fall within the intelligence domain. The FFIR seek to provide all information that commanders need to know about the facets of the battlespace that they control. Normally, FFIR fall within the remit of the entire organization (including the operations and intelligence staff). Each of the RCAF functions can be linked to relevant CCIR, FFIR, and PIR. The CCIR are designated by commanders as they see fit, but as a guide, in aerospace operations they will generally include the following:

  1. Command. Changes in authorities, command relationships, and rules of engagement declarations/changes.
  2. Sense. Adversary activity, PIR, effects assessments, reports, and returns.
  3. Act. Disposition and preparedness of aerospace assets as well as kinetic events.
  4. Sustain. Status of critical ground systems and personnel as well as logistic issues.
  5. Shield. Threat assessments and force protection status.
  6. Generate. Readiness of aerospace assets.
  7. Other considerations. Joint, integrated, multinational, and public (JIMP) issues; diplomatic; public affairs; as well as political advisor and legal advisory concerns.

The CCIR are the key means by which the Sense function is efficiently focused. As a critical element of the SA, CCIR demand the commander’s personal attention as they directly affect the ability to make informed, accurate, and timely decisions. Even though draft CCIR are likely to be prepared and presented by staff, make no mistake, commanders must take personal ownership of them to ensure that the right information is available to support effective decision making.[18]

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Figure 1-4 illustrates how commander’s critical information requirements drive the entire information flow. The commander, understanding the common operating picture, determines their critical information requirements. These are then sub-divided into a number of individual information requirements including but not limited to: Command information requirements; priority information requirements; Shape information requirements; Move information requirements; Sustain information requirements; Sustain information requirements; and joint, integrated, multinational, and public information requirements. Each information requirement initiates an information chain. Some of the many possible information chains are: Command information requirements lead to liaison with higher and other headquarters; priority information requirements lead to intelligence, surveillance and information; Shape information requirements lead to reports and returns from own sources; Move information requirements lead to air mobility status; Sustain information requirements lead to logistics and personnel status; and joint, integrated, multinational, and public information requirements lead to non-governmental organization activity. The data and information from all of these information chains is processed and fused into the common operating picture, which the commander then uses to determine updated critical information requirements.  End Figure 1-4.

Figure 1‑4. CCIR drives the entire information flow

The commander specifies CCIR, which in turn drive a vast array of branching information chains (only some of which appear in Figure 1-4 for illustrative purposes). All of that data and information is then processed and fused to produce a single, clear display for the commander in order to satisfy the articulated IR. The CCIR is a tool that allows the commander to drive all of that information collection and processing, without becoming overwhelmed with data and superfluous information.

Importance of Commander’s Critical Information Requirements

Without defined CCIR, the commander’s and staff ’s ability to discern relevant knowledge, visualize the way ahead, and make accurate decisions would be at risk. The CCIR provides a focus for the IM and information collection activities and prevents irrelevant details from concealing the critical essentials. It also prioritizes the relative degree of importance of information to the commander so that the subsequent IM processes and functions within an HQ or operations centre are disciplined and facilitate better decision making.[19] The CCIR should also drive the information collection and processing activities throughout the HQ and operational units. Staff and subordinates should take guidance from the CCIR, proactively seek out the information identified, and push this upwards.

Properly employed, CCIR should prevent information overload and facilitate the sharing of relevant information with those who need it.

As a final point, CCIR should also guide the way information is prioritized, processed, or fused for presentation. The final merged product, especially the COP, should emphasize the information designated in the CCIR and, in many cases, store but not display the supporting information. Given the volume of data and information inherent in operations, IM tools and automation play crucial roles in the processing, storage, retrieval, dissemination, display, and exploitation of information to gain knowledge. Though often not displayed, the source of the supporting information must not be lost in the overall process, as there must be an ability to validate or confirm the data or information that was used and allow the validation of any subsequent conclusions that were obtained from the supporting information.

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Military operations are highly complex and incorporate multi-level information processing. The ability to integrate information into a coherent understanding or "picture" is critical to gain situational understanding not only to achieve the commander’s desired effects, but also to understand the relevant correlation between disparate information. In aerospace operations, SA is often time dependent, multifaceted and can concurrently overlap many disparate subject areas (adversaries, own forces, other forces, the operating environment, and other entities). The abilities to take data, change it into information and understanding, and then display it in a manner that can be commonly shared and understood by highlighting the relevant correlation of the data are critical aspects of fusion.

Fusion is, essentially, the blending of information from multiple sources into a coherent and understandable picture. The origin of the initial individual items of information will often no longer be apparent, but by fusing the pieces of disparate information into a collective, this provides far more value than the individual items alone.[20] However, the origin must be accessible and able to be validated for relevance, accuracy, and currency. If these aspects are lost in the fusion of disparate information, the validity of the assumptions and the decisions made in processing may become suspect.

In practice, within the aerospace Sense function, fusion is best conceived not as a single act but as a continuous process involving collecting, analysing, assessing, evaluating, collating, correlating, and integrating diverse elements of information into a holistic, context-driven representation, structured in accordance with a knowledge model. Two distinct levels of information fusion can be discerned: one pertains to measurements and observations (data) about the physical world; the other pertains to abstracted interpretations of the meaning, relevance, and significance of this data when considered in a particular or specific context.[21] Finally, it should be stressed that fusion is about seamlessly integrating all information relevant to the CCIR, at all levels of the cognitive hierarchy. When done effectively, data and information fusion can help to overcome potential information overload, enhance common SA, and facilitate collaboration. This creates the conditions where data and information are shared in an environment where critical elements can be easily identified and displayed to show significant trends, thus allowing commanders to get ahead of the adversaries’ decision process.

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Importance of Fusion

Fusion is not a new concept, but in the information age it has taken on increased importance as being able to recognize timely, relevant information and to discard the irrelevant. There are two fundamental reasons for this increased importance:

  1. Accuracy. Fusion allows corroboration of reported information from multiple sources. This is the classic reason for fusion, which has long been articulated in intelligence doctrine. However, the concept is equally applicable in all domains, including own forces reporting. The more corroborating reporting that can be compiled, the greater the confidence there can be in the assessed situation.
  2. Coherency. Masses of information will be generated in modern operations, especially at the operational and strategic levels. This raises the real problem of information saturation or overload. It is critical that commanders and staff have full mastery over all of this information. One of the greatest IM tools to handle this situation is to combine all of the relevant information (i.e., that which is specified by the CCIR) into a single coherent picture, so that it can be quickly understood by users.


The Fusion Process

In accordance with the cognitive hierarchy model (Figure 1-2), there are various levels of data and information processing and implied fusion that occur to achieve understanding. At the lower levels of processing, the inputting of data and its collation or organization is predominant.

Higher up the cognitive hierarchy, aggregating and analysis predominate, therefore making the process more intellectual. At the lower levels, the data fusion process is more amenable to automation by information technology (IT). In this regard, it should be stressed that proper formatting of data[22] as it is entered will facilitate subsequent IR, and it is prudent to manage data under the principle of "enter data once, use many times." A complementary principle is that data and information are the only valid and true versions until replaced by corrected or updated versions. Data inputs and subsequent outputs need to comply with agreed upon standards and security protocols that will permit or restrict the flow of relevant information between networks. Higher up the information hierarchy, there will need to be more human involvement; for the foreseeable future, the development of situational understanding will always require human involvement as it implies cognition and judgment. In military operations this often translates into the requirement for a "watch staff " in an operations centre to exercise the final oversight on COP data.[23]

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Principles of Fusion Management

A number of management and exploitation activities are required in order to integrate and fuse diverse operational/intelligence (OI) sources in a distributed, collaborative manner. These activities will be guided by common fusion standards according to the following principles:[24]

  1. Distributed management. A common process must be established whereby responsibility for the management of information is delegated to the most appropriate organization in order to ensure that the information presented is accurate and authoritative. The most appropriate data manager is the operator with the best knowledge or first-hand knowledge of the data.
  2. Distributed production. Processing, fusion, analysis, and dissemination of information will take place at each level of command.
  3. Common information management standards. Common IM procedures must be based upon defined standard protocols that will regulate the provision and protection of information as well as control the access to that information and ensure that systems and networks are configured to support the resulting information exchange requirements in a secure manner.
  4. Collaborative use of fusion resources. Common processes and procedures must be established whereby resources for the fusion capability are recognized, coordinated, and efficiently used across the network in order to meet IR most effectively.
  5. Display. Geo-referencing and display of operational data and information has proven to be the most effective means to facilitate rapid understanding. Display mechanisms must match operational requirements and information priorities.
  6. Storage and retrieval. The data and information storage and retrieval processes must be intuitive and relevant to ensure compliance from all users. They must also be sharable and easily accessible across the network to ensure that there is only one true and valid data element and that the right information can be easily sourced.



Sense is the capability that seeks to provide a commander with the knowledge required to direct forces to achieve the most appropriate effect on the operational environment. As success in modern military operations is increasingly dependent on accurate and timely information, the understanding of the Sense function’s key concepts and associated activities outlined in this chapter are of critical importance to commanders and staff. More importantly, decision makers need to appreciate the necessity to effectively control the Sense function to ensure its collection and reporting processes effectively meet decision-making requirements.

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1. See B-GJ-005-000/FP-001, Canadian Forces Joint Publication, CFJP 01, Canadian Military Doctrine, September 2011.  (return)

2. The Act function comprises the two sub-functions of Shape and Move. (return)

3. Refer to the B-GA-400-000/FP-000, Canadian Forces Aerospace Doctrine and the keystone aerospace operational doctrine manuals for a more detailed discussion of each function or sub-function. (return)

4. United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (UK MOD), Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance Primer (n.d.), 1-6. (return)

5. David A. Deptula, "Think Different," Armed Forces Journal (Nov 2010), (English only) (accessed May 16, 2012). (return)

6. Defence Terminology Bank (hereafter cited as DTB) record 26167. (return)

7. DTB record 21027. (return)

8. Concept drawn from B-GL-300-003/FP-001, Command in Land Operations (July 27, 2007), 1-1. (return)

9. DTB record 41413. (return)

10. Derived from Maritime Command, CFCD 128, Formation and Fleet Information Management Manual (December 15, 2004) (English only) (PDF, 2.31 MB) (accessed May 16, 2012). (return)

11. CF Joint Information & Intelligence Fusion Capability (JIIFC), Concept of Fusion (Version 1.0), 7. (return)

12. DTB record 41401. (return)

13. JIIFC, Concept of Fusion, 10. (return)

14. CFCD 128. (return)

15. Commander’s intent: "The expressed rationale, method and desired end state of an operation or campaign that assures unity of purpose." (DTB record 32716). (return)

16. B-GL-300-003/FP-001, 1-17. (return)

17. DTB record 41494. (return)

18. B-GL-300-003/FP-001, 1-18. (return)

19. B-GL-300-003/FP-001, 4-22–4-23. (return)

20. This fusion definition is generalized from the following: "In intelligence usage, the blending of intelligence and/or information from multiple sources or agencies into a coherent picture. The origin of the initial individual items should then no longer be apparent." (DTB record 43350). (return)

21. JIIFC, Concept of Fusion, 7. (return)

22. Often referred to as "meta-tagging." (return)

23. Paragraph drawn in large part from ideas found in Canadian Forces Joint Information and Intelligence Fusion Capability (JIIFC) "Concept of Operations (CONOPS)" (Version 8.2), 13-14. (return)

24. Paragraph drawn in large part from ideas found in Canadian Forces Joint Information and Intelligence Fusion Capability (JIIFC) "Concept of Operations (CONOPS)" (Version 8.2), 15. (return)

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