PUBLISHED: 15:09 EST, 25 April 2012 | UPDATED: 17:10 EST, 25 April 2012
The Pentagon is launching a new spy agency that will send more agents to nations like China and Iran to work alongside the CIA.
However, it’s unclear how well the Defense Clandestine Service will mesh with the CIA, which has been tasked with the same mission and is often seen as an adversary by military intelligence officials.
Several hundred case officers will make up the new spy shop. Drawn from the Defense Intelligence Agency, the officers will be sent to beef up US intelligence teams in areas that are now receiving more attention.
Those include Africa, where al-Qaida is increasingly active, to parts of Asia where the North Korean missile threat and Chinese military expansion are causing increasing US concern.
The new effort was described by a senior defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the classified program.
Defense Department case officers already secretly gather intelligence across the globe on terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and other issues, mostly working out of CIA stations in embassies and operating undercover like their CIA counterparts.
But an internal study by the Director of National Intelligence last year found the agency still focused more on its traditional mission of providing the military with intelligence in war zones, and less on what’s called ‘national’ intelligence — gathering and disseminating information on global issues and sharing that intelligence with other national security agencies, the official said.
THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY’S ALPHABET SOUP OF AGENCIES
Sixteen individual agencies — many with complex bureaucracies of their own — make up the sprawling US intelligence community.
Their names comprise an alphabet soup of acronyms. Here are just a few:
ODNI – Office of the Director of National Intelligence
CIA – Central Intelligence Agency
FBI – Federal Bureau of Investigation
DIA – Defense Intelligence Agency
DCS – Defense Clandestine Service
NSA – National Security Agency
AFISRA – Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency
INSCOM – Army Intelligence and Security Command
MCIA – Marine Corps Intelligence Activity
NGA – National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
NRO – National Reconnaissance Office
ONI – Office of Naval Intelligence
OICI – Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence (US Department of Energy)
DEA/ONSI – Office of National Security Intelligence, Drug Enforcement Administration
The study also found that the Pentagon did not always reward clandestine service overseas with promotions, so its most experienced case officers often left for the CIA, or switched to other career paths within the Pentagon.
Military intelligence efforts have been viewed as lackluster by the CIA in the past — observing the battlefield but often missing the broader picture, the Washington Post reports.
The new service is intended to curb personnel losses, making clandestine work part of the Pentagon’s professional career track and rewarding those who prove successful at operating covertly overseas with further tours and promotions, like their CIA colleagues.
The case officers in the field — some military and some civilian — will answer directly to the top intelligence representative in their post, usually the CIA’s chief of station, in addition to serving their agency back home.
The arrangement is likely to curb complaints seen in earlier expansions of the Defense Department’s spy mission, which the CIA and other agencies saw as the military stepping on their territory.
The changes were worked out by the top Pentagon intelligence official, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers, and his CIA counterpart who heads the National Clandestine Service, and briefed to Congress before Defense Secretary Leon Panetta signed off on the new program last Friday.