An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

News | June 14, 2017

DIA Historian Discusses Military Intelligence on Spy Museum’s “SpyCast”

By DIA Public Affairs

Defense Intelligence Agency Chief Historian Greg Elder was interviewed by Dr. Vince Houghton of the International Spy Museum for an episode of their acclaimed SpyCast. The episode was released June 13.

SpyCast is a weekly podcast “with ex-spies, intelligence experts and espionage scholars” that discusses the history and stories of the intelligence community. The DIA/Spy Museum collaboration addressed a range of issues to include DIA’s origin and role in the Cuban Missile Crisis, POW/MIA rescue missions, medical intelligence, and even the Top Gun movie.

The podcast begins with DIA’s origin, with Elder recalling the rocky start to the Agency in 1961 in the midst of intelligence controversies lingering from the 1950’s. As the 60’s began, the missile gap with the USSR was at the forefront of military and political discourse. When Secretary of Defense McNamara reviewed current missile inventory estimates and found no consensus, he was convinced that DoD needed a single objective source for strategic defense analysis – hence the formation of DIA. Despite the support of McNamara, DIA’s establishment faced considerable hurdles, including battles with the services over resources and the confirmation of a Director with decades of experience in the FBI rather than service in the military. Ultimately, DIA’s exceptional performance in the Cuban Missile Crisis helped demonstrate the utility in a unified intelligence voice in DoD.

DIA played an instrumental role throughout the Cuban Missile Crisis, from tracking Soviet SA-2 surface-to-air missiles to using aircraft, satellites and HUMINT in new and innovative ways. These intelligence gathering tactics led to the quarantine of Cuba and ultimate resolution of the crisis. At its conclusion, DIA was asked to present a nationally televised intelligence briefing – the first of its kind in history – to the American public.

Houghton and Elder also discussed DIA’s role in the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) mission, with DIA taking over as lead as mission manager for intelligence after escalation of the Vietnam crisis. The podcast includes a detailed description of a special operations raid, known as Operation KING PIN, which provided the proof of concept for numerous successful rescue operations over the last 50 years.

The podcast also touched on DIA’s roles in the making of the movie Top Gun, air-to-air combat training with MiG aircraft, and DIA’s medical intelligence role and support of humanitarian missions through the National Center for Medical Intelligence.

DIA and the Spy Museum plan to continue collaboration is a series of podcasts on military and Defense Intelligence. Listen to Greg elder’s DIA SpyCast here:

DIA's mission is to provide intelligence on foreign militaries and operating environments that delivers decision advantage to prevent and decisively win wars. Nearly 50% of DIA's 16,500 employees are stationed outside Washington, DC at national intelligence centers, combatant commands, combat zones, and defense attaché offices worldwide in more than 140 countries.