1990's - New Missions, New Adversaries

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War brought major challenges to the U.S. Intelligence Community.

National security policy, which had been focused on containing the spread of communism for nearly five decades, was fundamentally altered, compelling DIA to examine its priorities in the new era.

Drastic cuts in funding and personnel, forced DIA to restructure its directorates in order to operate more efficiently and with fewer resources.

This period of reevaluation and restructuring in the Intelligence Community began after the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.

DIA’s analysts kept careful watch over the political events roiling the region, but the fall of the Berlin Wall came as an understandable surprise — even participants in Eastern Europe were surprised when it happened.

Nevertheless, in the larger context of the Cold War, it was clear to everyone that the Warsaw Pact was no longer a threat, and the Soviet Union’s days were numbered.

Like the rest of the Intelligence Community, DIA’s analysts successfully forecast the decline and fall of the USSR in the second half of 1991.

DIA’s defining mission of the 1990s arrived early in the decade, when the Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein invaded and occupied Kuwait in August 1990.

DIA created a 24-hour crisis management cell designed to tailor national-level intelligence support for coalition forces assembled to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait.

At the beginning of Operation DESERT STORM, 2,000 Agency personnel participated in the intelligence effort.

The Joint Intelligence Center that DIA established in the Pentagon to integrate and coordinate intelligence produced by various agencies was the locus of this work.

As the United States and coalition military build-up proceeded in 1990, DIA dispatched more than 100 employees to the Kuwaiti theater, the first time that DIA staff deployed to a war zone since 1975. The Agency also deployed 11 National Intelligence Support teams overseas.

The intelligence they produced and disseminated was key to the overwhelming coalition victory. Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during DESERT STORM, later noted that no combat commander had ever received more benefit from as full and complete a view of an adversary as U.S. and coalition commanders did during the conflict.

DIA, however, could not escape ongoing resource reductions, which forced the Agency make internal changes.

To compensate for these reductions, the Agency emphasized improved management of intelligence production DoD-wide. This new emphasis enhanced flexibility, helped maintain extensive cooperation with the combatant command and military service intelligence organizations, and reduced management overhead.

The Agency established the Department of Defense Intelligence Production Program, which federated intelligence production and set forth a systematic program for avoiding overlap and duplication.

The program was aided by dramatic advances in communications technology in the 1990s.

Just as collaboration was becoming ever more essential, the Intelligence Community was developing tools to ease the flow of information across secure networks.

DIA’s restructuring early in the decade and the experience provided by Operation DESERT STORM prepared the Agency for other challenges.

Organization reforms and intelligence threats during the opening years of the decade resulted in an unprecedented level of integration between DIA, the military services and the combatant commands.

The Agency also added new elements, when the Missile and Space Intelligence Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and the Armed Forces Medical Intelligence Center (today, known as the National Center for Medical Intelligence) in Fort Detrick, Maryland, came under DIA management in 1992.

DIA’s mission as a combat support agency took greater and greater precedence in the 1990s. While it was still called upon to supply strategic foreign intelligence assessments, its analysts became more directly engaged in support to military operations than ever before.

The shift toward smart, precision guided munitions, for example, required the Agency to increase and improve its targeting functions and capabilities. Measurement and signatures intelligence, which was technically derived data other than imagery or signals intelligence, began placing greater emphasis on fulfilling the rapid-turnaround requirements of the soldier in the field.

Analysis expanded into geographic hotspots that did not traditionally receive much attention.

In the 1990s, DIA surged to provide intelligence support to U.S. and United Nations forces in places such as Somalia, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia and Kosovo.

DIA also provided ongoing support to the monitoring of Iraq for border and no-fly zone violations, and it provided targeting intelligence during operations such as Operation DESERT FOX in 1998.

In short, the decade was characterized by expansion into new tasks that were heavily oriented toward support to military operations.

The emergence of globalized radical Islamic movements such as al-Qaida in the 1990s also sharpened DIA’s counterterrorism efforts, which had been ongoing since the 1980s.

In 1996, after the bombing of the Khobar Towers apartment complex in Saudi Arabia, the Agency created the Transnational Warfare group, which contained the Office for Counterterrorism Analysis.

As the Agency continued to develop, al-Qaida struck U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. DIA supported military strikes in response to these attacks.

An image of people around a broken Berlin Wall
An image of a helicoptor with soldiers nearby
An image of a fighter aircraft over desert
An image of a recon aircraft over desert
An image of the Khobar Towers after it was bombed

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