Staff Functions

The Four Cs: Multi-National and Multi-Agency Intelligence in a COVID-19 Environment

By Chris Field February 18, 2021

On Tuesday 27 October 2020, United States (US) Army Central hosted the inaugural Virtual Land Forces Intelligence Conference (VLFIC). The VLFIC employed Microsoft Teams to unite in common interest and friendship more than 60 participants from 11 nations and 35 partner organisations, across eight time zones from North America, to Europe, the Middle East and New Zealand.[1]

The purpose of the VLFIC was to discuss multi-national and multi-agency intelligence operations in a COVID-19 environment enabling the four-Cs: communication, coordination, cooperation and collaboration.[2] Supporting the four-Cs, the VLFIC was:

  • Unclassified.
  • Scheduled for the maximum convenience of our five Middle East partner nations.[3]
  • PowerPoint slides translated to Arabic.
  • Moderated by a US Army officer with significant cultural and regional experience in the 20-nation US Central Command area of responsibility.[4]
  • Supported by a guest speaker, Lieutenant General (Retired) Terry Wolf, Director, Near East South Asia Center (NESA), National Defense University, Washington, DC.[5]

Building on momentum generated from the VLFIC 2020, the next US Army Central multi-national and multi-agency intelligence event is the Regional Land Forces Intelligence Symposium, Tampa, Florida, 22-26 March 2021.

Discussions and interactions during the VLFIC produced a range of ideas. Employing the theme of four-Cs – communication, coordination, cooperation and collaboration – this article shares best practice ideas from VLFIC’s 11 nations and 35 partner organisations. 

Four-Cs – communication, coordination, cooperation and collaboration

Best practice ideas – Communication:

  • Harmonise actions across human, maritime, land, air, cyber, information and space domains.
  • Nurture a culture of trust, dignity, respect, transparency, integrity and reassurance.
  • Connectivity, collection, and shared understanding through open-source information and carefully considered distribution.
  • Counter and protect against written, media, digital and data disinformation, misinformation and malinformation.[6]
  • Authorities enable decision making through articulating force permissions, and assigned resources, across relevant combat functions, including:
    • Command relationships
    • Intelligence sharing
    • Movement and manoeuvre including access, basing and overflights
    • Lethal and non-lethal targeting permissions
    • Logistics provision and support
    • Force protection requirements.[7] 

Best practice ideas – Coordination:

  • Interconnectedness of partnerships: our partner’s partner is our partner.
  • Connect joint, interagency, regional, international, coalition and multi-sector partners. Where multi-sector partners include community, business, industry, academic organisations and other iconic institutions.
  • Frame intelligence challenges as:
    • Talent: enabling people to achieve their personal, professional, and cultural potential.
    • Threat: see ourselves, see the enemy, see our environment.
    • Technology: including connectivity, communications, bandwidth, artificial intelligence, machine learning, data-integrity, big-data, and analysis.
  • Common understanding, including revision and employment of doctrine, is vital in framing, defining and solving complex problems. For example:
    • Commander’s Critical Information Requirements (CCIRs) doctrinally contain two components: priority intelligence requirements (PIR), which examine the adversary and environment; and friendly force information requirements (FFIR) which examine friendly forces and supporting capabilities.
    • A third component is Host Nation Information Requirements (HNIR), examining information about the host nation’s capacity to effectively partner, develop plans, make decisions, and integrate within host nation government, business, industry and community activities.[8]

Best practice ideas – Cooperation:

  • Relationships are a pacing item. Where pacing items are ‘major systems [or capabilities]…central to an organisation’s ability to perform its designated mission’.[9] Relationships require mutual trust and shared confidence between leaders, their people, partners and teams. Trust in relationships is built over time based on common shared experiences and habitual training.[10]
  • Employ existing relationships to optimal effect including staff at embassies, in liaison roles or embedded in partner organisations.
  • Orchestrate COVID-19 safe face-to-face meetings, especially when developing new relationships to consolidate and optimise our human-to-human connections.
  • Coordinate intelligence and counter-intelligence.

Best practice ideas – Collaboration:

  • Synchronising whole-of-nation capabilities and instruments of national power through DIME-FIL: diplomacy, information, military, and economic, finance, intelligence, and law enforcement.[11]
  • Change the way we work. Create new roles, new organisation and new relationships.
  • Readiness, preparedness and leaning-in by seizing opportunities, sharing ideas, creating a shared understanding, acknowledging bias, reducing barriers and building pathways for others to follow.[12]
  • Flexible workplaces that are clean, socially distant and productive to simultaneously enable our mission while protecting our force.


The US Army Central hosted the inaugural Virtual Land Forces Intelligence Conference (VLFIC) allowing more than 60 participants from 11 nations and 35 partner organisations to discuss multi-national and multi-agency intelligence operations in a COVID-19 environment.

Discussions during the VLFIC produced a range of ideas. These discussions enabled a common understanding of the four-Cs – communication, coordination, cooperation and collaboration – in multi-national and multi-agency intelligence environments. This article shares best practice ideas from the VLFIC discussions.

Building on momentum generated from the VLFIC 2020, the next US Army Central multi-national and multi-agency intelligence event is the Regional Land Forces Intelligence Symposium, Tampa, Florida, 22-26 March 2021.



End Notes:


[1] 11 Nations: Australia, Bahrain, Canada, France, Jordan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, New Zealand, United Arab Emirates. United Kingdom, and the United States.

[2] The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), of the genus Betacoronavirus, is the causative agent of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

[3] Five Middle East partner nations: Bahrain, Jordan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates.

[4] US Central Command area of responsibility: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.

[5] LTG (Ret) Terry Wolff returned to his duties as the full time Director of NESA in February 2019 after serving as the Deputy Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. LTG (Ret) Wolff completed 34 years of service and retired from active duty in February 2014 upon completing service as the Director of Strategic Plans and Policy, J-5 for the Joint Staff. LTG (Ret) Wolff commanded at every level from platoon to armored division. He spent nearly ten years in Germany and served three tours in Iraq commanding the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team, and the United States Division-Center (1st Armored Division).

Near East South Asia Center, LTG (Ret.) Terry A. Wolff – Director, National Defense University, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, DC 20319-5066 <> [accessed 13 December 2020]

[6] Carmi, E. & Yates, S. J. & Lockley, E. & Pawluczuk, A., Data citizenship: rethinking data literacy in the age of disinformation, misinformation, and malinformation. Internet Policy Review, 28 May 2020

<> [accessed 13 December 2020]

[7] Chris Field, Planning and Liaison: Five Ideas: On Planning, The Cove, The Australian Profession of Arms, 21 November 2018 <> [accessed 13 December 2020]

[8] US Department of Defense, Joint Staff J7, Deployable Training Division (DTD),  Commander’s Critical Information Requirements (CCIRs) Insights and Best Practices Focus Paper, Fourth Edition, January 2020, p. 3 <> [accessed 13 December 2020]

[9] United States, Headquarters Department of the Army, Army Regulation 220–1, Field Organizations, Army Unit Status Reporting and Force Registration – Consolidated Policies, Washington, D.C., 15 April 2010, p. 99

[10] Email from Brigadier Doug Laidlaw, Commander JTF 646, to MAJGEN Field, 14 May 2020

[11] Cesar Augusto Rodriguez, Timothy Charles Walton, and Hyong Chu, Putting the “FIL” into “DIME”: Growing Joint Understanding of the Instruments of Power, Joint Force Quarterly 97, 01 April 2020 <> [accessed 13 December 2020]

[12] Susan Adams, 10 Things Sheryl Sandberg Gets Exactly Right In 'Lean In', Forbes, 04 May 2013

<> [accessed 13 December 2020]





Chris Field

Major General Chris Field is Deputy Commanding General, Operations, US Army Central.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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