LTG Donald V. Bennett, USA

September 1969 - August 1972


The year 1969 began with the inauguration of a new President, Richard M. Nixon. That change in the nation's chief executive was echoed by a change in DIA's directorship later that year. With General Bennett's assumption of command, there was a change in the style but not substance of the organization's leadership: in other words, DIA had another strong, dedicated director to lead it through some very challenging times. Bennett's tenure witnessed transformations both within and without the Agency. The former was marked by administrative reorganization and analytical refocusing; the latter by shifting alliances and policies in foreign and military affairs.

Throughout the 1960s DoD studied many ways to improve Defense intelligence which led to DIA's second major reorganization in July 1970. The early 1970s were transitional years in that the Agency's focus shifted from the consolidation of internal and external management roles to that of making the Agency a more effective and perceptive producer of national intelligence. Such improvement proved difficult at first because sweeping manpower decrements reduced the Agency's manpower by 31% from 1968 to 1975, causing mission reductions and organizational restructuring.

Reorganization occurred at many levels within the Intelligence Community during the years of Bennett's directorship. He implemented changes within the Agency while solidifying its position within the executive and military establishments. In 1970 DIA performed major revisions on the attaché system and then, in November, established the Directorate for Estimates. A year later, in November 1971, President Nixon reorganized the national Intelligence Community to improve efficiency and effectiveness. The Director of DIA was designated program manager for the General Defense Intelligence Program. Another change was the establishment of a position for an Assistant Secretary of Defense (Intelligence) (ASD/I) "to supervise Defense intelligence programs . . . and to provide the principal point for management and policy coordination with the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), the CIA, and other intelligence officials outside the DoD."

It was vital that intelligence be effective during this time of new military and foreign policy initiatives. Indochina was still an issue, but the focus was on withdrawal without causing the fall of South Vietnam. To prevent that from happening, President Nixon instituted "Vietnamization" and then, in 1970, ordered military units into Cambodia to stop communist military forces from using it as a base from which attacks could be mounted against South Vietnam. The US incursion into Cambodia resulted in DIA analysts putting in thousands of hours of overtime.

Analysts’ workload increased as the Agency was tasked with providing arms control support during the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I). Although, as Nixon noted, the US and USSR had both scaled down their Cold War rhetoric, the need to keep an eye on the other superpower--and its activities around the world, as in its support of the Allende government in Chile--was still there. DIA also contributed intelligence on the People’s Republic of China to help the President in his pursuit of better relations with that country. Other challenges facing General Bennett and DIA included the rise of Ostpolitik in Germany and that of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the Middle East. DIA monitored such issues as the riots in Gdansk, Poland, a civil war in Jordan and Nigeria, Idi Amin's takeover in Uganda, unrest in Pakistan, and the formation of Bangladesh.

The early 1970s was a period of transition and maturation for DIA. Under Bennett's leadership it expanded its influence as a producer of intelligence.