|Editor's note: The name of the author of this article--a career intelligence officer in the Central Intelligence Agency--and the identity of other intelligence officials have
been withheld for security reasons.
"How many of you have read a Tom Clancy novel?" Hands go up around the classroom. "How many of you have seen a James Bond movie?" More hands are
raised. The professor rolls her eyes in mock despair and proclaims: "Well, then, I've got a big job ahead of me."
The school is the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. The students include future admirals and generals. And the instructor, launching a seminar on what life is
really like at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), combines a Ph.D. from Oxford with years of experience running intelligence operations overseas.
The presence of a senior CIA officer on the War College faculty is a small but important part of the agency's support to the U.S. military.
The commitment to that mission comes straight from the top. After becoming director of central intelligence in July 1997, George Tenet declared that he would
"never let a man or woman in uniform deploy to a crisis or conflict without the very best information we can provide." The man who puts Tenet's promise into
practice is Army Maj. Gen. Roderick Isler, associate director of central intelligence for military support. With three decades of service in military and signals
intelligence, Isler--whom Tenet describes as "absolutely essential"--oversees all national-level intelligence support to the Department of Defense (DOD), the Joint
Chiefs of Staff (JCS), and the uniformed services.
A key part of Isler's team inside CIA is the Office of Military Affairs (OMA). Housed in a cluster of cubicles and modest offices at the CIA headquarters in
McLean, Va., OMA's small staff reflects the range of talents required to bring CIA expertise to Sailors, Marines, Soldiers, and Airmen worldwide. Specialists in
clandestine operations work side by side with analysts, administrators, and a handful of select armed forces personnel.
A Global Support Network
Armed with the military's latest intelligence requirements and fully apprised of the CIA's ability to meet them, OMA is the heart of a support network that stretches
from the agency's 258-acre compound--commonly referred to as Langley--to commands around the globe. On any given day, more than half the men and women of
OMA are on long-term field assignments, providing on-site service to military customers. The Naval War College professor--and her CIA colleagues at five other
military service schools--are one element of OMA's proactive effort to educate military officers on what the agency can do for them. "A crisis is no time to try to
teach people how best to tap CIA resources," says one agency instructor. "If you're going to do it right, you've got to do it early."
CIA faculty representatives reach out to rising officers who may, for the first time in their careers, be focused on strategic and theater-level problems that demand
both military and political solutions. And that is where the agency's intelligence and analysis can make a critical difference. How stable is country "X"? What threats
might American troops face there? What is a potential enemy thinking? How committed is he to using force against the United States? How strong is his economy?
How firm is his political control? Those are just some of the questions that U.S. commanders may confront--and that the CIA works to answer.
Back at the Naval War College, the CIA instructor gives her students a taste of what it takes to root out the secrets of a foreign government, terrorist group, or drug
ring. With guest speakers from agency headquarters, detailed case studies, and her own insights, she puts her class into the shoes of CIA officers collecting sensitive
information in hostile environments.
She insists that "it's not enough to tell students" that even the boldest and most talented field operative needs time to spot, assess, recruit, task, and debrief agents.
"Mentally, they have to put themselves in the position of a CIA officer meeting a potential source for the first time." As the students think about all the things they
would need to know at that precise moment, they quickly realize that good sources do not appear overnight, and that the CIA can be most helpful to them when it
has advance notice of military interest in an overseas target.
Matching Outreach With "In-Reach"
While seasoned officers demystify the agency in service schools across the United States, OMA's Military Visitors Program gets the same job done at Langley. In
1999, it hosted more than 2,500 visitors, ranging from commanders in chief (CINCs) and top DOD civilian officials to senior enlisted personnel. The briefings OMA
arranges are just as varied. "Everything we do," says the head of the program, "is tailored to the needs of the customer." Many visitors come to learn about the CIA
itself. Others come for in-depth presentations on specific areas of the world or on broader challenges such as terrorism, narcotics trafficking, and weapons
OMA's outreach program is equally vigorous. The officer who leads it notes that his top priority is to get CIA's message to units--active duty, reserve, or National
Guard--that are preparing to deploy to crisis areas. Regional experts on his traveling teams talk about what the U.S. military units can expect to encounter abroad.
Clandestine service officers explain how to get the best support from CIA personnel overseas.
For the agency, education is a two-way street. It pairs outreach with what it calls "in-reach," a series of courses that teach CIA officers about the military.
OMA-sponsored seminars cover everything from military command structures and planning cycles to hands-on weapons demonstrations.
Regardless of the topic, the goal is the same: to make the men and women of CIA smarter about their military customers and thus better prepared to meet their
The process of education does not stop with briefings. Last year, agency officers took part in more than 50 military exercises. OMA also calls on various specialists
throughout CIA to review scenarios, serve as role players, and deploy to commands ashore and afloat as the action unfolds. With years of substantive experience in
area studies and technical topics, agency personnel strive to make exercise scripts as realistic as possible.
By training together, the military and the agency learn to work together just as smoothly in real-world crises like embassy evacuations and humanitarian interventions.
The chief of OMA's exercise support branch points out that a good scenario is one that shows "you can't just sprinkle fairy dust over problems. You have to
overcome them together."
Deploying Forward, Reaching Back
In an age of instant, secure communications, CIA disseminates much of its routine day-to-day intelligence reporting and analysis electronically to civilian and military
consumers around the world.
But the agency does much more than just deliver its valuable products. For many senior customers--including key military leaders--CIA has made the process
interactive to enhance its responsiveness.
At several commands, tailored dissemination is entrusted to senior officers representing the director of central intelligence. Known informally inside CIA as "DCI
reps," they serve at nine commands and six other organizations, including the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staff. In the field, these men and
women--all of whom have had distinguished careers working as analysts or clandestine service officers--are accredited directly to the
And it is the needs of the individual CINC and his staff that shape the duties of each DCI representative. Because the military day starts early, these CIA officers
start their days even earlier by culling their overnight message traffic for the CINC's morning intelligence briefing. Some CINCs, a former DCI representative recalls,
want to see a few summaries or situation reports. Others want a hundred raw cables. Beyond delivering some of the most sensitive information that CIA collects,
DCI representatives field questions from the CINC, his deputy, and his entire staff. Like OMA itself, DCI representatives can quickly draw on the full operational
and analytic resources of CIA. No matter where the command may be, the answers--from agency headquarters or CIA posts worldwide--are just one secure
e-mail, cable, or phone call away.
For a DCI representative, there are no typical days. One minute the focus is on the background of a secret CIA source whose reporting has caught the eye of the
CINC or J-2 (a staff director for intelligence). Then the command will want a fresh readout of conditions in some distant country from the agency's officers and
informants on the ground. Whether arranging a conference or brokering an operational request, the DCI representative is there to get the job done.
There in a Crisis
When U.S. forces go into harm's way, CIA ensures that its intelligence support goes with them. If a joint task force deploys overseas, the senior agency officer in the
region can summon extra resources to augment the command. Within 48 hours, OMA also can dispatch a small and totally self-sufficient Crisis Operations Liaison
Team--fully trained and equipped--to act as a dedicated intelligence channel and liaison between the task force commander and the nearest CIA post.
CIA also plays a major role in supporting National Intelligence Support Teams (NISTs) in their mission to deliver intelligence information directly to field
commanders. NISTs grew out of the Persian Gulf War, when the U.S. armed forces called for national-level intelligence that was more timely, better tailored, and
easier to access.
Each NIST is formed at the request of a deployed joint or combined task force commander, and the needs of the mission dictate its size and composition. The
Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) is the executive agent for all NIST operations. Several NISTs are active today, living directly alongside the unit they support.
They can include specialists from CIA, DIA, the National Security Agency, and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. As the head of CIA's NIST
deployment activity notes, "flexibility is the operative word."
Once on station, the CIA NIST team supplies a steady stream of agency intelligence on local conditions and potential threats. And, like DCI representatives at larger
commands, the NIST gives the military an on-the-spot link to CIA's global stock of expertise. Originally designed to operate temporarily in crises, some NISTs have
been in place for years--eloquent testimony to the advantage they afford commanders on the ground.
One CIA NIST volunteer describes life abroad: "16-hour shifts, battle dress, beds behind bullet-scarred walls." When asked if he would go out again to support the
nation's men and women in uniform, his reply is immediate: "Definitely." It is an answer that speaks for all of CIA.