Spotlight: The U.S. Intelligence Community

Quick, count up every U.S. intelligence organization.  Did you get to 17?  Probably not; but don’t worry because few people do.  You knew the U.S. intelligence community is vast but did you have any idea that it included the Department of Energy and the Department of Treasury?

The U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) is a coalition of 17 agencies and organizations within the executive branch that work both independently and collaboratively to gather the intelligence that our government needs to conduct foreign relations and national security activities. Its primary mission is to collect, assess, and convey—to the President and members of the policymaking, law enforcement and military communities—essential information regarding international terrorist and narcotic activities; other hostile activities by foreign powers, organizations, persons and their agents; and foreign intelligence activities directed against the United States.  In addition, the President also may direct the IC to carry out special activities in order to protect U.S. security interests against foreign threats.

Brief descriptions of the 17 IC member agencies follow (presented in alphabetical order so as not to suggest one is any more important than the other!):

  • Air Force Intelligence conducts surveillance and reconnaissance to provide a tactical advantage to U.S. troops.
  • Army Intelligence supplies relevant and timely information pertaining to ground troops and their movements to U.S. Army and other military personnel.
  • The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)’s primary mission is to collect, analyze, evaluate and disseminate foreign intelligence to help government policymakers as they make national security and defense decisions. Its 1.4 million square-foot Original Headquarters Building (completed in 1961) and the companion New Headquarters Building (completed in 1991) both are set on 258 acres in the Langley neighborhood of McLean, Va., eight miles from the District of Columbia.
  • Coast Guard Intelligence (now part of DHS, see below) deals with information relating to maritime security and homeland defense; its missions include port security, search and rescue, maritime safety, counter-narcotics and alien migration interdiction.
  • The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) produces and manages foreign military intelligence by assessing foreign military intentions and capabilities for U.S. military commanders and civilian policymakers. It is headquartered on Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C., with major operational activities at the Defense Intelligence Analysis Center in Washington; the National Center for Medical Intelligence in Frederick, Md.; the Joint Use Intelligence Analysis Facility in Charlottesville, Va.; and the Missile and Space Intelligence Center in Huntsville, Ala.
  • The Department of Energy is responsible for U.S. energy policy and nuclear safety, and  provides timely technical intelligence analysis on all aspects of foreign nuclear weapons, nuclear materials and energy issues worldwide. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is part of DOE.
  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is responsible for merging law enforcement and intelligence information relating to terrorist threats within U.S. borders. Formed in 2002 as a roll-up of 22 federal agencies, it now has more than 240,000 employees, making it the third-largest cabinet-level agency in the federal government and the second-largest federal tenant.  Its facilities currently are spread among more than 40 buildings in the National Capitol area; budget constraints have forced it to put on hold plans to consolidate all of these facilities at a new headquarters campus on the St. Elizabeths campus.
  • The Department of State handles intelligence analysis, policy and coordination of intelligence activities to support diplomacy by providing a wide range of intelligence support to the Secretary of State and other policymakers, ambassadors, special negotiators, country directors and desk officers.
  • The Department of the Treasury advises policymakers on domestic and international financial, monetary, economic, trade and tax policy, and also provides focused intelligence support to Treasury officials on economic, political and security issues. The department’s Main Treasury Building headquarters—the  third-oldest building in Washington—dates from 1836 and is also the oldest LEED-certified (LEED EB: O&M) structure.
  • The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) enforces federal controlled substances laws and regulations, and shares with the IC any drug-related intelligence that it acquires while executing its duties. It maintains 226 domestic offices located throughout the United States as well as 85 foreign offices in 65 other countries.
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), is an intelligence and law enforcement agency charged with identifying and understanding threats to national security and penetrating national as well as transnational networks that aim to harm the United States. It focuses on terrorist organizations, foreign intelligence services, weapons proliferators and criminal enterprises.
  • Marine Corps Intelligence is responsible for intelligence, counterintelligence, counterterrorism, classified information, security review and cryptologic activities.
  • The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) collects and generates information about the Earth that is used for navigation, national security, U.S. military operations and humanitarian aid efforts.
  • The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO)—“our nation’s eyes and ears in space”—is staffed by detailees from the CIA, the Air Force and other IC agencies. It designs, builds and operates the nation’s signals and imagery reconnaissance satellites, which provide information that is used to warn of potential foreign military aggression, monitor weapons programs, enforce arms control and environmental treaties and assess the impact of natural and manmade disasters.
  • The National Security Agency (NSA) is charged with protecting the federal government’s information systems and producing foreign signals intelligence information; its work includes cryptanalysis, cryptography, mathematics, computer science and foreign language analysis. It officially opened its newest facility, the $286 million NSA/CSS [Central Security Service] Georgia Cryptologic Center, this week (March 5) in Augusta Georgia.
  • Navy Intelligence’s mission is to support maritime operations worldwide and defend U.S. naval borders. Naval intelligence professionals are deployed throughout the U.S. Navy as well as the Department of Defense.

And, coordinating all of these:

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA) established the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to better unify and manage the IC’s efforts; before then, the IC was supervised by the Director of Central Intelligence, who also oversaw the CIA. The IRTPA sought to strengthen the IC by further defining goals and budgets, and by establishing a number of national centers tasked with developing collaborative approaches to the collection and analysis of intelligence for specific issues.

The IC is structured to maximize the effectiveness of its member agencies’ intelligence collection and dissemination efforts. Its overall efforts are administered by the ODNI, which is led by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), who organizes and coordinates the efforts of IC agencies. The DNI also manages the implementation of the National Intelligence Program and serves as the principal adviser to the president and the National Security Council on intelligence issues related to national security.

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