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News | Jan. 21, 2015

Robert S. McNamara made an impact on defense intelligence from day one

By DIA History Office

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was inaugurated as the 35th President of the United States Jan. 20, 1961, and 44-year-old Robert S. McNamara assumed duties as the new Secretary of Defense the following day.


McNamara arrived in office determined to reform the Department of Defense. Part of this reform agenda focused on improving the management and coordination of military intelligence and, soon after taking office, McNamara directed the establishment of the Defense Intelligence Agency effective Oct. 1, 1961.


According to a July 5, 1961, memorandum prepared by then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric, the objectives in establishing the new agency were “to obtain unity of effort among all components of the Department of Defense in developing military intelligence and strengthening of the overall capacity of the Department of Defense for the collection, production, and dissemination of intelligence information.” A secondary objective was to obtain “a more efficient allocation of scarce intelligence resources, more effective management of all DoD intelligence activities, and the elimination of all duplicating facilities, organizations, and tasks.”


Gilpatric went on to write that “Mr. McNamara and I desire to emphasize our intent that DIA will fully integrate the intelligence resources and functions assigned to its control; it is not a ‘confederation.’ DIA will not be an additional layer of administrative control superimposed upon the top of the existing DoD intelligence organizations.”


Now more than 54 years since DIA’s establishment, Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Vincent R. Stewart will assume duties as the agency’s 20th director and commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance in a ceremony at DIA Headquarters Jan. 23. Stewart will receive his third star and promotion to lieutenant general immediately before the ceremony.


DIA uses all-source defense intelligence to prevent strategic surprise and deliver a decision advantage to war fighters, defense planners and policymakers. The agency collects and analyzes key data using a variety of tools, and deploys its personnel globally, alongside war fighters and interagency partners, to defend America’s national security interests.