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RADM Robert W. Schmitt (1933-2012): An Appreciation
March 14, 2012
RADM Robert W. Schmitt, former DIA deputy director from 1985-1988, passed away March 8. Schmitt, who had a lengthy career in military intelligence, was an integral part of DIA's leadership during a time when the agency's roles and missions expanded enormously.
Schmitt was born in Homestead, Pa., a town that grew around the Carnegie Steel Works along the banks of the Monongahela River, a few miles east of Pittsburgh. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1956 and immediately proceeded to the Navy Intelligence School before reporting to the Office of Naval Intelligence for duty.
For the next three decades he served in a variety of intelligence-related positions and steadily climbed in rank. Schmitt held positions, for example with the U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam (the predecessor to the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam); as the Assistant Naval Attaché in Stockholm; and several posts in the office of the Chief of Naval Operations. After serving as assistant chief of staff for intelligence with the U.S. Pacific Fleet and director for intelligence and space policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Schmitt became DIA's deputy director for Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) support.
His DIA Legacy
Schmitt arrived at DIA during what subsequently came to be known as "The Second Cold War," a period of intense hostility between the U.S. and Soviet Union. These years had followed a decade of warmer relations. In this position, he was responsible for providing the JCS with intelligence requirements for both nuclear and conventional warfare, prospects that seemed to inch closer to reality every day during his tenure. In addition, Schmitt presided over the expansion of DIA's intelligence capabilities into operational and tactical support, a move ordered by then DIA Director LTG James Williams.
While deputy director for JCS support, Schmitt helped oversee the establishment of the Central America Joint Intelligence Team, a national-level intelligence fusion center that became the grandfather of today's intelligence fusion centers, and the provision of all intelligence support for Operation URGENT FURY, the U.S. invasion of Grenada in 1983. These were entirely new and revolutionary developments for an agency primarily responsible for strategic intelligence rather than operational and tactical intelligence.
As DIA's operational and tactical intelligence responsibilities expanded in the 1980s, Schmitt was the clear choice for deputy director, a post he assumed in October 1985 under then-Director Lt Gen Leonard Perroots. The Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 designated DIA a "combat support agency," giving it specific responsibilities in support of operationally deployed forces around the globe. Schmitt helped manage the development of many of these capabilities, serving as deputy director during a period that required DIA to quickly respond to major international crises such as Iran's attacks on Kuwaiti oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, and Operation EL DORADO CANYON, the bombing of Libya in 1986. Schmitt retired in September 1988.
During his time at DIA he was notable for helping to shape the agency into what it is today — Schmitt was an important participant in the effort to transform DIA from an organization that provided strategic intelligence up the chain of command to an organization that now is also responsible for sending intelligence down-range to directly support the warfighter. He was a key, though sometimes overlooked, figure in the history of DIA.
DIA is the nation’s premier all-source military intelligence organization.
It provides the nation’s most authoritative assessments of foreign military intentions and capabilities. The agency’s four core competencies -- human intelligence, all-source analysis, counterintelligence and technical intelligence -- enable military operations while also informing policy-makers at the defense and national levels.
DIA’s mission is unique and no other agency matches its military expertise across such a broad range of intelligence disciplines.
This page was last updated March 21, 2013.