BESTMAPS: How to Organize Intelligence Information – Forward Observer Shop

BESTMAPS: How to Organize Intelligence Information

When we approach Intelligence, it’s important to consider the full spectrum of relevant information.  Errors of omission are still errors.  Collecting some information is good; collecting as much relevant information as possible is better.

So when we consider Intelligence collection at the community or county level, we ought to be methodical and thorough in our generation of Intelligence Requirements and tasking/directing collection.  To do that, we use a the acronym, BESTMAPS.  You must incorporate the BESTMAPS acronym in your Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield/Community.

We start with Biographical.  Biographical information includes names and identities, education and work history, familial relationships, and geographical and other associations.  It’s how we learn about the key human terrain in our Area of Operations (AO).  Remember, there’s physical terrain – things like mountains and rivers – and there’s the human terrain.  The human terrain includes the demographics, as well as those who influence and how they influence our AO.

Next is Economic data.  What are the economic drivers in your AO?  What needs to keep working to keep those in your community working?  How will fuel rationing affect your local economy?  How will a bank holiday affect your local community?  These are some really good Intelligence Requirements that fall under the Economy, that you’ll need to answer.

After that, we find Sociological information.  Do members of your AO belong to a specific identity?  Are they overwhelmingly hard-working and independent, or are they dependent on government hand outs?  Are they religious?  Are they kind and friendly, or abrasive and exclusionary?  How do they segregate themselves, and along what lines what lines are they self-segregated?  We’re using this information to better map and understand the human terrain.

Transportation & Telecommunications is part of our critical infrastructure.  Transportation includes primary and secondary roads, and other lines of drift.  How will the infamous Golden Horde or mobs/looters reach your town or community?  Which routes are available to them to get to your home?  Telecommunications looks at lines of communication, and I’d include public WiFi in this section.  It may be important for you to communicate anonymously through the web, and public WiFi is a great facilitator.

Military Geography includes military installations and facilities, as well as police and other security stations.  We’re talking about geographical locations here.  Be sure to map these locations in your AO!

Armed Forces would be the Table of Organization & Equipment of military and police units in your AO.  How many units are in your area, what types of units are they, how are they manned, how are they staffed, and what equipment do they have?  The same goes for your local law enforcement – how many sheriff’s deputies are in your county, how many of them are on duty/patrol at any given time, what areas do they or do they not patrol, etc.  Pretty good idea to take a look at this stuff, if you haven’t already.

Political is traditionally strictly political, but in our day and age, we really ought to be adding those who influence politics, to include civic organizations.  You can include civic organizations under Sociological, as these organizations influence the populace, but you could also include that information here, where appropriate.   We need to look at current political leaders on the local level – how are they influencing the populace and your AO?  How do they affect security in your AO?  How will future or proposed potential efforts affect your AO?

Lastly, we arrive at Science/Technology.  You could include critical infrastructure like energy, power plants, and water treatment facilities here.  We also know that technology can be disruptive, checking the box on one of the four threat categories (Disruptive).  How can technology disrupt your security, the populace, or your AO?

BESTMAPS is a really great tool to help you flesh out your Intelligence collection/analysis capacity.  It helps us consider topics that we may not have considered, and gives some structure and organization to all the Intelligence information we need to collect and analyze.

Mike Shelby is a former military intelligence NCO and contract intelligence analyst. He spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now the intelligence and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.


  1. How large of an area would you consider your AO? Everywhere that you would potentially travel/visit/work/ etc, or do you mean city/county/state/ etc? Also, is it possible to link an example of a properly prepared BESTMAPS analysis/report – to demonstrate the level of detail needed?

    1. VV,

      I’ve built some intelligence courses on another website, and we’re in the process of moving them to FO. Within the next few weeks, Intelligence Preparation of the Community (e-course) will be hosted on this site. I go into detail about what information we need to include, and what that should look like. I’ll shoot you an email when it’s available.

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