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Collection planning


Collection planning refers to the systematic process of identifying, prioritizing, and tasking available intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets to gather information relevant to specific military objectives and mission requirements. This procedure takes into account factors such as asset availability, capabilities, and environmental limitations to optimize the overall effectiveness of intelligence collection. In essence, it helps in organizing and synchronizing the utilization of ISR resources to support decision-making and operation execution in the military domain.

Key Takeaways

  1. Collection planning is a critical process in military operations aimed at gathering, organizing, and disseminating intelligence information to support decision-making and mission objectives.
  2. It involves identifying intelligence gaps, determining appropriate collection assets and resources, establishing priorities, and ensuring the collected information is processed and analyzed effectively to meet operational requirements.
  3. Efficient collection planning enhances the overall effectiveness and success of military missions by providing timely, accurate, and relevant intelligence to commanders and enabling them to make informed decisions on the battlefield.


Collection planning is a crucial component of military operations, as it ensures that essential information is gathered, analyzed, and utilized for strategic decision making.

This process facilitates the coordination and allocation of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets across various levels of command, helping military leaders effectively assess threats, minimize risks, and achieve their tactical and operational objectives.

By streamlining and prioritizing data collection efforts, military personnel can make well-informed decisions, optimize resource allocation, and enhance their overall situational awareness, thereby increasing the likelihood of mission success and promoting the safety and security of both military personnel and civilians.


Collection planning is a critical component of military operations, as it serves to direct and synchronize the efforts of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets in support of the commander’s mission objectives. The primary purpose of collection planning is to provide timely, relevant, and accurate information to commanders, enabling them to make informed decisions and gain a comprehensive understanding of the operational environment.

This process plays an integral role in effectively allocating ISR resources in order to accomplish the mission, while minimizing risks and potentially preventing friendly losses. The successful implementation of collection planning is vital for various military activities, such as terrain analysis, target identification, threat assessment, and force protection.

These activities require a robust and well-structured approach to managing information and intelligence, which is achieved through the prioritization of collection requirements. By identifying gaps in information, analyzing the enemy’s capabilities and intentions, and recommending the most suitable ISR assets for each task, collection planning ensures that commanders have a clear picture of the battlefield, allowing them to better anticipate and counter potential adversities.

As a result, collection planning greatly enhances the effectiveness and efficiency of military operations, leading to greater chances of mission success and overall operational superiority.

Examples of Collection planning

Collection planning is a crucial aspect of military operations that involves the process of gathering relevant information and intelligence to support decision-making, mission planning, and overall situational awareness. Here are three real-world examples:

Operation Desert Storm (1991): During this military operation, the United States and coalition forces employed a thorough collection planning strategy to monitor the movement and activities of Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces. Extensive use of satellites, airborne reconnaissance platforms, signals intelligence, and human intelligence allowed commanders to track enemy positions, assess their capabilities, and understand the adversary’s intentions. This vital information facilitated the rapid victory of coalition forces in the Gulf War.

Operation Neptune Spear (2011): This operation was the United States mission that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden. Collection planning played a significant role in the success of the mission, as different intelligence sources were meticulously analyzed and synthesized to confirm bin Laden’s location, verify the layout and security of the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and support tactical decision-making in the execution of the raid. Information from human informants, drone surveillance, and satellite imagery contributed to the mission’s success.

NATO operations in the Balkans (1990s-early 2000s): Throughout the multiple NATO interventions in the Balkans, collection planning played an essential role in conflict support and peacekeeping missions. Intelligence gathering efforts enabled NATO forces to monitor the hostile activities of various warring factions, locate mass grave sites, and track the movement of arms and military resources. This information proved useful in enforcing agreements, averting a larger conflict, and facilitating humanitarian efforts in the region.

FAQ for Collection Planning

What is collection planning in the military context?

Collection planning is the process of identifying, prioritizing, and coordinating the gathering of information from various sources to support a military operation. This may include intelligence gathering, reconnaissance, surveillance, and other data collection efforts. The information collected is then processed and analyzed to support decision-making and the execution of missions.

Why is collection planning important in military operations?

Collection planning is crucial for ensuring that military commanders have access to accurate, timely, and relevant information. This information is needed to make informed decisions about tactics, force allocation, and other aspects of operations. Without effective collection planning, critical intelligence gaps may go unfilled, leading to potential mission failure or the unnecessary expenditure of resources.

What are the different types of collection platforms?

Various collection platforms can be used in the military context to gather information, including human intelligence (HUMINT) sources, signals intelligence (SIGINT) equipment, imagery intelligence (IMINT) systems, and measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT) sensors. Each type of platform offers unique capabilities, and they are often employed in combinations to provide comprehensive and complementary data on target areas and situations.

How does collection planning fit into the intelligence cycle?

Collection planning is a key component of the intelligence cycle, a process that begins with the identification of information requirements and ends with the dissemination of processed intelligence products. In this cycle, collection planning is responsible for developing strategies and selecting appropriate platforms to collect the required information. This information is then processed, analyzed, and integrated into actionable intelligence products, which are provided to decision-makers to support their mission planning and execution.

What factors influence the effectiveness of collection planning?

Several factors can impact the effectiveness of collection planning, including the availability and capabilities of collection assets, the clarity and prioritization of intelligence requirements, the understanding of the operational environment, coordination between collection and analysis teams, and the adaptability to changing mission conditions. Effective collection planning requires ongoing assessment and adjustment of these factors to ensure that the necessary information is collected and processed in a timely and relevant manner.

Related Military Operation Terms

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Sources for More Information

  • Joint Chiefs of Staff – The official website for the United States Department of Defense’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, where you can find information about collection planning and other military operations.
  • GlobalSecurity.org – A comprehensive resource for information about collection planning, military tactics, intelligence, and security news.
  • U.S. Department of Defense – The official website of the United States Department of Defense, where you can find information about collection planning, military operations, and related resources.
  • RAND Corporation – A research organization that provides in-depth analysis on various topics, including collection planning and military intelligence.