An image of an area from an higher point showing off artifacts of museum
An image of a top-down floor plan with a section on the right filled in with color indicating the section in relation

DIA’s foremost mission is to expose adversary intentions and capabilities to decision makers. Following over-inflated assessments of Soviet bomber and missile capabilities by military services in the 1950s, DIA was established in 1961 to provide impartial, unified intelligence for the Department of Defense. This section provides visitors with several examples where exposure by DIA helped to secure the United States.


The Cold War permeated all aspects of life in post-World War II America. Bomb shelters and fear of communist infiltration evoked a threat to America’s very way of life. The Cuban revolution in 1959 brought communism within 90 miles of Florida, exacerbating these fears.

The failed April 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion heightened anxieties and emboldened the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev. Upon meeting President John F. Kennedy for the first time in June, Khrushchev deemed the younger man a weak leader. In response, Khrushchev seized the initiative, building the Berlin Wall in August and resuming atmospheric nuclear tests in October. By the summer of 1962,  Soviet arms were pouring into Cuba.


In August 1962, Cuban refugees provided intelligence officers with descriptions of what sounded like surface-to-air missiles inside Cuba. In response, DIA ordered U-2 missions over the island. U-2 films revealed long, slim objects transported by convoy. Further DIA reporting also revealed electronic countermeasures. A U-2 flight at the end of August revealed seven separate advanced SA-2 surface-to-air missile sites.

The Soviet installation of these systems in Cuba posed a puzzling question: Was this purely defensive, or were the Soviets protecting something else?

On September 4, 1962, President Kennedy released a statement regarding the Soviet build-up in Cuba:

“There is no evidence of any organized combat force in Cuba from any Soviet bloc country; of military bases provided to Russia; of a violation of the 1934 treaty relating to Guantanamo; of the presence of offensive ground-to-ground missiles; or of other significant offensive capability either in Cuban hands or under Soviet direction and guidance. Were it to be otherwise, the gravest issues would arise.”

Image of a wax figures leaned over a light table


The crisis ended and war was averted, but the work was far from over.

DIA analysts monitored Cuba to ensure the Soviets dismantled the missile sites. Flyovers to observe the progress began on October 29, 1962.

Missile sites were indeed demolished, but work addressing the presence of IL-28 BEAGLE bombers—which technically were not covered in the October 28 agreement—continued. By November 1, seven operational BEAGLE bombers were on the island. Knowledge of this informed U.S. negotiators and the Soviets agreed to remove the bombers. The U.S. ended the quarantine on November 20. DIA confirmed Soviet compliance one week later.

By February 1963, the U.S.S.R. had removed the missiles and the BEAGLE bombers. DIA’s own John T. Hughes again was called upon for a briefing, this time to address the nation. Taking to the airwaves for the first-ever televised defense briefing, he reassured the public that the threat had passed and the crisis was over.


1 / 4
Image of informational panel. A mixture of text and images.
2 / 4
Image of informational panel. A mixture of text and images.
3 / 4
Image of informational panel. A mixture of text and images.
4 / 4
Image of informational panel. A mixture of text and images.

EXPOSING AN UNSEEN DANGER - The H1N1 Virus Pandemic Warning

There is a very close connection between health and national security. Pandemics can destabilize individual nations, and even threaten regional and world order.

The mission of DIA’s National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI) is to predict medical threats and prevent potential infectious outbreaks from impacting the U.S. military and its global allies. NCMI assesses epidemiology, environmental threats, available biotechnology, and medical capabilities to keep our military safe.

In 2009, NCMI analysts saw indicators of a potential pandemic in Mexico. The illness, a new strain of the H1N1 influenza virus, had a terrifying lineage. It was a variation of the influenza virus that caused the 1918 “Spanish Flu” pandemic. That pandemic killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide in less than three years.


For medical intelligence analysts, the old adage is true: better safe than sorry. For NCMI, this means speed is more important than accuracy. Getting the warning out early gives frontline healthcare agencies the advantage of preparing for a possibility if a pandemic or other incident is to arise.


NCMI monitors for signs of illness and environmental contamination worldwide. In the Intelligence Community, these warning signs are called indicators.

What do the indicators identify?

When all the indicators are viewed collectively, they paint a picture. In the case of H1N1 in Mexico, the increased hospitalizations showed that the disease was serious enough to require hospital admission. The sale of face masks showed that people thought it spread through the air and could be transmitted through coughing and sneezing. The high egg prices showed it could be avian in origin.

These and other indicators factored into NCMI’s analysis of the situation.

Image of small chicken with unreadable text on the right. Image of people within a circle, hospital braclets in another circle, with small text below. Image of a mask within a circle, with a woman wearing a mask in another circle. Small text below both images.


Image of an important memorandum Image of an important memorandum

Once NCMI predicted the possibility of a global pandemic, it contacted other agencies. Ultimately, NCMI issued a formal Critical Infectious Disease Alert to the various combatant commands. This warned them of the danger and gave them the information needed to protect military personnel and civilians in H1N1-affected areas. Soldiers and civilians alike lined up to get the vaccine as a result of intelligence analysis produced by NCMI.

“By rapidly identifying the virus, implementing public health measures, providing guidance for health professionals and the general public, and developing an effective vaccine, we have taken proactive steps to reduce the impact of the pandemic and protect the health of our citizens.”

— President Barack Obama, October 2009

Image of individual in bio hazard suit, syringe in hand Image of a crowd with an individual in the foreground sitting at a table, helping those closest Image of two people talking, the one in the foreground wearing a military uniform


National security organizations everywhere face devastating threats from insiders ― and the Defense Intelligence Agency is no exception.

DIA provides intelligence support against a range of these threats for the Department of Defense including double agents, terrorist sympathizers, and technology thieves. DIA trusts employees with security clearances that grant them access to highly sensitive information, facilities, and materials. In order to prevent and expose insider threats, DIA employs a series of sophisticated protocols to detect changes in behavior, adherence to anti-U.S. ideologies, or unexplained affluence.


In 1998, a number of individuals at the U.S. facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, reached a startling conclusion: there was a mole with access to the base.

The intelligence community launched a three-year-long inter-agency investigation.

In October 2000, the FBI met with DIA counterintelligence to discuss the profile of an unknown suspect. After discussing the profile, DIA was able to identify a senior analyst, Ana Montes, as the likely spy.

A black and white image of sevaral people standing together in two rows.


April 1996: A coworker reports his suspicions about Montes.

November 1996: An investigation could not substantiate the coworker’s concerns.

1998: The intelligence community begins an investigation to find a Cuban agent. They know that the agent is someone with access to Naval Station Guantanamo Bay.

October 13, 2000: DIA identifies Montes as the likely spy.

January 4, 2001: Montes is interviewed for what she believes is a routine periodic reinvestigation to maintain her security clearance. It is a part of the investigation into her espionage activities.

February 13, 2001: DIA places a temporary freeze on rotations to keep Montes in one office.

May 25, 2001: An FBI team slips inside Montes’ apartment and finds spy equipment with incriminating evidence.

Investigators keep track of her activities in hopes of revealing more in her network of Cuban agents.

August 2001: DIA grants access to their FBI counterparts to conduct a sweep of Montes’ work space.

September 21, 2001: Montes is arrested before she can gain access to targeting information in support of anti-terrorist operations following the September 11 attacks.


National Counterintelligence Executive Michelle Van Cleave reported that Montes' actions “compromised all Cuban-focused collection programs” used to eavesdrop on high-ranking Cubans, and it “is also likely that the information she passed contributed to the death and injury of American and pro-American forces in Latin America.”

DIA’s Scott Carmichael, who had led DIA's investigation into Montes, identified her as being responsible for the March 1987 death of Special Forces Sergeant Gregory A. Fronius. Fronius was killed by insurgents when his position was overrun at El Paraíso, El Salvador.

To prevent another spy like Ana Montes from infiltrating DIA, access to various parts of intelligence production are now more controlled than before. Security measures, including background investigations and polygraphs, are also more closely monitored.


Military capabilities are closely guarded secrets. DIA uncovers those secrets and exposes the truth. Throughout its history, DIA has brought many truths to light. The agency has discovered covert military movements, revealed military capabilities of foreign adversaries, unmasked insider threats, and brought to light the possibility of a destabilizing global pandemic disease, among numerous other achievements.

DIA’s goal is to prevent strategic surprise through expert analysis, innovative technology and astute collection.

Imagine of a museum section with a focus item being a missile with a board on front displaying infomation

DIA first exposed Soviet military capabilities to the general public in 1981 with the inaugural edition of Soviet Military Power. The publication detailed weapons, like the SA-8 surface-to-air missile (SAM), nicknamed GECKO. DIA’s analysis of the unique threat posed by this mobile missile system would directly help protect American aircraft and crews.

The first edition of Soviet Military Power was not dated, as a second edition was not planned. However, its value was quickly established and it became a decade-long series.


The Soviet Union launched a dangerous array of developmental weapons programs throughout the late 1970s, despite its denials of these programs. It was DIA’s "Soviet Military Power" report that brought these veiled capabilities into the public light.

DIA used highly classified, all-source intelligence to update senior civilian, military, and allied decision makers about the increasing Soviet threat. But, by 1981, it became critical to inform a wider, public audience at the unclassified level.

DIA produced a series of declassified books that accurately portrayed the Soviet threat for all to see. To accomplish this, DIA declassified some information while eliminating those elements that revealed intelligence sources and methods.

Knowledge of Soviet military strength allowed the U.S. to avoid strategic surprise. Exposing the truth about the Soviet military to the general public helped ensure the United States and its Allies could counter the threat.

A Need for Public Awareness

After a 1980 briefing about Soviet capabilities by DIA’s director Lieutenant General Eugene Tighe Jr., the Senate Armed Services Committee, and specifically Senator Ted Kennedy, asked if DIA could publicly release unclassified intelligence on the rising Soviet military threat.

The senators believed accurate information was the key to elevating public awareness of the issue. The result was the "Soviet Military Power" publication.

The clamor for more information by Americans was matched by our NATO Allies, and DIA was asked to make another public version of "Soviet Military Power" within a year.

From an Audience of Generals to a General Audience

DIA faced a new challenge in creating "Soviet Military Power". The intelligence they had was inherently valuable for those cleared to see it, but it could not be revealed to the public.

In order to produce "Soviet Military Power", all written materials were vetted, redacted of sources and methods, and rewritten with a general audience in mind. Illustrations were included to help people unfamiliar with weapons systems understand the content. Maps showed the expansive range of Soviet alliances, weapons sales, and global influence.

When completed, the document was given a final review, and then published as an unclassified book available to all.


Soviet Military Power Paintings (reproductions)

The original photo shows several Soviet officers at an air base easily identifiable to those with first-hand knowledge of Blackjack bombers. Had this photograph been used in the book, the Soviets would have been able to determine the exact day and time the photograph was taken based on the officers present. Cross-referencing dates and people who were in the area would then allow them to narrow down the suspect pool, endangering U.S. operations in the U.S.S.R.—and the lives of the officers involved.

A click-able poster image A click-able poster image

Why Paintings?

DIA had to protect its sources and methods. Releasing original images would likely have compromised diplomats, spies, and double agents. As a result, DIA made the unprecedented decision to depict Soviet capabilities through art.

In 1981 there was little to no computerized photo manipulation. Consequently, DIA artists retouched images by hand or created entirely new works for "Soviet Military Power".

In some cases, there were no photographs, and the artist worked from raw intelligence, much like a sketch artist drawing a suspect from a witness’ description.

The array of artwork shows the full range of Soviet military capabilities, from submarines patrolling below the sea to space program equipment flying above the earth.


DIA did not expect a “best seller” when the first 36,000 copies rolled off the presses in 1981. But a best seller is what they got.

Articles in major newspapers and magazines further fueled interest in the publication. Americans, eager to learn about an enemy they feared, rushed out to borrow copies from their libraries or buy copies at their local post offices for $6.50.

"Soviet Military Power" was a hit, and it inspired a series of sequels. A second edition was released in 1983, followed by annual updates until 1991. Nine translated international editions also followed. From 1984 onward "Soviet Military Power" sales approached 400,000 copies annually—averaging over 7,500 per week—more than double the amount required to make The Wall Street Journal’s Best-Selling Books list at the time.

Image of
            published Soviet Military Power books in a horizontal row

Original Editions of Soviet Military Power, 1981, 1983–1991.

Assuming that they would only have one issue, DIA did not include a year on the cover of the first edition. By 1988 the books had designed covers.

"Soviet Military Power"

From its inception, "Soviet Military Power" used maps, graphs, and text to make unclassified intelligence accessible to a general audience.

Press Kit

DIA created a press kit in response to requests made by journalists for information about "Soviet Military Power". The kits included images from the publication, slides, and descriptions of the content.