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Working with the CIA.


In May 2011, President Obama visited the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to speak to the intelligence community about the successful raid on Usama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan earlier that month. The President called the raid, "... one of the greatest intelligence successes in American history" and praised the intelligence community, civilian and military alike, for "... using every capability-human, technical-collecting, analyzing, sharing, integrating intelligence and then acting on it." The President then spoke directly to his "absolute confidence in the skill of our military personnel," and his reliance on CIA's intelligence, which he said comes across his desk every day. (1)

The Abbottabad raid provides an exceptional contemporary illustration of the CIA and the military working together. Moreover, after 10 years of war, the professional and personal bonds that have formed between the CIA and the military have resulted in the two organizations working well together across the Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia and elsewhere. That spirit of cooperation has touched on, and likely will continue to touch on, many important areas of mutual interest including counterterrorism, counterintelligence, cyber, counter proliferation, counterinsurgency as well as multiple conventional threats.

And, while the CIA and the military have worked well together with many successes since 9/11, there continues to be a certain mystique associated with the CIA. This article is intended to remove some of the air of secrecy. It is intended for all military professionals, and especially for those military intelligence (MI) professionals who have not yet dealt with the CIA, or who have had limited dealings with "the Agency. " That said, the CIA is an intelligence organization and, therefore, secrecy is essential. This is particularly true when it comes to the issues of sources of intelligence and methods of collection. However, there remain many basic, unclassified aspects of the CIA that military personnel should be familiar with as intelligence professionals.

What Does the CIA Do?

The CIA is an independent agency responsible for providing national security intelligence to senior U.S. policymakers. (2) The National Security Act of 1947 established the authority for the agency to carry out three principal activities: collect foreign intelligence, analyze intelligence, and conduct covert action. (3) The following excerpts from the National Security Act establish these authorities. (4)

* Agency operators "collect intelligence through human sources and by other appropriate means." This is also referred to as foreign intelligence collection.

* Agency analysts "correlate and evaluate intelligence related to the national security and provide appropriate dissemination of such intelligence." This is also referred to as all-source analysis.

* And the Agency performs other functions and duties as the President may direct, which could include activities to influence conditions abroad, "where it is intended that the role of the U.S. Government will not be apparent or acknowledged publically." In other words, covert action. (5)

How is the CIA organized?

To accomplish these missions, the CIA is organized into four basic components: the National Clandestine Service (NCS), the Directorate of Intelligence (DI), the Directorate of Science and Technology (DS&T) and the Directorate of Support (DS). (6) There is also a Director's staff, which includes offices such as the Office of General Counsel (OGC), the Office of Congressional Affairs (OCA) and the Office of the Associate Director for Military Affairs (ADMA) to name just a few. (7)

The mission of the NCS is to strengthen national security and foreign policy objectives through the clandestine collection of Human Intelligence (HUMINT) and covert action. (8) The NCS consists mainly of operations officers whose job it is to collect foreign intelligence information often by recruiting individuals, or assets, with access to desired intelligence information. NCS officers are probably the type of person that many people think of when they think about the CIA-a James Bond type character.

The DI consists of officers who analyze intelligence from multiple sources such as NCS-generated HUMINT reporting (referred to as TDs, which is short for Telegraphic Disseminations), Signals Intelligence, MI reporting and open source information among countless other sources.

The result of this collection and analysis is the production of all-source or finished intelligence for the President, Cabinet, and senior national security decision makers. (9) The premier intelligence product in the intelligence community is the Presidential Daily Brief, or PDB, and the CIA's Directorate of Intelligence is a major contributor to the PDB. Much of the DI's finished intelligence is also posted to the CIA's classified web site called the Worldwide Intelligence Review (WIRe), which is available to the military. Other noteworthy CIA products that military professionals should be aware of are The World Fact Book, the CIA's regularly published online directory of Chiefs of State and Cabinet Members of Foreign Governments, and unclassified extracts from CIA's professional journal called Studies in Intelligence. (10)

If an NCS officer is our James Bond type, then the DS&T includes our "Q" department. The DS&T consists of officers who create, adapt, develop and operate the technical collection systems and apply enabling technologies to the collection, analysis, and processing of information. (11) They develop the tools and technology needed to both collect foreign intelligence and to support CIA activities in the field. As a classic example, think of the tie clip that is also a miniaturized camera. (12)

Finally, DS officers provide everything the CIA needs to accomplish its mission. DS officers are often the first CIA officers into difficult operational areas and are responsible for establishing key support functions such as communications, supply chains, facilities, financial, and medical services. (13)

How are the CIA and MI different?

A principal difference between the CIA and MI is the customer. While the CIA's customers are the President, cabinet-level officials, and the National Security Staff, MI is focused on the commander's priority intelligence requirements. The commander is the principal customer, whether it is at the battalion, brigade, division, corps or other echelon of command.

Another important distinction, related to the first, is the level at which each organization focuses its intelligence collection, reporting, analysis, and production. The CIA is focused at the strategic or national level, while the military is, for the most part, focused on intelligence at the tactical and operational levels.

Still, there are times when the lines cross. While military commanders are most interested in intelligence specific to their area of operations (AO) and level of command, many military commanders are also consumers of the CIA's products in order to fill intelligence gaps at the strategic level (i.e., what is going on around them, outside of their AO and in neighboring countries). In the same vein, the military, at times, collects intelligence of strategic value, which is then used by the CIA to analyze.

And, while there are many other differences between the CIA and the military such as rank, uniform, jargon, acronyms, and above all the size of each organization's budget and the number of personnel, the two organizations are drawn to work together with one overarching purpose--the national security of the U.S. (14)

How do the CIA and the Military Work Together?

The CIA and the military have worked together to protect and defend the U.S. since the CIA was established in 1947. This complex relationship has evolved during that time in response to world events. (15) One way the CIA and the military work together is through intelligence sharing. CIA analysts use MI reporting in their finished products. The military, in turn, uses CIA intelligence to round out its strategic picture of the operational environment.

Operationally, the CIA and the military have worked together for many years but especially since 9/11 in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. As a result, many institutional and individual connections have been established or strengthened, so much so that the relationship between the CIA and the military arguably has never been better. The Abbottabad raid is probably the best recent example of CIA and Department of Defense (DoD) operational cooperation.

The military also works with the CIA through the CIA's array of stations and bases overseas. The Chief of Station, is a senior NCS officer at each station, and could be viewed as the CIA's "commander" in military parlance.

Finally, the CIA's Office of the Associate Director for Military Affairs (ADMA) coordinates worldwide activities that support CIA and DoD interaction. As an example, ADMA manages CIA representatives at military headquarters, particularly the Combatant Commands, as well as Faculty Representatives at selected DoD schools such as the National and Service War Colleges. The representatives' offices are intended to enhance cooperation and understanding between the CIA and the military regarding each other's missions, capabilities and limitations. (16)


The CIA and the military have very different missions, but both are vital to protecting and defending the U.S. Since 9/11, world events have drawn the two organizations closer together and a spirit of cooperation has emerged. Going forward, the CIA and DoD will need to maintain that same level of interagency cooperation and also seek ways to further improve interoperability in order to face our adversaries of tomorrow.


(1.) Transcript of President Obama's Remarks to the Intelligence Community at CIA Headquarters, May 20, 2011, at (accessed April 29, 2012).

(2.) Today's CIA, at (accessed May 4, 2012).

(3.) National Security Act of 1947, at, pp. 30, 57-59 (accessed May 4, 2012).

(4.) The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 amended the National Security Act to provide for a DNI who would assume some roles formerly fulfilled by the Director of Central Intelligence, with a separate Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

(5.) Remarks of CIA General Counsel at Harvard Law School, at, April 10, 2012 (accessed April 29, 2012).

(6.) NCS was previously called the Directorate of Operations.

(7.) Today's CIA, at (accessed April 29, 2012).

(8.) Clandestine Service, Our Mission, at (accessed May 4, 2012).

(9.) Intelligence & Analysis, at (accessed May 10, 2012).

(10.) Available at (accessed May 10, 2012).

(11.) Science & Technology, at (accessed May 4, 2012).

(12.) The CIA museum offers tours to select military groups and houses an impressive display of DS&T's past creations and innovations.

(13.) Support to Mission, at (accessed May 4, 2012).

(14.) DoD personnel and budget numbers are significantly larger than the CIA.

(15.) History, at (accessed May 12, 2012).

(16.) Military Affairs, at (accessed May 12, 2012).

By Lieutenant Colonel John D. Johnson

Lieutenant Colonel John D. Johnson, an MI officer, is a 1992 graduate of Texas Christian University. He has served overseas in Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea and Germany in addition to multiple assignments in the U.S. He is currently assigned to the CIA's Office of the Associate Director for Military Affairs. This article has been reviewed by the CIA to prevent the disclosure of classified information. That review neither constitutes CIA authentication of information nor implies CIA endorsement of the author's views.
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Author:Johnson, John D.
Publication:Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin
Date:Apr 1, 2012
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