AMU Homeland Security Opinion

Expanding the Defense Clandestine Service, A Process

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By Brett Daniel Shehadey
Special Contributor for In Homeland Security

According to yesterday’s Washington Post article, “Pentagon’s plans for a spy service to rival the CIA have been pared back,” it would appear the Department of Defense is having trouble amplifying their human intelligence aspirations beyond military intelligence collection. The goal of expanding the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Defense Clandestine Service has been limited.

In December 2012, the Post printed an article quoting anonymous U.S. government officials as saying that the DoD wanted to “rival the CIA” with a global network of human intelligence operatives. The bold plan envisioned up to 1,600 operatives to penetrate highly restrictive and unfriendly states like Iran and North Korea and throughout the Middle East and Africa.

Why the duplication in foreign intelligence collection and capabilities between the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)?

DIA was created in 1961 under President John F. Kennedy and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in order to integrate the service intelligence agencies but that was a gradual process. Politically, DIA was really used as an alternative intelligence agency to CIA products and estimates during war time and throughout the Cold War. Unlike the CIA, which was given powers, went through a period of highly visible, large-scale, abuses and saw greater regulation, oversight and restrictions, the DIA has been more of an evolving process, seeing added and altered features as it matured.

DIA’s greatest advantage right now, in a time of perpetual blurred counterterrorist warfare, is that it is an exclusive military intelligence agency, where execution of on-going military operations area taking place world-wide. DIA does hire civilians but it remains part of the military culture within and under DoD leadership. On the other hand, the CIA works closely with military special activities and joint special operations components, but it will always remain an outsider in tribal military affairs and not subject to their tasking authority, priorities or requirements.

The CIA’s main criticism will be that the DIA should retain function in the military intelligence collection business only and leave the espionage and non-military human intelligence collection to them. But the CIA has a pseudo-military (paramilitary) contingent with helicopters, armored vehicles, planes, etc. The CIA also collects military intelligence, virtually having no bounds on collection activity. So, why shouldn’t the DIA have their own clandestine network with all-source collection beyond the scope of military and defense?

That is the general contention. That is exactly what they did—a repeated historic rivalry among friends. Now the DIA not only as its own analytical, attaché, cover and clandestine components, but they realize that they need to venture out beyond the ‘all things military’ category and into effectively gathering all appropriate intelligence against active terrorist groups under more general DoD and national priorities. Sure, they should rely on the CIA to provide what they need, but what about when the CIA is unwilling or incapable of fulfilling requests?

The Global War on Terrorism leading back to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld saw the eagerness and willingness to expand DoD’s role with the creation of the Strategic Support Branch; in particular with Iraq and Afghanistan combat support beyond the tactical levels. It has been reported that there were only several hundred DIA Defense Clandestine Service operatives prior to the 1,600 target figure they wanted (not including office and support personnel).

But at least for now, according to the chatter, it looks like DIA lost the battle to a Congressional compromise DIA has certainly not lost the war to expand their mission into human intelligence operations. The Post indicated that DIA will get only 500 more undercover operatives not restricted by warzones.

The intelligence community should expect the DIA to expand over time and as commitments overseas threats demand. For the time being, DIA plans to “stay small but be highly effective,” says one official.


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