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Defense Clandestine Service

Not to be confused with National Clandestine Service.
Defense Clandestine Service
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Agency overview
Preceding Agency Defense Human Intelligence Service
Jurisdiction Federal government of the United States
Headquarters Defense Intelligence Agency Headquarters
Agency executive Vincent R. Stewart, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency

The Defense Clandestine Service (DCS) is the clandestine arm of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA),[1] which conducts espionage activities around the world to answer national-level defense objectives for the President, the Secretary of Defense, and senior U.S. policymakers. Staffed by civilian and military personnel, DCS is a consolidation of the former DIA Defense Human Intelligence Service, which itself had existed in varying forms for several decades; the former Defense Human Intelligence and Counterterrorism Center; the Counterintelligence Field Activity; and the Strategic Support Branch. DCS works in conjunction with the Central Intelligence Agency's National Clandestine Service and the United States military's Joint Special Operations Command.


In 2012, the Pentagon announced its intention to ramp up spying operations against high-priority targets, such as Iran and China, under an intelligence reorganization aimed at expanding the military’s espionage efforts beyond war zones.[2][3] To this end, the DIA consolidated its existing human intelligence capabilities into the Defense Clandestine Service, with plans to work closely with the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command.

DCS absorbed the former Defense HUMINT Service, the former Defense Human Intelligence and Counterterrorism Center, the Counterintelligence Field Activity, and the Strategic Support Branch to create an integrated Department of Defense (DOD) espionage service. DCS' more clearly delineated career paths would give DIA case officers better opportunities to continue their espionage assignments abroad.

File:DIA Clandestine Service poster.jpg
Defense Clandestine Service recruitment poster

The plan was developed in response to a classified study completed in 2011 by the Director of National Intelligence, which concluded that the military’s espionage efforts needed to be more focused on major targets beyond the tactical considerations of Iraq and Afghanistan. While in the past, DIA was effectively conducting its traditional, and much larger, mission of providing intelligence to troops and commanders in war zones, the study noted it needed to focus more attention outside the battlefields on “national intelligence”—gathering and distributing information on global issues and sharing that intelligence with other agencies.[4]

The realignment is expected to affect several hundred operatives who already work in intelligence assignments abroad, mostly as case officers for the DIA, which serves as the Pentagon’s main source of human intelligence and analysis. The new service is expected to grow from several hundred to an estimated 1,600 operatives and is intended to rival the espionage network of the CIA.[5]

The original Defense Clandestine Service, an outgrowth of the Monarch Eagle concept, was created and implemented in 1984. It was backed by Senators Barry Goldwater and Jesse Helms, with the support of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General John Vessey, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower & Reserve Affairs (M&RA) William ClarkTemplate:Disambiguation needed, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Frank Aurilio. It consolidated the clandestine intelligence programs of each of the military services into a single DOD program, thus eliminating duplication of effort, and importantly, to provide a promotion path for case officers to achieve flag rank. The Goldwater-Nichols Act was specifically designed to support this objective as service at the DOD level would count toward the joint service requirement to achieve flag rank. The objective of the DOD Clandestine Service was to target intelligence gaps in countries regarded as potential adversaries or sites of activities requiring a military response; these gaps had gone unaddressed under CIA priorities. DOD case officers are carefully selected and trained; most have advanced degrees, speak multiple languages, and are area experts.[citation needed] The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence praised the program for its exceptional productivity.[citation needed] By the mid-1990s, the program had been undercut by President Clinton's directors of Central Intelligence, who preferred to be in full control of all espionage operations.[6]

See also


  1. ^ Pellerin, Cheryl (15 August 2012). "Flynn: Integrated Intelligence System Provides Advantage". United States Department of Defense. 
  2. ^ Miller, Greg (23 April 2012). "Pentagon establishes Defense Clandestine Service, new espionage unit". The Washington Post. 
  3. ^ Entous, Adam (23 April 2012). "Pentagon Creates New Spy Service in Revamp". Wall Street Journal. 
  4. ^ Schmitt, Eric (23 April 2012). "Defense Department Plans New Intelligence Gathering Service". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ Miller, Greg (2 December 2012). "DIA to send hundreds more spies overseas". The Washington Post. 
  6. ^