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News | May 1, 2015

DIA: Impacting National Security in the 1970s

By DIA History Office

Increases in missions and responsibilities while suffering enormous budget and personnel cuts due to defense budget reductions significantly challenged DIA during the 1970’s. Added to this was an expanding global threat environment, which included the breakdown of détente between the United States and Soviet Union.

In addition to the overarching Cold War struggle with the USSR, DIA addressed the rise of the Ostpolitik in Germany, the emergence of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the Middle East, and growing arms control concerns.
Riots in Gdansk, Poland, civil wars in Jordan and Nigeria, and the United States’ incursion into Cambodia from South Vietnam also drew intelligence interest.

Other crises during this period included Idi Amin’s takeover in Uganda, the unrest in Pakistan, the formation of Bangladesh, the continued fighting in Southeast Asia, the death of Mao Zedong, aircraft hijackings, and the Israeli raid on Entebbe Airport.
The Agency’s reputation grew considerably during this period, as its products were increasingly perceived throughout the government as valuable to decision-making.

Despite overall reductions in personnel, the agency expanded the Defense Attache Service and forward deployed officers during this time. However, such efforts came with a cost.

On June 10, 1970, Maj. Robert Perry, DIA’s assistant army attache to Jordan, was shot and killed by Palestinians in Amman. Perry was DIA’s first duty-related death.

Five years later on April 4, 1975, while the 87 DIA employees deployed to Saigon were leaving Vietnam, five officers perished, in a plane crash as part of Operation Baby Lift.

This would be the highest loss of DIA lives in a single event until the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon.
Throughout the decade, the Agency was deeply involved in the arms control process by verifying treaties and providing direct support to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staff for the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks.

In the latter part of the decade, the Agency’s primary focus was providing intelligence collection management and analysis in support of the Cold War.

Rapid technological advances occurred throughout the decade.
Imagery collected by the U-2, SR-71, AQM-34 drones and satellite systems significantly strengthened DIA’s imagery exploitation operations and expanded the Agency’s ability to support the services for wartime targeting and contingency planning.

And although intelligence dissemination was conducted manually, information technology assisted in the intelligence collection process through the use of large mainframe computers that searched message traffic.

At this time, the Agency began setting up what would eventually become the Department of Defense Intelligence Information System.
The late 1970’s proved no safer to United States national interests than the beginning of the decade.

Special DIA task forces were set up to monitor additional crises, such as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the overthrow of the Iranian monarchy, and the taking of U.S. hostages in the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979.