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What is Military Intelligence?
Military intelligence is intelligence on any foreign military or military-related situation which is significant to military policymaking or the planning and conduct of military activities. It is the product of gathering information about foreign military capabilities, intentions, plans, dispositions, and equipment; analyzing the contents of that information; and disseminating the findings to decision makers, combat troops, and other recipients.
Military intelligence appears in three basic forms: strategic, operational, and tactical. Strategic intelligence is intelligence that is required for the formulation of strategy, policy, and military plans and operations at national and theater levels. It involves a focus on overarching factors such as foreign geography, infrastructure, and force planning, or long-term trends such as the application of new tactics, techniques, and procedures or the development of new resources. It is an important tool in the effort to anticipate and counter threats throughout the world.
Operational intelligence is intelligence that is required for planning and conducting campaigns and major operations to accomplish strategic objectives within theaters or operational areas. It assumes a different approach than strategic intelligence by focusing on narrower, but significant, theater-oriented military responsibilities. Finally, tactical intelligence is intelligence that is required for planning and conducting tactical military operations at the local level. It concerns information about the enemy that is designed to help locate the enemy and decide which tactics, units, and weapons will most likely contribute to victory in an assigned area, and when properly applied, it can be a significant force multiplier.
The intelligence process services the need for all three types of intelligence. The first step, information gathering, consists of collecting data and making it available for analysis. A common method of information gathering is the use of unclassified "open sources" such as foreign websites, television, newspapers, radio, or openly published government studies. Often, this open source intelligence OSINT provides such basic information as population statistics, military maneuvers, and political, social, and cultural trends.
Open sources sometimes do not supply enough information, and other techniques are necessary. Analysis of aerial imagery is one commonly employed method. A great deal of information on a nation's infrastructure, military bases, and even troop movements, can be gleaned from photo interpretation of detailed, high-altitude photography, also known as IMINT, or imagery intelligence. Human intelligence (HUMINT) involves the overt or covert use of human sources to gather information. Signals intelligence (SIGINT) involves collecting information by listening to enemy radio broadcasts and other electronic means of communication. Measurement and Signature Intelligence (MASINT) utilizes technical means to gather unique data other than SIGINT or IMINT on foreign targets. All of these disciplines provide vital intelligence that, when properly analyzed, can provide a significant benefit to warfighters and policy makers.
The second step of the intelligence process is analysis. Intelligence analysts pull together information gathered from many sources to produce all-source, finished intelligence that involves local, national, and global issues that may influence foreign threats. They assess scientific, technical, tactical, diplomatic, military, organizational, or political changes in combination with factors such as geography, demographics, and industrial capabilities. The goal is to anticipate and respond to overseas dangers as well as assess enemy capabilities, intentions, and vulnerabilities. The finished intelligence they produce can be strategic, tactical, or operational.
The third step of the intelligence process is actually made up of two activities: production and dissemination. Once analysts have made their determinations, they compose finished intelligence reports for both military and civilian officials. Intelligence officers then disseminate these products to relevant decision makers, who decide on a detailed plan of action. One of the intelligence officer's primary duties is to anticipate the needs of decision makers and react to specific requests for information. Intelligence officers often work very closely with policy makers and warfighters to anticipate information requirements and to more sharply hone the finished intelligence provided by analysts.
Military Intelligence in United States History
In U.S. history, military intelligence is an activity that stretches back to the colonial period. The scope and practice of military intelligence has expanded and contracted over time as need, resources, and intelligence philosophy have changed over the years. Nevertheless, military intelligence has played a dramatic role in many of the key moments in American history.
THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
The American military intelligence system during the Revolutionary War was an active and effective instrument that helped counterbalance British numerical and operational superiority. Indeed, good military intelligence was vital to the strategy of the American Continental Army. Throughout the war, George Washington, an experienced soldier who recognized the value of good intelligence reporting, spearheaded much of the colonists' military intelligence effort. He established HUMINT networks in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, which provided him with a great deal of knowledge about British troop dispositions and movements. Perhaps most famously, Washington exploited HUMINT on the poor disposition of Hessian troops in Trenton, New Jersey and launched a successful surprise attack on them in December 1776. Throughout the war, Washington proved to be an adept consumer of military intelligence.
THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR
Neither the Union nor the Confederacy was prepared for the intelligence demands of the Civil War, and at the outbreak of the war, neither side possessed a formal, centralized intelligence apparatus. Nevertheless, the intelligence practices of code breaking, covert surveillance, and denial and deception were vital during the conflict. Both sides, for example, employed covert communications and mail interception to spy on each other's troops. HUMINT also remained an extremely important discipline for gathering intelligence on the enemy. Even Abraham Lincoln had his own HUMINT network. The war also encouraged a full range of covert paramilitary, psychological, and political action. Finally, it ushered in the widespread use of another innovation in U.S. intelligence operations: aerial reconnaissance. The Union made extensive and successful use of observation balloons, while the Confederacy's attempts were less successful. When the war ended, however, many policymakers allowed the intelligence system to atrophy, believing it to be useful only in time of war.
THE SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR
The United States went to war with Spain in 1898 after the battleship USS Maine blew up while in harbor in Cuba. U.S. decision makers set out three tasks for its small Army and Navy intelligence staffs:
- Observe the movements of a Spanish fleet being sent to the Caribbean;
- Monitor another Spanish fleet on its way to the Philippines;
- Maintain liaison with Cuban insurgents in order to have up-to-date information Spanish military dispositions on the island.
U.S. naval intelligence officers set up a large international network of intelligence agents that provided up-to-date HUMINT on the location of the respective Spanish fleets. At the same time, Army intelligence in Cuba gave U.S. forces a clearer picture of Spanish strengths and weaknesses on the island, which allowed U.S. planners to fight to their strengths and Spain's weaknesses. Intelligence operations had once again proven their value as a force multiplier, but even so, aside from the military attaché system and the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), the U.S. government still did not maintain a large complex, all-source peacetime intelligence apparatus.
WORLD WAR I
The American declaration of war against Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1917 brought an infusion of personnel and resources that the military intelligence community sorely lacked. General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in France, established an effective theater intelligence center for collection, analysis, and dissemination of information. Aerial reconnaissance reached new levels of sophistication during World War I, and the practice was exploited particularly well by the Americans, British, and French. Also, a U.S. Army Signal Corps provided direction-finding and interception equipment, and it manned radio listening posts that furnished information about enemy plans. Indeed, the unprecedented technological advances during World War I, extensive use of HUMINT, and exceptional strides in communications allowed military intelligence to make important contributions to the Allied victory. Nevertheless, after hostilities concluded, the U.S. only retained a fraction of what it invested during the war.
WORLD WAR II
The Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor came as a tremendous shock to the United States. The failure to predict or provide warning of the attack was one of the twentieth century's most significant intelligence failures, and clarified the need for an effective military intelligence system, even in peacetime. In the wake of the attack, both the Army and Navy made improvements that streamlined their processing and dissemination capabilities. They also set up theater and national-level joint intelligence centers to coordinate their efforts. In Europe, American and British intelligence set up clandestine operations behind enemy lines, mapped supply drop zones for Allied pilots, set up safe houses for escaped POWs, helped train resistance fighters in guerilla warfare, and provided intelligence reports to Allied headquarters. Aerial reconnaissance was also extensively employed. In the Pacific, Army and Navy intelligence exploited captured documents, mapped unknown islands, deployed reconnaissance units to gather tactical intelligence, and set up SIGINT stations across the theater to intercept Japanese radio signals. World War II forced policymakers to recognize the value of an efficient, professional military intelligence apparatus, even in peacetime. But even so, efforts to establish a unified military intelligence establishment languished after the war.
Cold War Dilemmas
As successful as it was in World War II, the U.S. military intelligence structure faced serious dilemmas in the post-war period. As Cold War tensions with the Soviet Union escalated, the amount of resources dedicated to intelligence collection declined in the immediate post-war years. Military budget cuts in the wake of the war meant that the Army, Navy, and Air Force all lost many capabilities. Although policymakers recognized the need for accurate, timely military intelligence, it was not until well into the Korean War (1950-1953) that the necessary resources were once again funneled into building up a viable, sustainable intelligence establishment in the Department of Defense.
Still, several overlapping problems existed in the military intelligence system after the Korean War. All three Services separately collected, produced, and disseminated information. Moreover, each Service's foreign attaché reported separately to their ambassadors and to their host nation's militaries. The result was a duplicative, costly, and often ineffective system in which the Services provided sometimes conflicting foreign intelligence estimates.
This problem bred other dilemmas. If the Services could not agree on foreign military intelligence estimates, how could the U.S. design its own forces to meet foreign threats? This problem came to a head twice in the 1950s. In the earlier part of the decade, the Air Force estimated that the Soviet Union had a much larger bomber force than the U.S., a situation that potentially weakened U.S. nuclear deterrence. The Air Force used this argument, which was later disproven by U-2 reconnaissance flights, to lobby for a much larger bomber fleet. Similarly, the Air Force argued later in the decade that a "missile gap" had opened as the Soviets seemed to produce far more strategic nuclear missiles than the U.S. None of the other Services, nor the CIA, agreed with the Air Force. The argument was later rendered moot when intelligence generated by the CIA's "Corona" satellite program proved that there was no such missile gap.
Even so, it was clear that steps needed to be taken to remedy these problems.
Near the end of his Presidency, Dwight Eisenhower worried that because of the untenable state of military intelligence, he would bequeath what he called a "legacy of ashes" to his successor, John F. Kennedy. He appointed a Joint Study Group under the leadership of Lyman Kirkpatrick to study ways to effectively organize the nation's military intelligence activities. A month before Eisenhower left office, the Joint Study Group's report landed on his desk. In short, it recommended a sweeping reorganization that would result in the establishment of a single intelligence organization for the Department of Defense.
1960s: The Early Years
When Kennedy took office, his Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara acted on the Joint Study Group's recommendation. He ordered the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) to submit to him a concept for a single Defense Intelligence Agency that would integrate the military intelligence efforts of all DoD elements. After months of study and deliberation with McNamara, the JCS submitted their plan.
The organization laid out by the JCS would report to the Secretary of Defense through the JCS as a unified body of military intelligence and counterintelligence entities. The separate Services would no longer act as a loose confederation of independently operating groups. This new Defense Intelligence Agency would adopt the mission of managing the collection, processing, analysis, and dissemination of military intelligence. Other objectives in the plan included more efficiently allocating scarce intelligence resources and eliminating redundant facilities, organizations, and tasks.
With some modifications, McNamara approved the concept given to him by the JCS, and established the Defense Intelligence Agency on 1 August 1961, though it would not become officially operational until that fall. McNamara selected Air Force Lieutenant General Joseph F. Carroll to set up and lead the new Agency. On 1 October, 1961, DIA began operations with a handful of employees in borrowed office space in the Pentagon.
Only a year later, in October 1962, the agency faced what would become the gravest crisis of the Cold War when the Soviet Union secretly placed nuclear capable ballistic missiles in Cuba. DIA's analysts played a key role in the discovery of the missiles, noting that the placement of Soviet surface-to-air missile sites mirrored those around ballistic missile bases in the Soviet Union. Together with the Air Force, they lobbied the National Security Council for renewed U-2 flights over Cuba. The next flight — one pass over Pinar del Rio province on 14 October — revealed the ballistic missiles to be precisely where DIA's analysts thought they would be. For the remainder of the crisis, DIA supplied constant intelligence updates to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of Defense McNamara. Months after the crisis subsided, DIA's John Hughes went on national television to brief the nation on the harrowing events of that October.
At the same time, the Services continued to transfer many intelligence functions and resources to DIA. In late 1962, DIA established the Defense Intelligence School (today's National Defense Intelligence College). In early 1963, it activated a new Production Center at Arlington Hall Station in northern Virginia. In 1964, it established the Defense Attaché System to centrally manage the far-flung military attaches around the world. The agency also added such functions as a Dissemination Center, a Scientific and Technical Intelligence Directorate, and it assumed the staff support functions of the J-2 (Intelligence), Joint Staff.
But the 1960s would be trying years for the agency. The Services, concerned that DIA's intelligence would not be responsive to their particular requirements, resisted DIA's attempts to establish itself as DoD's central military intelligence organization. During the Vietnam War (1965-1973), DIA's intelligence reporting on such important issues as the strategic bombing of North Vietnam and the size of enemy ground forces was discounted by many in the Services and elsewhere. In 1968, DIA's analysts, along with the rest of the Intelligence Community, failed to successfully predict the Soviet Union's invasion of Czechoslovakia. Other foreign intelligence challenges, such as the growth of China's atomic bomb program, the Six Day War between Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Israel, and North Korea's seizure of the intelligence vessel USS Pueblo, strained DIA's ability to handle major issues even as its efforts at organization and consolidation continued. By the end of the decade, the Agency was facing sustained calls for major reform or even its outright dissolution.
1970s: Years of Transition
DIA faced difficult transitional years in the early 1970s. Sweeping manpower cuts between 1968 and 1975 reduced the agency's workforce by thirty-one percent, a situation that led to sharp mission reductions and broad organizational restructuring. Problems created by manpower reductions were compounded by the major advances in collection technology, which geometrically increased the amount of raw data that analysts were required to process.
To try to overcome these problems, the Department of Defense embarked on a series of reorganizations involving DIA that would take throughout the decade. In 1970, DoD created the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Intelligence) (ASD/I) to supervise Defense intelligence programs and to provide the principal point for coordination with the Director of Central Intelligence as well as other intelligence officials outside DoD. President Nixon also reorganized the national Intelligence Community and designated DIA's Director as the program manager for a newly established General Defense Intelligence Program (GDIP), a budget and management program that coordinated defense intelligence as a whole. In 1972, DIA also began putting more emphasis on exploiting technology for intelligence analysis and processing. It began developing networked computerized intelligence databases and modernizing the National Military Intelligence Center in the Pentagon.
Despite the U.S. drawdown in the Southeast Asia in the early 1970s, collecting, processing, and disseminating military intelligence on the region remained one of DIA's central responsibilities. In 1970, it coordinated intelligence collection and analysis in support of the Son Tay prison camp raid to rescue American POWs. The raid did not succeed in rescuing any prisoners, but it did demonstrate DIA's ability to supply timely, cogent tactical intelligence support to combat forces. In January 1973, the agency managed the setup of the Defense Attaché Office (DAO) in Saigon and had responsibility for furnishing employees to the DAO's intelligence branch. Nearly all of the 87 intelligence analysts that deployed to the DAO Saigon in the early and mid-1970s were from DIA. Five of the agency's employees, Celeste Brown, Vivienne Clark, Dorothy Curtiss, Joan Pray, and Doris Watkins, were killed evacuating Vietnamese orphans when their transport plane crashed during Operation BABYLIFT in 1975.
Other global challenges continued to proliferate. Civil wars in Jordan and Nigeria, the emergence of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and massive shipyard riots in Gdansk, Poland required the agency's attention. The civil war in Angola expanded into a proxy war between Eastern and Western bloc nations, which required DIA to provide policymakers with constantly updated information on Soviet intentions in southern Africa. DIA's knowledge of Soviet military capabilities became particularly important when the U.S.S.R. threatened to intervene in the Yom Kippur War on the Middle East, the closest the world had come to a war between the superpowers since the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Perhaps the agency's most important mission during this period was evaluating the Soviet Union's strategic nuclear and conventional capabilities. In the 1970s, the Soviets achieved rough parity with U.S. nuclear forces, but questions remained about the exact capabilities of these forces and the Soviets' intentions with them. DIA's analysts made a variety of major discoveries that aided the U.S. understanding of Soviet forces. The agency also contributed a great deal of key analysis that revised many conclusions in the ever important National Intelligence Estimates. Finally, DIA also managed many of the collection and analysis tasks associated with monitoring the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) and Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) agreements.
These contributions began earning DIA, an agency that had struggled so much in the 1960s, a better reputation and greater influence in intelligence debates. The other major factor in improving the agency's products and reputation in the 1970s was a series of internal reorganizations that streamlined the intelligence production cycle and sped up support for the SecDef, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Unified and Specified Commands. Moreover, in 1979, President Jimmy Carter issued Executive Order 12036, which restructured the Intelligence Community and better outlined DIA's national and departmental responsibilities.
Nevertheless, DIA's intelligence requirements continued to expand, a situation that sometimes led to failures, despite the analysts' best efforts. For example, at the end of the decade, DIA personnel and the rest of the Intelligence Community had failed to predict the fall of the Shah of Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In other areas, however, the agency had more success, passing timely intelligence to decision makers on the expansion of state-sponsored terrorism in the Middle East and Africa, the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, the China-Vietnam border war, and the Sandinista takeover of Nicaragua. Its ability to provide this intelligence alongside the ongoing intelligence demands against Soviet targets demonstrated that the agency had turned a corner by decade's end.
1980s: DIA Comes of Age
In April 1981, DIA broke ground for the Defense Intelligence Analysis Center (DIAC) at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, DC. When it opened in 1984, the DIAC not only gave the agency a new, modern, and permanent home, it also improved the agency's work by collocating nearly all of DIA's disparate directorates under one roof, allowing for better information sharing and more rapid output of intelligence products. The event was symbolic of DIA's arrival as a key member of the U.S. Intelligence Community. Over the course of the 1980s, the agency would participate in every major foreign intelligence challenge and expand the range of its capabilities to serve both senior policy makers and field commanders alike as it pressed the concept of intelligence as a "force multiplier in crises."
Early in the decade, DIA began taking steps to provide better operational and tactical intelligence to theater- and command-level U.S. troops by improving its intelligence databases and worldwide communications systems. The first major test of this new level of support to military operations arrived in 1983, when U.S. forces invaded the island of Grenada to topple the communist government there and rescue American medical students. The operation was known as URGENT FURY. A DIA task force provided detailed tactical intelligence to combat troops in the operation, and URGENT FURY revealed important lessons in how a national-level intelligence agency could quickly provide timely, fine-grain intelligence that was tailored to the specific needs of consumers on the "sharp end" of the spear.
That same year, DIA established the Central America Joint Intelligence Team (CAJIT). CAJIT was the country's first national-level intelligence "fusion center." Its mission was to support policymakers, U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), and most importantly, the Government of El Salvador, with strategic, operational, and tactical intelligence designed to defeat El Salvador's communist insurgency. It was made up of analysts from across the Intelligence Community, and it used powerful databases and improved communications technology to quickly analyze and disseminate intelligence used in U.S. support of the Salvadoran military as a way to improve its operations against the insurgents. The organization was extremely effective, and enabled the Salvadorans to beat back the insurgents that threatened to defeat it early in the decade.
Meanwhile, the agency continued to provide intelligence that was essential to understanding and defeating the Soviet Union. It maintained its contributions to the vaunted National Intelligence Estimates and developed new information about the weaknesses of the Soviet economy, which President Ronald Reagan would use in succeeding years to put that nation under increasing pressure. It also continued to provide key support to the arms control verification process, particularly SALT, and later, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).
The agency also began taking on a significant and expanded counterterrorism mission in the 1980s. After increased attacks against Americans in the mid-1980s and a more aggressive response demanded by the White House, DIA created its fi rst all-source fusion cell for terrorism analysis. The agency supported the military's counterterrorism operations in response to such events as the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 and the cruise ship Achille Lauro, and after the bombing of the La Belle discotheque in Berlin, a club frequented by American servicemen. DIA's counterterrorism efforts in this period earned the agency its first Joint Military Unit Award.
Other world crises continued to flare up as well. As the Iran-Iraq War spilled into the Persian Gulf, the agency's intelligence support to U.S. forces in the Gulf intensified. DIA was a key player in Operation EARNEST WILL, the effort to protect international shipping in the Persian Gulf. It provided targeting data on Iranian surface-to-air and surface-to-surface missile batteries and intelligence on Iraqi air power capabilities. This information was vital for U.S. retaliatory strikes on Iranian oil platforms and in the aftermath of the Iraqi attack on the USS Stark.
By the middle of the decade, DIA was fully engaged in collection and analysis efforts for events around the globe. The agency kept a close watch on unrest in the Philippines and the Soviet imbroglio in Afghanistan. The "Toyota War" between Libya and Chad and turmoil in Haiti added to DIA's heavy production workload, as did unrest in other parts of Latin America, Somalia, Ethiopia, Burma, and Pakistan.
Organizational adjustments allowed DIA to continue its high tempo of operations. During this period, the Goldwater-Nichols Defense Reorganization Act designated DIA a "combat support agency," which made its activities subject to the review of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and assigned DIA responsibilities in providing supporting operational capabilities to the combatant commanders. DIA also established its Operational Intelligence Crisis Center (OICC), which served as the primary vehicle for coordinating analytic support during crises. The agency also moved and renovated the National Military Intelligence Center (NMIC), collocating it with the National Military Command Center (NMCC), a move that encouraged the fusion of military operations with national-level intelligence production.
These changes paid off near the end of the decade. Operation JUST CAUSE, the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989, was a dramatic success in part because of the timely, accurate, and tailored intelligence provided by DIA to policymakers, operational planners, and combat forces on the ground. The agency also provided threat data on hot spots in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Asia while continuing to produce intelligence on the soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Tiananmen Square incident in China. Counterproliferation, counternarcotics, and counterterrorism remained critical intelligence issues at the end of the decade.
1990s: New Missions, New Adversaries
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War brought major challenges to the U.S. Intelligence Community. National security policy, focused on containing the spread of communism for nearly five decades, was fundamentally altered, compelling DIA to examine its priorities in the new era. Drastic cuts in funding and personnel, part of the "Peace Dividend," forced DIA to restructure its directorates in order to operate more efficiently and with fewer resources.
This period of reevaluation and restructuring in the Intelligence Community as a whole began after the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. DIA's analysts kept careful watch over the political events roiling the region, but the fall of the Berlin Wall came as an understandable surprise — even the participants in Eastern Europe were surprised when it happened. Nevertheless, in the larger context of the Cold War, it was clear to everyone that the Warsaw Pact was no longer a threat, and the Soviet Union's days were numbered. Like the rest of the Intelligence Community, DIA's analysts successfully forecast the decline and fall of the U.S.S.R. in the second half of 1991.
DIA's defining mission of the 1990s arrived early in the decade, when the Iraqi Army under Saddam Hussein invaded and occupied Kuwait in August 1990. DIA set up a 24-hour crisis management cell designed to tailor national-level intelligence support for coalition forces assembled to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait. At the beginning of Operation DESERT STORM, 2,000 agency personnel participated in the intelligence effort. The Joint Intelligence Center (JIC) that DIA established in the Pentagon to integrate and coordinate intelligence produced by various agencies was the locus of this work.
As the U.S. and Coalition military buildup proceeded in 1990/'91, DIA dispatched more than 100 employees into the Kuwaiti theater, the first time that DIA staff had deployed to a war zone since 1975. The agency also deployed 11 National Intelligence Support Teams overseas. The intelligence they produced and disseminated was key to the overwhelming coalition victory. Colin Powell, Chairman of the JCS during DESERT STORM, noted after hostilities that no combat commander had ever received more benefit from as full and complete a view of an adversary as U.S. and Coalition commanders did prior to and during the conflict.
DIA, however, could not escape ongoing resource reductions, which forced the agency make internal changes. To compensate for these reductions, the agency emphasized improved management of intelligence production DoD-wide. This new emphasis enhanced flexibility, helped maintain extensive cooperation with the Combatant Command and Service intelligence organizations, and reduced management overhead. The agency established the Department of Defense Intelligence Production Program (DoDIPP), which federated intelligence production and set forth a systematic program for avoiding overlap and duplication. This program was aided by the dramatic advances in communications technology in the 1990s. Just as collaboration was becoming ever more essential, the Intelligence Community was developing tools to ease the flow of information across secure networks.
DIA's restructuring early in the decade and the experience provided by Operation DESERT STORM prepared the agency for other challenges as well. Organization reforms and intelligence threats during the opening years of the decade resulted in an unprecedented level of integration between DIA, the Services, and the Combatant Commands. The agency also added new elements, when the Missile and Space Intelligence Center (MSIC) in Huntsville, Alabama and the Armed Forces Medical Intelligence Center (AFMIC, today's National Center for Medical Intelligence – NCMI) in Fort Detrick, Maryland, which were both long associated with the Army, came under DIA management in 1992.
DIA's mission as a Combat Support Agency took greater and greater precedence over the 1990s. While it was still called upon to supply strategic foreign intelligence assessments, its analysts became more directly engaged in support to military operations than ever before. The shift toward "smart," precision guided munitions, for example, required the agency to increase and improve its targeting functions and capabilities. Measurement and Signatures intelligence, or MASINT, which was technically-derived data other than imagery or signals intelligence, began placing greater emphasis on fulfilling the rapid-turnaround requirements of the soldier in the field. Analysis expanded into geographic hotspots that did not traditionally receive much attention. In the 1990s, DIA surged to provide intelligence support to U.S. and United Nations forces in places such as Somalia, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and Kosovo. DIA also provided ongoing support to the monitoring of Iraq for border and no-fly zone violations, and it provided targeting intelligence during Operations such as DESERT FOX in 1998. In short, the decade was characterized by expansion into new tasks that were heavily oriented toward support to military operations.
The emergence of globalized radical Islamic movements such as al-Qaida in the 1990s also sharpened DIA's counterterrorism efforts, which had been ongoing since the 1980s. In 1996, after the bombing of the Khobar Towers apartment complex in Saudi Arabia, the agency created the Transnational Warfare group, which contained the Office for Counterterrorism Analysis. As this organization continued to develop, al-Qaida struck the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya; DIA supported the military strikes in response to these attacks.
2000s: Years of Transformation
Major transformation in the Intelligence Community had been in progress since the 1990s, but the new millennium brought even more varied trials to the Intelligence Community. The largest of these was the unprecedented challenge of the Global War on Terror (GWOT), which began with the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, ushered in a new era of integration and cooperation in military intelligence.
Prior to the 11 September attacks, DIA was taking steps to ramp up its counterterrorism efforts. After the USS Cole was attacked by al-Qaida suicide bombers in October 2000, it reorganized its previous counterterrorism office into the Joint Terrorism Analysis Center (JTAC). After the 11 September attacks, the JTAC mission was expanded and sharpened, and the organization was christened the Joint Intelligence Task Force-Combating Terrorism (JITF-CT). JITF-CT remains at the center of DIA's anti-terrorism efforts today.
In the months after the attacks, the U.S. and its Coalition partners embarked on Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, toppling the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Antiterrorist initiatives took place in other parts of the world as well, including in the Philippines and the Horn of Africa. In March 2003, the United States and Coalition forces also launched Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, the effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power and install a new democratic government in Iraq.
In all of these operations, DIA provided intelligence on enemy troop dispositions, weaponry, and damage assessments. The agency also assisted with locating high value targets and with offering assessments of insurgent capabilities, intentions, and potential. DIA produced fine-grain tactical and operational intelligence for combat forces as well as strategic estimative products for policy and decision makers. The agency also established and supported the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), an interagency body tasked with searching Iraq for weapons of mass destruction.
DIA's workforce has not remained behind in the United States while U.S. military forces deploy forward. For the past decade DIA has deployed thousands of personnel forward to support warfighting operations with a variety of tasks, including collection, analysis, processing, and communications. The agency has also incorporated the intelligence staffs of the Combatant Commands, further breaking down the barriers between national and theater-level intelligence and making it possible to cooperate even more closely to produce intelligence that responds to the needs of individual warfighting units.
DIA's work is not limited to just antiterrorism and counterinsurgency, however. In addition to its protracted commitments in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, the agency monitors North Korean missile launches and tracks the development of Iran's nuclear program. It is also heavily engaged in supporting efforts to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, interdict narcotics trafficking, conduct global information operations, and assess foreign military capabilities in space and cyber-space.
In 2004 and 2005, DIA also provided an unprecedented level of support to foreign and domestic humanitarian missions. Operation UNIFIED ASSISTANCE, the response to the Asian tsunami disaster in December 2004, utilized DIA assets to located hospitals and to efficiently direct humanitarian assistance to the hardest-hit locations. DIA also participated in Joint Task Force Katrina, which mobilized to assist recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in September 2005.
More recently, the agency has assisted federal law enforcement organizations with homeland security operations. For example, the agency has lent sensors to border protection personnel, who have used it to seize millions of dollars in narcotics and detect thousands of illegal entry attempts. It has also worked with homeland security agencies to conduct underwater surveys to improve port and harbor security and install sensors that can detect threats on land or sea. Elements of the agency also played an important role in recovery efforts after the Haitian earthquake in 2010. The National Center for Medical Intelligence called attention to possible disease outbreaks in the wake of the quake, other health risks to humanitarian missions, and, in partnership with other agencies, described the location and condition of important emergency care facilities in Haiti after the disaster struck.
The agency's experiences in the 1990s as well as the organization improvements made to cope with the direct threat posed by transnational terrorist groups such as al-Qaida have enabled the agency to provide enhanced tactical, operational, and strategic intelligence support to initiatives around the globe. Today, agency personnel are deployed to theaters around the world in support of military commands and operations against terrorists, and in support of counterproliferation efforts, counternarcotics missions, and military force analysis.
DIA's Historic Role
As DIA prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary on October 1, 2011, the agency can look back over five decades of evolution and find a much different institution than it was when first established. At first unpopular among some policymakers and military leaders, it suffered early setbacks that are sometimes common in new agencies. Though it took time for the DIA to grow into its role as a manager and supplier of all-source intelligence, the agency slowly became a key component of the U.S. Intelligence Community, first by supplying intelligence to senior policymakers and later, expanding to provide intelligence to warfighters in the field. Today, its work is essential to maintaining U.S. national security.
DIA's contributions in this regard have been instrumental in shaping many of the significant events in U.S. history. From the first major challenges it faced during the Cuban Missile Crisis to the current perils presented by global terrorist movements and arms proliferation, DIA has played a key role in collecting, analyzing, and producing intelligence used to defend the United States from foreign aggression. In doing so, it has also served as an effective force multiplier, allowing U.S. military leaders to project power that is greater than the sum of its parts.
DIA has transformed as the nature of national security threats has changed and the needs of the U.S. military have evolved. During the Cold War, it was faced with a more or less traditional threat from the Soviet Union and its allies. In response, DIA efforts focused on defeating state-sponsored militaries that adhered to informal, but generally accepted and conventional modes of conduct. Moreover, for over 20 years, its main emphasis was on providing strategic, basic, and warning intelligence to national level policymakers and military leaders.
Today, the unconventional, organic nature of global, transnational terrorism and insurgency has meant that Agency personnel have had to adjust to new challenges, building a more agile organization to provide intelligence warnings and to pass information quickly to combat forces. The last three decades have witnessed a transformation of DIA into an organization that focuses on direct intelligence support to both policy makers and the warfighter by becoming forward-leaning, proactive, and heavily deployed with combat forces.
The Intelligence Community as a whole has become more integrated to deal with the new threat and more oriented toward support to military operations and homeland defense to defeat that threat. DIA has been a major part of this unification of effort. The agency has more than 16,000 military and civilian employees deployed around the world to support a wide range of military operations. It has increased its investment in HUMINT and technical collection capabilities to further improve its surveillance and warning functions. The multi-dimensional nature of twenty first century threats means that the Agency must be prepared for rapid changes in an unpredictable and unstable global environment.
This page was last updated January 25, 2013.