New Teams to Provide Expanded Human Intelligence Capabilities
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 25, 2005 The Defense Intelligence Agency's new Strategic Support Branch is providing enhanced human intelligence capabilities to better support combatant commanders in the war on terror, senior defense officials told Pentagon reporters here Jan. 24.
The new teams, made up of about 10 civilians and servicemembers, are being deployed to support combatant commands' warfighting capabilities with improved human intelligence, officials said. The teams may include case officers, linguists, interrogators and other specialists from the Defense Human Intelligence Service, DIA's long-standing human intelligence arm.
The Strategic Support Branch was developed over the past year in cooperation with the CIA, and information gathered by the teams will be shared with other U.S. government intelligence activities, officials explained. The teams are managed and developed by the Defense Intelligence Agency, but officials emphasized that when deployed, they and their activities remain under the control of military commanders.
Officials told reporters the new teams were formally established after Congress was consulted about them and approved their funding in the fiscal 2005 budget. DIA received the funding to stand up, manage and develop the teams.
Officials stressed that the new teams are "not a spy network," as some media reports have suggested, but rather, an element that collects human intelligence not readily available through high-tech intelligence-gathering methods.
The 9/11 commission report pointed out the need to improve the U.S. human intelligence capability "across the board." President Bush reiterated this view during a recent press interview.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and well before the 9/11 commission's report was released, the Defense Human Intelligence Service was already taking steps to become "more focused and task-oriented for the global war on terror," Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita noted in a statement released Jan. 23. A key objective, he said, was to improve the level of tactical and operational intelligence available to assist combatant commanders for specific missions involving regular or special operations forces.
"The closer we looked at it, the more convinced we became that we did not have the right organization, the right structure, the right training," a defense official told reporters. And most importantly, he said, it became evident that the department's human intelligence capabilities weren't organized to serve on a rotational basis in two places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Defense officials said the new teams, which may operate in a clandestine manner, will provide a rotational human intelligence base that provides sustainable support to combatant commanders. They stressed that this was not being done to compete with traditional CIA activities, as some press articles have asserted, but rather, to enhance the military's ability to gather the intelligence it needs to support its own operations.
"You simply cannot fight a long-term war with a pick-up team" that's pulled from other locations as needed to support a human intelligence requirement, an official said. "When you do that, first, you don't have a long-term sustainment kind of capability, and second, you deplete the capabilities from the place where they were drawn from."
Officials said enhancing this capability is expected to have a big payoff to DoD as it transforms itself to better confront 21st century challenges. "We're simply now facing new challenges in the global war on terror, and DoD is looking for better ways to organize to meet new world challenges," an official said.