VADM Vincent P. De Poix, USN

August 1972 - September 1974

PRINT | E-MAIL

Admiral de Poix continued the reorganization of the Agency begun by his predecessor, General Bennett. Streamlining the organization had become critical since severe manpower cutbacks had taken a major toll on the Agency. DIA manpower had been cut by one third after Vietnam. By 1973, nearly all elements had been consolidated and realigned.

In September 1972, Secretary of State William Rogers said that the US and the Soviet Union were moving away from a world of containment to one of engagement. Yet even though relations warmed into a period of détente, the need for Defense intelligence did not diminish. Such intelligence was an intrinsic component of military strength, and, as President Nixon reiterated in the spring of 1973, the US had to remain militarily strong if negotiations with communist nations were to be successful.

President Nixon met with much success in foreign affairs, but quite the reverse in domestic issues. While some of his diplomatic and military decisions--in the latter case, for example, over how and when to end American involvement in Indochina--were controversial, nothing so undermined Americans' confidence in the executive as the Watergate break-in and the President's complicity in the cover-up. As the Intelligence Community was tied into the executive branch, that distrust tainted the public's perception of that community. Furthermore, many Americans believed that the Intelligence Community had itself engaged in some improper--if not illegal--actions abroad (there were suspicions about CIA involvement in the September 1973 coup in Chile). This meant that Admiral De Poix faced the challenge of steering DIA through some hostile waters.

The fourth major Arab-Israeli conflict, the Yom Kippur or October War, commenced on 6 October 1973. The massive attacks launched by Syria and Egypt had caught the Israeli's unprepared, and was seen as a major intelligence failure for both the United States and Israel.

In the post-Watergate controversy surrounding American intelligence activities, DIA and its director answered detractors by remaining focused on providing quality products to national policy makers. The Agency's reputation grew as its products were increasingly perceived throughout the government as valuable to the decision-making process. The Agency was able to do this even while suffering from a personnel shortage, something which was of major concern at the Williamsburg Conference in 1972. Conference participants considered DIA resource decrements, while emphasizing technology and an upgrade of the National Military Intelligence Center (NMIC). The General Counsel function was also added.

The Agency's analysts wrestled with varied and numerous issues between the summer of 1972 when Admiral De Poix came on board and the fall of 1974. They studied Lebanon, China (to aid in the normalizing of relations), the formation of Sri Lanka, and, of course, Salvador Allende's regime in Chile. The Agency also had analysts dedicated to the task of resolving Vietnam POW/MIA issues. They faced the intelligence challenges associated with maintaining detente, establishing arms control agreements (such as the SALT II talks in 1974), and the Peace of Paris (Vietnam). Other issues of note were global energy concerns (such as the petroleum shortages that led to long gas lines), and troubles throughout Africa. These and other world events brought greater emphasis on DIA products by decision makers.

President Gerald Ford wanted continuity in foreign affairs, so he promised Congress in August 1974 that he would continue to try to improve relations with the Soviet Union and China. Defense intelligence would continue to play a role in informing US policies and negotiations. DIA and its director, Admiral De Poix, had managed not only to maintain continuity of operations during these critical years, but also improve DIA's performance.