3 Levels Of Intelligence Analysis Every Prepper Needs To Know And Why

Intelligence Analysis

Most preppers (me included) have a tendency to get caught up in “big picture” current events. That is, the happenings, the events, the tendencies and direction of our nation as a whole / or even international – global.

It’s easy to become emotionally charged up on the great issues that may or will affect us as a nation (or world) in the long run. And that’s okay! In fact it’s your civic duty to become educated about these issues and get involved to the extent that you can.

However here’s the problem:
We spend too much percentage of our time on this level of intelligence analysis.

Too much compared with what?! Good question! And that’s the purpose of this article…

*The source of the following principles is listed below.


The 3 Levels Of Intelligence Analysis

1. Tactical
2. Operational
3. Strategic

A simple way to define this is as follows:

TACTICAL = Close by
STRATEGIC = National / Global


Tactical Intelligence

That which is immediately important to us.

– Home
– Neighborhood


Operational Intelligence

The area where we can identify larger trends.

– Regional
– County
– State


Strategic Intelligence

The strategic level is the largest in scope.

– National
– Global


Why Does It Matter?

Better time management of your intelligence gathering!

According to *Samuel Culper, a former military intelligence NCO and civilian intelligence analyst, his rule of thumb is 60/30/10.

60% Tactical
30% Operational
10% Strategic

*Samuel Culper is the author of “SHTF Intelligence – An Intelligence Analyst’s Guide To Community Security”.

I have read his comprehensive guide which is the catalyst for this article.

If you have a mindset or interest in intelligence gathering (from an analyst’s perspective) you can get this (very technical) guide from ReadyMadeResources:
( Check it out here )

Again, with regards to gathering & tracking information we tend to spend too much of our time focusing on big ‘strategic’ issues. What we should be doing is being more diligent about and with our immediate sphere – our home, our neighborhood, our locality.

Why? Because if and when the SHTF, what WILL MATTER MOST is your local situation. There’s not much that you comparatively can do to affect (or that which will affect you) regarding big national or regional issues. Local however is another story…

Having tactical local intelligence will be paramount to your security and your decision making as you move forward through the event, SHTF, or just life in general.

While the ‘stuff’ that’s going on nationally (or regionally) may eventually affect you locally (which is why it’s important to know and understand those levels), it is very important to have a grip on your own area of operations – your home – your neighborhood – your town. These things will affect you first, and most!


Gather Intelligence

The methods that we might use to gather tactical, operational, and strategic intelligence may include a variety of techniques. The important thing is for someone (or more than one) in your group to do it. If there is no ‘group’ then you should devote some of YOUR time towards this.

Tactical is the most important. It’s literally your small local geographical sphere of operations. Within this sphere is its own geography, terrain, your own home and property. There are other people with their homes and properties. Businesses, stores, buildings & structures, roads. There’s a town government. Services. Local law enforcement. Emergency personnel. Etc..

These people within your tactical sphere have their own opinions, beliefs, political leanings, motivations, their own readiness (or lack of), their own influence among the community.

How much do you know about your own neighbors? Your town?

The more you know about the people within your locality, the better prepared you will be (knowledge wise) about the specifics that may affect you, be it good, bad, or indifferent.

Lots of this subject has to do with your own well being and security. It starts with intelligence. Having a tactical security plan is beyond the scope of this short article. However it will be VERY important to have tactical intelligence in order to have a better security situation. Focus on local.

Chances are that you’re not in direct contact with sources beyond your locality. Regional, state, and national information intelligence gathering will likely be from external sources. These may include mainstream news outlets, alternative news outlets, social media, websites, internet, print, over-the-air radio, and others.

It is important to know what’s happening outside of your locality. But don’t focus too much of your time on operational and strategic intelligence compared with time spent understanding your own tactical location.

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  1. Ken, timely and useful, as usual. Last week’s circus really brings to focus how easy it is to get lost in the “global” morass.
    Thanks for helping our MSB family re-focus.

  2. Yes Ken your are right, I is hard not to get caught up in the “Bread and Circus” atmosphere that the .gov orchestrates in media. Rome is on fire for sure. HEY LOOK SQUIRREL!!!!

  3. I guarantee that if there is a National failure like Venezuela, the State, County, Regional, analysis won’t mean anything. Yes, it is that serious. Many may think a the strategy of a National reset would be good and are prepare to weather the fallout, but millions of deaths will hit you wherever you try to hide. The world has changed to the point that our focus must also be reassessed.

    1. It was recognized in the book “Alas Babylon”. The country was bust building better bombers and battleships, when they should have been building missile equipped subs and ways to defend against them. So a local focus may be far to limited when we face the National corruption that will ruin us.

        1. My comment is in response to many that have stated that one should just keep one’s head down and avoid the fray (local focus). I encourage everyone to work to elect people that will fight the corruption in government – time to think Nationally.

          1. hermit us,

            Also, the principles of this article go well beyond just politics.

            For example put yourself in a mindset of SHTF or combat. Your life will mostly be about your tactical situation – which may very well fail without tactical (local) intelligence.

            An observer reported a sighting one mile away of 4 armed men near the corner of ‘x’ and ‘y’ at 1300 hrs today. They were standing around and didn’t appear to be on the move. They each had what appeared to be AR-15’s or maybe M4 or M-16’s (couldn’t tell from that distance). They appeared to possibly be in some sort of uniform – but maybe just BDU’s. The observer didn’t recognize any of them.

            This tactical intelligence may translate to being 4 National Guardsman or it might be 4 non-locals up to no good. This may affect you (or not) in the near future.

            On the other hand, there has been a report that rioting, looting, gunfire is occurring in a region 100 miles downstate from you. This operational intelligence may eventually affect you, but maybe not. If it does, it probably won’t be real soon.

    2. @hermit us, Your example is an example where strategic and operational intelligence will (under that scenario) affect us at the tactical level. And is a reason why we should pay attention to all three levels. The affects may cascade from one to the next. It very much will have meaning.

      1. Ken
        I guess I see the political catastrophe as being more imminent on a National scale – The best analogy I can think of now is, you are sitting in the bottom of a large ship with your hand stopping a small leak, as the ship drifts towards the rocks.

        1. “I guess I see the political catastrophe as being more imminent on a National scale – The best analogy I can think of now is, you are sitting in the bottom of a large ship with your hand stopping a small leak, as the ship drifts towards the rocks.”

          Indeed! and I agree!

          The Strategic Intelligence: We are drifting towards the rocks as a nation and it appears there’s no stopping it from happening.

          Analysis: When we hit the rocks, we better be prepared tactically, locally, because that’s what WILL affect you and me, each in our own AO. The message is to focus more on one’s AO.

        2. Ya, and when it hits the rocks ill bust out that case of Jiffy Pop and the sparkling cider and sit back and watch, ya know why?
          Because those affected the worst, are going to be primarily those who caused the pileup, sure some collateral damage, but mostly who lives and breathes the system?
          Thats right
          Urban and gov
          Neither do i have any use for

  4. Locally it can be difficult to sometimes tell what security risks your neighbors may pose.
    You can look up public records for arrests with in the past few years to make note of local trouble makers. Also our county has a crime map that shows police reports filed for specicf crimes like domestic abuse calls, robbery, theft, registered sex offenders etc… The map is a google overlay with nice little icon markers placed right over the specific addresses of where the incident occurs. This is a good way to size up my local area of operation. Way too many pervs running around my area… I’ll have to stock up on more ammo. ;)

  5. Good piece Ken.
    My AO is a perfect example of the importance of discerning the differece between these areas. What happens on Oahu might not affect me here on Maui. Something that happens in NYC might never affect me here on Maui,
    However, something that happens in Pukalani might definitely affect me, or a family member,, so spending an inordinate amount of time focused on national or global events is almost useless to me, paying better attention to whats going on locally is a better gauge of our situation.
    Honestly, stuff on the continent, has very little effect on us, economic, maybe, but social BS like riots etc,,, nothing…..
    Even politics, the state congressional politicians rattle, but they dont really affect us as everything they do is thousands of miles away,
    Hell, even local polititians really dont affect much, mostly a buncha boobs.
    But paying attention to fires, weather, work/job stuff, shipping/retail, locally it matters

    1. I would think that shipping on the west coast would have a profound effect on your situation.

    2. Tommyboy,

      Hawaiian living is very interesting and, for a relatively large population, almost unique among the 50 states. You don’t say whether you and yours are living off-grid, as some do on Maui and elsewhere in the islands (not us); if so, in a SHTF situation you may be marginally better off than those who rely on “normal ops” for day-to-day existence. That said, I’ll bet nearly all off-gridders rely on shipping to some significant degree for their existence.

      As 25+ year West-Maui part-timers, and over that period having grown keenly aware of our reliance on shipping for 99% of everything we consume while there, I agree with almost everything you add here, the exception being Hawaii’s — and Maui’s — vulnerabilities to disruptive events on the mainland, or the “continent”, as you called it. If shipping lines should ever get interrupted or shut down entirely, relatively “normal life” for on-gridders can be measured in mere days, not even weeks. Several years ago during the tsunami, drinking water disappeared from store shelves very quickly (by noon). Gas stations that require electricity to operate quickly became overwhelmed with lines of cars reminiscent of 1973-1974, their drivers hoping to top off before the power — and the gas pumps — quit working.

      Without shipping, MECO’s gas-fired generators themselves will soon run out of fuel, leaving only the small (but growing) number of wind generators to provide power to the grid. But eventually, since every one of those big windmills in Maalaea and elsewhere throughout the island chain will require at least periodic maintenance, and since each will eventually reach the end of its “useful life”, replacement parts have to come from somewhere — and most now have to arrive by ship.

      Most food comes by ship. Should shipping cease, I would expect Maui residents to become alarmed about their stomachs long before the lack of electricity became an overriding problem. And then, yes, even there in the beautiful Valley Isle, riots will happen…as more and more people run out of supplies — fuel, water, but especially food — the “have-nots” will try to take what they can from the “haves”. Also, unless you have access to a sailboat, escaping from the islands could become almost impossible; but even if you did, where could you go? In Hawaii, the term “isolation” takes on a greater meaning.

      If the SHTF in a major way on the mainland, bad enough to seriously disrupt shipping, good luck to all island-dwellers.

      Agree completely about the local politicians…wishful, selfish children playing “grown-up”.

      1. Sideliner1950
        Howdy, good to hear from ya,,,
        Agree completely on all your points.
        Watching people freaking out when we had thet evac situation with the tsunami warning was one reason i do what i do.
        For sure we are affected by events near and far, its all about how one positions themselves. We are not off grid, i am however prepared to live like its 1818, some around me and even in my family, not so much, wont they be surprised to learn the fuel ive put back isnt to run generators or cars,,,,,
        Its intetesting, many of the folks i know who are off grid are not going to do much better than those connected at all corners, most of em couldnt survive without their trip to Costco or whole foods every few days. And to many of them being prepared means having a few extra bottles of wine in the chill.
        I honestly dont see it ending well. In our little microclimate, we should be fine, but overall the island will fall apart.
        The lack of shipping or goods or electricity wont be my problem, it will be all the idiots who put their energy and money into living the high life rather than prudence in light of our location and dependence.

        1. Tommyboy,

          Howdy right back atcha, And for the time being, at least, “lucky you live Maui.” May it always be so for you.

          Re: idiots living the (Hawaiian) high life…that’s a component of the “interesting” dynamic I referenced at the top. A mainland SHTF event bad enough to paralyze or end shipping to/from Hawaii could be the feared “equalizer” event, triggering panic among many of those high-living people whose perceived wealth will be made moot by a collapse in the underlying currency system. And all of a sudden, those same previously-wealthy people will find themselves scrambling for their own survival — in demeaning, perhaps violent ways they never dreamed they would — because at best, the wealth underlying their perceived power will have been made moot, if not worthless. We could all be listening to the “coconut wireless” one day as it taps out the headline “Rich Guys Rioting!” Then things would get very ugly.

          But before that happened, the massive presence of active-duty and reserve US Military personnel in Hawaii, some 100,000 strong, representing maybe 7% of the state’s population, would be activated for both security duty and evacuations utilizing military vessels, as available. And those 100,000 fatigue-wearing, and yes gun-totin’ military personnel will be carrying out orders under the guidance of those same “children masquerading as politicians” we referenced above, who arise from the same pool as those geniuses who told us to “Seek Immediate Shelter” from nuclear attack back in January. Children. Scary.

          Living in Hawaii can be a beautiful thing, but as big as the rewards may be, living in Hawaii is probably the most vulnerable, fragile existence anywhere in our country. A SHTF event on the mainland/continent disrupting shipping would be a frightening situation indeed, and it would make a lot of people question their decision to live there. And that would be a real shame.

          May such an event never rear its ugly head.

          1. 😎🤙🏻
            Most folks i am close to are pretty self sufficient, old school as it were,
            In this paradise we produce less than 11% of the food consumed here. Thats a scary number.
            Can you imagine the fun and games when the ships stop bringing containers to this place twice a week?
            Going to be interesting,
            I could most likely be ok to not move one inch from the homestead for at least a year plus, if we know its that bad, we can grow and hunt enough to feed us and all our neighbors. In fact several of us in this neighborhood are sitting on ag land with water supplies or at least water storage and machinery. Theres game up the yingyang around us too.
            Should be interesting when, not if.

  6. As with so many things, I think it’s about finding balance.
    I think everyone would agree that getting caught up in national or international politics/current events while pretty much ignoring what is happening in your neighborhood or community is not a good idea. Any more than focusing on just your area and ignoring what national or international events could create problems for everyone (including your neck of the woods).

    Ken, NRP and SO many of you here taught me about “the lifestyle” and to think about what you are specifically preparing for. If there is a big protest in downtown LA, I am MANY miles away and would probably not worry about it, but that does not mean I am not aware of it or paying attention to whether it remains peaceful or if it devolves, or spreads. Just one example of how i watch local events/happenings.

    If we have food shortages, currency issues, an economic collapse or a pandemic, it may start thousands of miles from where I am. But, the effects could hit me and my community pretty darn fast – so I need to be aware of the big picture, too. For me, that’s the balance.

    1. SCG
      Good balance. Many of us have the local/tactical focus in hand, but I encourage everyone to look and act towards a National focus for the next 30 days.

  7. I agree with your assessment on the National scale. I don’t need to watch the news to know its bad. I just know that eventually the shit will trickle down to me. I don’t need to know the reasons why, just when. Most of my energy is focused on tactical.

    1. Yup – it’s trickling down alright…! It will eventually affect us (and is to an extent already affecting us). A finger in the dike isn’t going to stop the eventual reality of what will likely happen.

      Good job focusing on your tactical situation. When ‘it’ happens, it will be all about your locality. And my locality. And everyone’s individual locality.

  8. You can wait. In Venezuela they let the left vote in a socialist bus driver who has done very well for himself and friends, but the majority have waited and are now starving. Fine line between a socialist, a communist and a dictator. We all get to choose if enough of us step up, voice concerns at town hall meeting, put up signs (electrified ones are good), talk rationally with friends, …

  9. I agree with all of you who say that local intel should top the list when things go south. Not taking away from the Ham radio importance, but I’ve been dwelling more and more on the need for CB radio networking as being the answer for quick relay of important info such as upticks in thefts, assaults, and home invasions or roving bands of bad actors on a local level.. Years ago, nearly every county had active “REACT” organizations/clubs with members rotating manning a base station 24/7. You could call for assistance on channel 9 or 19 (until the truckers commandeered channel 19) similar to calling today’s 911 operator. In the early days of my law enforcement career, many patrol cars were outfitted with CB’s and the dispatch office manned a CB base station. Might work again.

    1. I agree that communications will be VERY important and a great asset. There are various types of radios, but the CB is an interesting thought. Their operating frequencies are more conducive to variable terrain than VHF 2-way radios (very line of sight) more common today.

  10. Nation/world information is important, yes. Constant prepping/preparedness is always the salvation when the attack comes.

    I watched the second plane hit the tower in real time. Had just gone into a fire station thirty minutes after hitting the streets to find that fire company gathered around a TV. They called out to me saying I needed to watch. When the second plane hit, seconds later a signal 45 came out on my radio (report to assigned assembly point code-3. Days off and vacations were immediately cancelled and 12 on and 12 off mandated. All motors were assigned downtown for first response since High Rises appeared to be a target and downtown was in the flight path of Love Field and within 15 miles of DFW airport.

    Just so happens, that day fell on the day I would normally fill my pickup with gas on the trip home. I lived 63 miles away. I passed probably 40-50 service stations with lines stretching for blocks until 10 miles from home I found a small independent station with only 5 cars in line. Ever since, I fill my pickup/vehicles every time I go to town and keep bou-coup gas on hand at home. Blankets, food, and water travel with me everywhere I go. The point I’m making, even with instantaneous intel of an event over a thousand miles away, my job obligations and situation made the info useless to prevent hardship caused by this tragedy.

    1. Dennis
      That intel would have eased your mind if you had a family member on an international flight that was forced to land in Newfoundland, Canada. It may not have made a difference physically, but would have given you the opportunity to plan for the future – operational planning?

      1. Hermit us,

        I hear what your saying. I never will forget how quiet it seemed downtown after all the air traffic was grounded. Funny how you never noticed the noise until it wasn’t there.

        Early on in the aftermath of 911, the fear was that the fabled suitcase nukes might follow. While discussing that possibility with fellow officers, one asked what I would do if major cities started being hit. I responded that the first thing I would do would be give my pickup to the city. Puzzled they asked why. I said that it was because I was taking their motorcycle to get home faster. We all had a good laugh. I was serious.

        1. That brings back a memory. Yeah, that was one of the major things I noticed on 9/11 and a few days after. It was eerily quiet outside and I live out by the country. We see a lot of air triffid fly over heading to and from Chicago. It kind of reminded me of Sunday’s when I was young as most businesses were closed and families stayed home after church services.

  11. I have said it here for 2 years.

    Get out in your local community and meet people. Get to know your neighbors good and bad.

    A great way to collect intel on your area. All those extra eyes and ears sharing info.

    Be the good neighbor who helps out. Not all but most will reciprocate in one way or another.

    You will find out about opportunities before others when you are in the “loop”.

    I would say the most important Intel I get is on the “bad characters ” that either are already here or just moved in.

    Invaluable Information can be had but you have to be around to receive it.

    You then get to sift it and decide what is usable.

    An awesome Monday post to get folks thinking…

    1. BJH so true. Having a relationship with people will give you information and opportunities you will cherish. How better to learn how folks respond when you help them and do they reciprocate or not? Some of my best buys were from folks who knew me from BBQ’s and bringing my generator over to their parents during the storms. A lot of old Quality Hunting Gear was cheaply gotten and a lot traded for newer items.

      Discernment or as you put it “Sifting” information is important. One persons bad opinion about someone is worthwhile but how do other folks see that person? When folks I trust speak well or poorly about you THAT is Important.

  12. Currently I am focused on the national level, so I will see “it” coming…once it happens, I will be much more locally focused. Funny thing, yesterday my daughter asked me what my greatest fear was…I answered Carrington event, which got a discussion started, that may, or may not, have opened her eyes a bit…or not.

  13. Speaking of international concerns, just noticed Sec Def Mattis cancelled a scheduled China trip. They ain’t happy, and Trump ain’t Obama. Just a matter of time.

      1. Yes, the government definitely thinks very long term and at the same time trying to manage over 1 billion. There are a lot of things that are built for long term purposes but there also are things built for more immediate use with poor quality workmanship. Long term- the apartment complex where I stayed has a dual purpose underground structure. It is for parking and is also a bomb shelter as evidenced by the 16 inch thick open doors when driving into the parking area. In other areas, you see poor quality construction where it is obvious the structures or walls will need to be fixed or replaced in not too many years.

      2. Then again, most underground structures I saw in China were dual purpose parking/bomb shelters. I see nothing like that in the US. Are they preparing for something????

          1. WOW, seems like we are kind of behind the 8 ball on this. These structures I am referring to are not some thing from 30 years ago, these are new, built within the last few years such as the one under the apartment complex where I was staying. Yes, I said under an apartment complex, not some gov building or near a gov facility.

  14. 1st time reader/visitor. Interesting site!!! I enjoyed the analytical article! I can’t help but recall my 21 years in the US Army (96B/96D/97B and 97D) !!

    Is there a sign-up page where I can be assured to see future article and reports???

    1. Hi bruce, no signup page at this time, just bookmark us in your browser and come back to visit!

      (I am looking into an email signup / newsletter situation)

    2. bruce,

      Welcome aboard and thanks for your service. Like Ken said, add MSB to your favorite page, or better, scan down the right side to “Top Prepper Sites”. Earmark that site and use it to not only access this blog, but vote it up at the same time.

  15. Don’t know if connected to your info, but Secret Service intercepted a letter sent to President Trump containing suspected ricin, similar to ones sent Mad Dog and one other at the Pentagon.

  16. Preparedness Lifestyle and the Rule of Three.

    Intelligence, in this present context, can be viewed as multidimensional in nature within which tri-part patterns can be observed.

    In addition to the tactical, operational, and strategic presented here by Ken:

    Some intel operations are described in terms of their sequential activity: gathering (sources, methods, data organization), analysis (sorting the wheat from the chaff, determining relevance, applying priorities), and response (planning, preparing, taking action).

    Others are defined by whether they fall into an area of responsibility, area of operation, or area of interest.

    Given preparedness as the need for intelligence, often risk analysis is presented in terms of geologic/climactic risk, political/military, or economic/demographic. Probability of risk can be assessed based on historic frequency, current events, and/or future (if/then) projections.

    Change can be triggered by a single event (lights go out because a car hit a power pole – normally just a nuisance), the accumulated pressure of multiple events (lights go out because an ice storm breaks neighborhood power lines across a large area and transmission is interrupted – a relatively short-term but potentially dangerous condition), or the explosive impact of exponential cascades of related events (lights go out because a high altitude EMP overwhelmed generation and transmission facilities causing regional or national failure of the electric grid – a devastating and perhaps permanent alteration).

    Each of these triads can overlay and intersect with components of the other triads. And our great big brains can simultaneously hold all this information and make these instantaneous analyses.

    Thank you, Ken, for creating and managing MSB where we can connect and learn and discuss and hone our skills. I’m grateful for all I’ve received from the members of this community. IF preparedness pays off, THEN it will be significantly attributable to the MSB family.

  17. Rather than seeing these levels on a geographic basis, one must view each level as doctrines of military behavior and planning.

    Based on my experience in Afghanistan, these are the 3 levels/doctrines:

    1) Strategy – policy to achieve a geopolitical objective, eg, counterterrorism vs counterinsurgency (COIN) strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan;

    2) Operations – planning & logistics, eg, how much air support, artillery, cavalry, medical, ground troops/infantry will be needed for the war;;

    3) Tactics – how individual units, small teams, etc use their weapons & maneuvers on the ground. Thinking of these 3 levels strictly on a geographic basis is very limiting and potentially self-defeating.

    1. wolverine,

      Absolutely agree regarding planning doctrine (Strategy | Operations | Tactics). I wouldn’t say “rather”, but “also”… because Intelligence itself (and its analysis) is complimentary (and a necessary component) to overall planning of an operation.

      Thanks for your input!

      1. Thanks, Ken… Great website, too. Possibly the best on prepping & survival planning.

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