Measurement and Signature Intelligence (MASINT)

Measurement and Signature Intelligence (MASINT)

Measurement and Signature Intelligence (MASINT) is the scientific form of intelligence collection that seeks to identify discrete signatures and measure phenomena to derive intelligence.

Measurement and Signature Intelligence (MASINT) is the scientific form of intelligence collection that seeks to identify discrete signatures and measure phenomena to derive intelligence. MASINT represents the technological high ground. For this week’s discussion posting: Categorize the challenges facing the MASINT community and analyze some of the implications of these challenges for the future. Make sure you place your discussion within the context of the literature.

Assignment: Response to at least two classmates.

Due Dates: Main Posts are due and responses to classmates are due. Feedback to students after the assignment grading period will not be assessed.

The greatest challenge for the MASINT intelligence discipline is ultimately the costs associated with it. MASINT provides unprecedented tracking and tipping capabilities that can inform some of the most strategic and high-profile problem sets. It is used to identify nuclear activity, missile activity, and even movements of HVIs (Joint Publication 2-01 2013). While the payoff of analysis that stems from MASINT can be high, it is an extremely scientific field and requires continuous investment to research and develop collection methodologies. All sensors are extremely expensive simply due to their complex nature. Furthermore, training analysts to become MASINT experts is extremely expensive. Their initial training alone is much longer than most other intelligence disciplines. This does not include any follow on specialization training. As one of the newest collection methods, the career field has fewer analysts and fewer assets for collection (Richelson 2010). In order to mitigate these challenges in the future, it is important for the IC to ensure that they are vectoring enough analysts to the field to ensure that any assets that are being developed now will have an appropriate support network when they become FOC. Due to the technical nature of this discipline, there may be an opportunity to incorporate AI to triage data and identify specific trends. Deliberate decisions need to be made by the IC and members in government about the role of MASINT in the future to ensure that a proper amount of funding is allotted


Richelson, Jeffrey T. 2010. MASINT: The New Kid in Town. International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence. Vol .14, Issue .2.

Joint Intelligence, Joint Publication 2-0. 2013. U.S. Government. Department of Defense. Washington DC: Government Printing Office.

Measurement and Signature Intelligence (MASINT) is an advanced technological discipline. Much like SIGINT it has sub-disciplines as well. It also holds some of the same qualities and challenges that SIGINT holds. MASINT and SIGINT are both expensive. They both are more useful when paired with one or more other INTs.

Not only does MASINT cost a lot of money in general but it is expensive upfront to actually get it going; therefore, benefits are not immediately seen. If MASINT is going to be used at the best of its ability there is a significant amount of time and talent that must be spent when building data banks filled with MASINT. Time and talent both cost money. If the money is not spent on good talent they will go elsewhere to receive a higher salary. The cost of retention is not cheap.

MASINT is also not very timely. MASINT can be used in many different areas but it is not great for tactical applications. I’m not saying it can’t be used at the tactical application, I will talk about that later down the post. The key words in MASINT are measurement and Signature. In order to be able to measure something or determine what type of signature it has it must be collected on extensively. For example, someone cannot simply collect on a holding vat at a chemical plan one time and expect to understand the exact IR signature it puts off or expect that IR signature to be the same every time. It must be collected on over time and then recollected on to determine if there are any changes. If a vat containing a large amount of liquid that is a key ingredient for a propellant in a rocket it must be looked at over and over again. If collected on and a change is found in the signature it is now time to determine exactly what the change was and what the change means. Did they get more propellant? Did they use the propellant? This could mean they are getting ready for some sort of test or launch. Did they simply move the propellant to another tank so they could perform maintenance on the current one? None of this can be known without the TIME it takes to collect that baseline level of data.

With all of the challenges that have been mentioned there are also some significant uses for MASINT. As I mentioned earlier, it is best when coupled with another INT. I will say this holds true for all of the INTs when verifying intelligence but MASINT NEEDS the other INTS. One example is using MASINT and GEOINT together to perform Coherent Change Detection or CCD. I know we haven’t really dove into GEOINT but it is basically images or videos of physical human activity and physical geography of the earth. How it work is a whole paper in itself but SAR imagery from a satellite can be overlaid with GEOINT imagery and a trained analyst can visually find differences between the images. How this has been used in the past is to identify disturbances in the earth where IEDs have been placed. This does have its drawback from being very expensive but if it save one U.S. life I find the juice well worth the squeeze.


Answer preview for Measurement and Signature Intelligence (MASINT) is the scientific form of intelligence collection that seeks to identify discrete signatures and measure phenomena to derive intelligence.


600 Words