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News | Nov. 2, 2017

Updated: DIA announces death of former director, Lieutenant General James A. Williams, U.S. Army (Retired)

By DIA Public Affairs

Lieutenant General James A. Williams, U.S. Army, 85, who served as 7th Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), died October 31, 2017 at INOVA Fairfax Hospital, his family reported.


Lt. Gen. Williams culminated 31 years of military service with a four-year tour as director of DIA from September 1981 to September 1985. There, he focused the agency on enhancing support to tactical and theater military commanders and improving capabilities to meet major wartime intelligence requirements.


In 1985, reflecting on his tenure as DIA director, Lt. Gen. Williams said, “I have focused my attention on making improvements in the support DIA provides to America’s deployed armed forces. First and foremost, I have altered the Agency’s basic philosophy of whom it exists to serve. DIA has made significant strides in establishing itself as the military intelligence advisor to the National Command Authority. We shall continue to support the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but now we are expanding the scope of our endeavors to more readily produce and provide intelligence to the Unified and Specified Commands in support of operational planning and execution.


“The commands require, and DIA is the only national intelligence organization capable of providing, all-source, cross-service, detailed defense information,” he added.


To help accomplish this goal, Lt. Gen. Williams led DIA efforts to create an all-source integrated intelligence database to support the combatant commands in assessing threats they faced in the field. He established a secure crisis management center to support the National Military Intelligence Center (NMIC) and the combatant commands. He initiated widespread use of open-source foreign scientific and technical information. And, under his direction, DIA established the first formal requirements for the use of imagery from civilian satellites such as Landsat.


He also was instrumental in the creation of the Soviet Military Power series that played a vital role in informing the public about the nature of the Soviet threat facing the U.S. and defending defense spending throughout the 1980’s.


Intelligence efforts during his tenure centered on events in Nicaragua, the Falkland Islands War, and Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. When U.S. troops deployed to Grenada during Operation Urgent Fury in 1983, DIA produced a wide variety of intelligence products for field commanders. Other DIA analytic efforts during 1983 included the continuing crises in Lebanon, Iran and Iraq, and Afghanistan, the U.S. Embassy and Marine Barracks bombings in Beirut, the Soviet shoot down of flight KAL 007, unrest in the Philippines and the civil war in Chad.


The number of terrorist acts escalated in the early 1980s, which culminated with 1985 being termed “the year of the terrorist.” The increase in terrorist-related bombings, hijackings, and kidnappings led to the creation of DIA’s first all-source fusion cell for terrorism analysis.


A high point in Lt. Gen. Williams’ leadership was the Agency's May 1984 move into the Defense Intelligence Analysis Center (DIAC) at Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C., which consolidated major agency functions under one roof.


A native of Paterson, New Jersey, Williams graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering in 1954. He earned a Master of Arts degree in Latin American Studies from the University of New Mexico in 1964. He served overseas in Venezuela as an assistant U.S. Army Attaché from 1966 to 1969 and as commander of the 1st Military Intelligence Battalion (Provisional), 525th Military Intelligence Group in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970.


He was an active member of his church, St. Matthew’s United Methodist in Annandale, VA.


He is survived by Barbara, his wife of 58 years, grandchildren Erin and Owen, daughter Karen and son and daughter-in-law Steve and Nell.


Funeral arrangements are being made by Demaine Funeral Home, Springfield, Virginia.


A memorial service for former DIA director, Lt. Gen. James A. Williams will be held 2 p.m., Saturday, November 11, 2017, at St. Matthews United Methodist Church, 8617 Little River Turnpike, Annandale, Virginia. A reception will follow at the church. A date for burial at Arlington Cemetery is yet to be determined.


In lieu of flowers, donations can made in his name to the National Military Intelligence Foundation Scholarship Program, PO Box 683, Charlotte Court House, Virginia 23923.