Military Wiki
Defense Clandestine Service
US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) seal.png
Agency overview
Preceding Agency
  • Defense Human Intelligence Service
Jurisdiction Federal government of the United States
Headquarters Defense Intelligence Analysis Center
Agency executive

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, the DCS is a consolidation of the former Defense Human Intelligence Service of the DIA. The 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 on 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, which will work closely with the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command.

Similar to how the National Clandestine Service subsumed the former Director of Operations at the CIA in 2005, 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 espionage service. Further, DCS' more clearly delineated career paths will give the DIA case officers better opportunities to continue their espionage assignments abroad.

Defense Clandestine Service recruitment poster

The plan was developed in response to a classified study completed in 2011 by the Director of National Intelligence that 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, it needed to focus more attention outside the battlefields on what is called “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 spying 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 the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General John Vessey, Assistant Secretary of the Army - M&RA William Clarkdisambiguation 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 towards 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 were carefully selected and trained; most had advanced degrees, spoke multiple languages, and were 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

  • National Clandestine Service


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