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News | May 2, 2019

This Week in DIA History: Foundation of the "Soviet Military Power" Series

By DIA Public Affairs

In May 1981, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger presented a series of classified briefings to North Atlantic Treaty Organization defense ministers detailing the magnitude and speed of the recent Soviet military conventional and nuclear force buildup. Much of the data in the briefing came from DIA and was similar to what the Agency revealed to Congress years before. Several NATO ministers were impressed by the briefing and requested Weinberger find a way to declassify the information for public release. Upon his return from Europe, Weinberger asked GEN Eugene Tighe to produce an authoritative, unclassified document detailing Soviet military developments. What followed was the largest and most successful public release of intelligence information in the history of U.S. intelligence. The document—named “Soviet Military Power”—reached the New York Times best sellers list, was published in multiple languages and informed a global audience.

Among the many impacts of “Soviet Military Power” was heightened interest of Congress in the Soviet threat. Based on increased inquiries, DIA reinforced its relationship with Congress and continued the annual briefing to joint sessions. On May 4, 1982, John Hughes, Deputy Director for Intelligence and External Affairs on Soviet Trends and Capabilities, presented the first top secret codeword briefing ever on the House floor.

The combination of an unclassified intelligence platform to demonstrate the Soviet threat and DIA’s intelligence support to Congress paid significant dividends in bolstering U.S. and allied defense spending in the 1980s and winning the Cold War.