Washington, March 9, 2016 —
At the request of U.S. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and his NATO counterparts, DIA Director Lt Gen. Eugene Tighe, USAF, assigned Denis Clift, a senior defense intelligence officer, the task of preparing an unclassified publication to help inform the public of the nature and scope of the Soviet threat.
In September 1981, what was thought to be a one-time-only edition of Soviet Military Power was released. It was very well received and, in December 1982, Weinberger informed the Senate Armed Services Committee that he planned to issue a revised and updated version of the report. That was news to DIA. DIA quickly reassembled the original team under Clift, Dennis Nagy and David Phillips to meet the March 1983 deadline.
Editions of Soviet Military Power spanned the Reagan presidency and continued into the George H.W. Bush administration – 10 editions that forever set the standard for how to produce authoritative unclassified publications. It was translated into at least eight languages, including Russian. At the height of its popularity, nearly 400,000 copies were printed and distributed.
The project also opened a new chapter in the debate over the relationship between the use of classified intelligence and public policy. Weinberger described the overall effort as “singularly effective in producing a public understanding of the Soviet threat to our security and in developing support for the much-needed modernization of our armed forces.”
It was also a victory for the DIA team providing the intelligence that told the world about the Soviet military buildup. The Soviets couldn’t achieve their goals as long as the West could show the world what the Soviets were doing. Soviet Military Power made that possible.
Watch DIA’s documentary on Soviet Military Power video here.